With so many variables in play, there’s no single answer for how long it takes to buy a house. However, the average homebuyer takes three to six months to shop for a home, plus 30-45 days to close once under contract.
Your homebuying timeline will depend on factors like the housing inventory in your local market, how quickly you find a potential home, and whether you negotiate after a home inspection.
The Process of Buying a House (and how long it takes)
How long is the process of buying a house? Let’s talk about what happens at each stage of the homebuying process, how long it usually takes, and what might slow you down.
Step 1: Financial Planning
Average Time: 1-2 weeks
Buying a home might be the largest financial decision you’ll ever make. Before you start shopping for a house, it’s critical to examine your income, expenses, and debt to gauge how much you can afford each month. Not only that, you need to have enough for a down payment and closing costs. You’ll also want to check your credit score since the lender uses this to determine the interest rate of your mortgage. If you need to save more money or improve your credit score, you might want to hit the pause button on your homebuying timeline until you’re in a better position to buy.
Step 2: Pre-Qualifying for a Mortgage
Average Time: 1-2 days
Now that you’ve reviewed your finances, your next step is to share this information with a mortgage professional. Based on their knowledge and experience, they’ll give you a general idea of whether you’ll be approved for a mortgage and the range you can expect. This is called a pre-qualification. You’ll provide self-reported information, so your mortgage approval amount and terms could differ once you apply with verified financial documents. However, you can avoid this by providing accurate financials, checking your credit report, and not opening any new credit in the time between your pre-qualification and application.
Step 3: Researching The Market
Average Time: 1-2 weeks
With a better idea of what you can afford, it’s time to narrow down communities where you’d like to live. You can do this by researching publicly available information about the average cost of homes, quality of local schools, the level of crime, and property taxes. Next, visit nearby businesses, hospitals, and parks. Do you have what you need within a reasonable distance? It’s also smart to do a few drive-throughs at different times of the day. Confirming your ideal community will make your home search easier and faster.
Step 4: Finding An Agent
Average Time: 2-7 days
A real estate agent is your professional guide through the homebuying process. You want to be comfortable with them as a partner. Take some time to read client reviews, understand their specialties, and evaluate their skills as a communicator and negotiator. It’s also helpful to find out how well they know the communities you’re targeting. Can they steer you away from trouble areas? Do they have insider knowledge on properties about to go on the market? A great real estate agent can save you time by narrowing your list down efficiently.
Step 5: Finding A Home
Average Time: 1-3 months
Some lucky homebuyers find their dream home after just a few showings. To help your chances, it’s important to clearly communicate what you want so your real estate agent can line up the best possible options. But even the best agent can’t overcome a limited housing market, whether it’s due to the time of year or the economy. Especially if you have a limited price range or target area. The homebuying timeline could easily extend into months if there aren’t many choices. You’ll have to either expand your criteria or to wait until the market improves.
Step 6: Making An Offer
Average Time: 1-3 days
Once you’ve decided to bid on a house, your real estate agent will help you put together a competitive offer based on comparable homes. You’ll also include any desired timelines and contingencies (such as a home inspection). Usually, the seller has about 72 hours to decide what to do with your offer – accept, reject, or counter. If they reject your offer, you’ll need to regroup and go back to step 5, which can lengthen the process significantly.
Step 7: Negotiating A Contract
Average Time: 1 day – 3 weeks
If the seller accepts your offer with the contingency of a home inspection, it usually takes about one week to arrange. If there are no issues, you and the seller can sign the purchase contract and set a closing date. However, you might discover some problems. This will require some back and forth to settle on who’s paying for the repairs or if the seller will reduce the price. You may also want the repairs completed prior to the sale, which could delay the closing date.
Step 8: Closing
Average Time: 30-45 days
Prior to the closing date, you’ll need to get an appraisal, title search, title insurance, homeowners insurance, and mortgage approval. With a lot of professionals involved and the potential for hang-ups related to paperwork or communication, it’s tough to schedule a closing sooner than 30 days from the date of the purchase contract. The good news is the actual day of closing is only an hour or two. You’ll do a final walk-through, pay closing costs, and sign financial documents. Once complete, you get the keys!
How long does it take to buy a home? As you can see, it’s not a straightforward answer. While unavoidable delays may happen, you do have some control over the homebuying timeline. Plus, by knowing what to expect, you can manage your expectations and enjoy the process.