How Long Does It Take To Buy A House? A Step-By-Step Timeline

A Step-By-Step Timeline For Buying A Home

The exact amount of time the home buying process will take depends on several factors – from how prepared the buyer is to how competitive the market is.

Let’s look at the crucial steps that will impact the time it takes to purchase a home.

Step 1: Choose A Mortgage Lender And Get Preapproved (1 – 5 Days)

Unless you’re making a cash offer, you’ll probably need a mortgage to finance your home purchase. Before you start looking for a house, shop around for the right mortgage lender to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your home loan.

Consider interest rates and estimated closing costs when choosing a lender – but don’t underestimate the value of checking their reputation. A great deal on paper may not be worthwhile in the long run if it means dealing with unreliable customer service.

Once you have a trustworthy lender to work with, consider getting a mortgage preapproval. Getting preapproved before beginning your home search is beneficial for several reasons. First and foremost, the preapproval letter will let you know how much home you can afford. And it’ll show sellers that you’re a serious buyer.

Depending on the lender, preapproval can take 1 – 5 days.

Step 2: Find A Real Estate Agent (1 – 7 Days)

From online listings to referrals from friends and family, there are multiple ways to find a real estate agent. The goal is to work with a licensed expert who understands the market you’re interested in. Make sure you find someone you trust to prioritize your home buying needs.

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The time it takes to find an agent will depend on several factors. If the agent was recommended to you by a friend, you may not feel the need to interview them or compare them to other agents. But if you want each decision you make to be informed by your research, you’ll likely take whatever time you need to find an agent you’re comfortable working with.

Step 3: Start House Hunting (6 Months – 1 Year)

Before you start house hunting, consider details like your desired location and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need and then set parameters for your search. Finding the right property takes up the most time in the home buying process, so clearly defining your needs and knowing what to look for in a house ahead of time can help expedite your timeline.

How long it’ll take to find your new home will depend on several factors, including:

  • The market: In a seller’s market, there is more demand than supply, so it may take longer to find a home. You may have an easier time finding a home in a buyer’s market because there are more homes for sale than buyers.
  • The location: If you’re looking for a home in a highly sought-after location, buyer competition may delay the process. And if the average sales price is more than you can afford, you may need to pause your home buying plans until you find a home for sale within your price range.
  • Your criteria: If you have a long list of new home must-haves, it may take more time to find a house. The more specific and inflexible you are, the more you’ll limit your search. On the other hand, if you start looking for homes and have no idea what you want, you may find it harder to commit to a property.
  • Your schedule: If you’re really busy and can only go to showings on the weekends, it may take longer to find a home.
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Step 4: Make An Offer (1 – 3 Days)

Once you find a house you want to buy, work with your real estate agent to make an offer on the home. Your agent will run a comparative market analysis at this stage to determine a fair purchase price. They’ll also help you with anything else you want to include in the offer, such as contingencies or an earnest money deposit.

In some states, the seller may have a deadline to reply to your offer. But in general, sellers typically respond to offers within 3 days. The seller can accept or reject the offer or make a counteroffer, which would restart negotiations. Negotiations typically don’t last more than a few days. And remember, the seller is usually just as eager to sell their home as you are to buy it.