How long does it take to buy a house?

Household 3 min read

How long does it take to buy a house? I had no idea how to answer this question when I decided I was ready to buy a home. I was the first person in my family to buy a home and I had no one to turn to. I learned that timing a home purchase is tricky and varies based on a variety of factors. If you’re hoping to time your home purchase with when your rental lease is up, before the start of the school year, or when you’re closing on the sale of your old home, it isn’t completely impossible, but it’s best to be flexible with your timelines. Many experts estimate that you should expect the home-buying process to take a minimum of four months.

The fun part of buying a home is touring properties. I would picture myself taking a bath in the bathrooms, cooking dinner for my family in the kitchen, and all the fun my kids would have outside in the backyard. The not-so-fun part is being denied after you made an offer, finding something is wrong in your home inspection, and the mountain of paperwork the bank asks from you. Buying a home is definitely not an impulse purchase. Here’s a rundown of the various stages you’ll encounter to help you time your house hunt just right.

Getting a mortgage preapproval

At first, I thought we would begin by looking up homes we wanted based on the areas we wanted to live. Our real estate agent made it clear that we wouldn’t be showing up at anyone’s doorstep until we had a preapproval in hand. Presuming you need a mortgage to make your home-buying dreams happen, getting preapproved for a mortgage is your first step. If your finances are in good shape, you can get preapproval, which is a guarantee that the bank will lend you a certain amount of money. Having this guarantee in hand is a major asset when home shopping, because it shows sellers that you can afford their home and mean business. It also helps you narrow down your home-buying price point. However, if your finances are less than ideal for homeownership, it can take months or years to clean up your finances to put you in better standing.

House hunting

Contrary to my belief, you absolutely cannot show up at the doorstep of a home you found online asking them to let you—a total stranger—into their home. When you find homes you’re interested in, your real estate agent will see if there are any upcoming open houses you can attend or they’ll schedule an appointment with the seller’s agent at times that work for the seller. Usually, the home you end up buying isn’t the first home you walk into. You’ll likely see a lot of homes before you find one you love. When you’re house hunting, you can start feeling like Goldilocks pretty quickly: This one’s too small, that one’s too big, and that other one has crazy wallpaper—the list of “not quite right” goes on and on. On average, people see 10 houses before they make an offer, but that number can be much higher. Be prepared, because it can take months to find that special place that inspires an offer.

Closing the deal

You found your special place, you made an offer, and it was accepted. Now the waiting game really begins. It took my husband and me 76 days to finally close on our home. On average, it takes around 50 days to close on a loan, from the time lenders preapprove your mortgage application to the day you sign all the documents and get the keys. Having your finances in order shaves a bit of time off the process. Hiring a home inspector to check out the house from top to bottom for any problems as soon as possible also helps move the process along. All of this takes time. Overall, you should expect the entire process to take around four months to complete.

This information is provided for informational purposes, may not be applicable to all situations, and is not intended to provided legal, tax, or financial advice.  For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

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