One of the most common questions I get is “how long does it take to buy a house?” There are many steps to buying a house and any of them could prolong your timeline, especially if you’re not prepared.
Here is the home-buying timeline, broken down step-by-step, so you can be in control:
#1 Do Your Homework | Time: 1-14 days
It’s one thing to dream about something, it’s another to go out and do it. You need to do some critical research to help you figure out what you do and do not want in a home, as well as how much you can afford. I suggest meeting with your bank or a loan officer who can analyze your financial background and help you get pre-qualified. A pre-qualification does not guarantee that you’ll get a mortgage (that comes later) but it does give you a better understanding of how much you can afford.
#2 Find An Agent | Time: 1-7 days
Finding an agent who suits you is key to the home buying process. They should have intimate knowledge of your desired community, they’ll serve as your trusted adviser, and they can negotiate on your behalf when it comes down to it. and should
#3 Get Pre-Approved for a Loan | Time: 5-8 business days
Now you’re getting serious. Most agents recommend you have a pre-approval in hand before you make an offer, and they can offer recommendations for lenders. To get pre-approved, you need to provide your lender with documents that verify your credit, income, debt, and assets. The key here is to be organized.
#4 Shop | Time: A few days to a few months
Here’s where the average timeline might shake up a bit. If you’re set on a particular neighborhood where the inventory is low, it could take longer… or you could discover “the one” on day one. It all depends on what you’re seeking and what’s available. But the typical buyer actively searches for 10 to 12 weeks and looks at a median of 10 homes.
#5 Make an Offer, Negotiate and Sign a Contract | Time: 1-7 days
So you’ve found the house you want to call “home” – great! It’s time to make an offer. Work with your agent on price, contingencies, and other terms of the deal. You’ll want to include your pre-approval letter from your lender in the offer as well as put down earnest money. Commit 3% to 4% of the sale price instead of the standard 1% to 3% in order to get their attention and take your offer seriously. If you receive a counter-offer, respond as soon as possible. You don’t want to give another buyer time to jump in with a better offer.
#6 Get Final Mortgage Approval | Time: A few days to 3 weeks
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage doesn’t automatically mean you get a loan on the home you have under contract. The lender has a few other requirements once the home is chosen, such as an inspection and appraisal. They’ll also want to see even more current copies of your financial documents.
From this point on, the steps to buying a house will often overlap because several wheels will be turning simultaneously.
#7 Get a Home Inspection | Time: 3 days to schedule; 2-3 hours to inspect
As soon as your contract is accepted, contact a home inspector. Your agent should have a recommendation. Many inspectors take pictures and fill out the report as they go, then send it to your inbox within hours of completion. But it can take up to a couple of days if they’re backed up.
If the inspection turns up issues, it can cause some delays. This can range from a day or two to renegotiate, or longer if, for example, you have an FHA loan that requires certain safety standards. A home with peeling lead paint may need to be repainted, which can take weeks.
#8 Get a Home Appraisal | Time: Up to 5 days to schedule; a few hours to do the appraisal; up to 5 business days to get the report to the lender
The appraisal is key to getting a mortgage. If the home fails to appraise for the mortgage amount, you may have to put more down or renegotiate the contract. That’s why you want to line up an appraiser as soon as you have a house under contract. Unlike the home inspection, this report goes to the lender instead of you and takes longer because the appraiser has to do additional research on what homes are selling for in the area.
#9 Get Title Insurance | Time: 1-3 business days for title check; 2 weeks for insurance policy
Your title company will perform the check, which means they’ll look at deeds and other documents to make sure you will own the home free and clear of any liens or former claims to the property.
#10 Get Homeowners Insurance | Time: Up to 2 weeks
Your insurance company may send someone out to assess the property for potential risks, which can take several days. Your mortgage lender may require other types of coverage, such as flood insurance.
#11 Arrange for Closing Funds | Time: A few minutes to a few days
Find out from your agent whether you need to bring a cashier’s or certified check or transfer funds digitally. Transfer the funds to the right account, and get your money ready to release. If you ever receive wiring instructions by email, call your agent or lender to confirm one of them sent it. Call the phone number you have on record for your agent, not the one listed in the suspect email.
#12 Conduct a Final Walk-Through | Time: 1 hour, the day of or day before closing
This is your chance to make sure the sellers made any agreed-upon repairs and left the property in as good (or better!) condition than the last time you saw it.
#13 Close on the House | Time: 50 days on average; 1-2 hours to actually sign the paperwork
Each step after you’ve got a contract on a home is part of the closing process. And that process — which includes getting the loan, inspection, appraisal, title, insurance, etc. — takes the average home buyer about six weeks.
When it’s time for the main event, bring your photo ID, and stretch your hand muscles; you’ve got a lot of signing to do! But getting the keys? Takes hardly any time at all. I hope this blog gave you a better sense of the home buying process. If you’re interested in starting on the path toward homeownership, don’t hesitate to contact me, Sara Griffin with the Associates Realty Group, at 951-220-4491 or by emailing me directly at email@example.com.