How long does it take to buy a house? A lot depends on how much time you spend shopping for one. But once you have a contract, it takes an average of 50 days to close on a house. There are a lot of steps to buying a house, and any of them could drag out the timeline, especially if you're not prepared. Here's the home-buying timeline, broken down step-by-step, so you can be in control.
1. Do your research 1-14 days
Dreaming about owning your own home is one thing; making it happen is another. To get beyond the dream stage, you need to do some critical research to help you figure out what you do and don't want-along with how much you can afford. It's mighty disappointing to fall in love with a house only to find out you can't afford it. A quick chat with your bank can help you avoid that heartbreak — it's called pre-qualifying. But it's no guarantee you'll get a mortgage (that comes later), only an indication of how much you can afford.
2. Find an agent 1-7 days
Finding an agent who suits you is key to the home buying process. They should be your most trusted adviser. Look for one with intimate knowledge of your desired community. If they know the inside scoop, they'll know a great deal (or a bum one) when they see it.
3. Get pre-approved for a loan 5-8 business days
Getting pre-approved for a loan signals you're a serious buyer. Most agents recommend you have a pre-approval in hand before you make an offer, and they can offer recommendations for lenders. But pre-approval goes deeper than pre-qualification. It needs a ton of documents from you. A couple of tips to help make this a speedier process:
- Get all your documents for mortgage pre-approval organized and ready to go.
- Compare rates from lenders within a 14-day window: Credit bureaus will count all their checks as just one. (That's good news for your credit scores.)
4. Shop around- few days-months
Here's where things really vary. There are so many variables. 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 1-7 days
Work with your agent on price, contingencies, and other terms of the deal. A couple of tips to help make this step proceed smoothly:
- Include the pre-approval letter from your lender in the offer, and put down earnest money. (Commit 3% to 4% of the sale price instead of the standard 1% to 3%, and you might really put a fire under them.)
- If you receive a counteroffer, respond ASAP. You don't want to give another buyer time to jump in with a better offer
6. Get Final Mortgage Approval few days -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. And they'll want to see even more current copies of your financial documents. From this point on, the steps to buying a house will often overlap, so you'll have several wheels in motion.
7. Get a Home Inspection3-7 days to schedule; 2-3 hours to inspect
As soon as your contract is accepted, contact an inspector to get on their books. The inspection itself will only take two or three hours, but unfortunately, they're not quite Amazon. They seldom show up the next day. However, they can get the report to you quickly. 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.