The timeline for the homebuying process isn’t always clear or straightforward. How long does it take to buy a home from start to finish? What steps are involved with the home buying process? If you don’t know the steps, how can you set your expectations?
Buying a home is exciting. You’re likely hoping each step of the process will go as quick as possible. If you’re a first-time buyer, you might have this visual of finding the house of your dreams and moving in the next day.
While home-improvement and house hunting shows might make this seem like the reality, it takes a bit of time to check all of your boxes before the sale is finalized. In this guide, we’ll cover just how long it takes to buy a home from start to finish.
Step 1: Get Pre-Approved for Your Mortgage
What’s the first step? Many first-time buyers are surprised to learn that the first step doesn’t involve looking for a home at all. First, you actually need to be preapproved for your mortgage. Most real estate agents won’t take you seriously until you’ve been pre-approved, and that’s the best way to know how much wiggle room you have in your budget.
What’s involved with the pre-approval process? You’ll need to apply for a mortgage (or shop around if you’re looking for the best rate) by filling out paperwork about your income, assets, and credit history. This entire process can take a few days or as little as one day if you have all of your information together.
Step 2: Find Your Home
Now it’s time to find the home of your dreams. Once you know your price range and you’ve been pre-approved, you can start your home search. You might search on your own or through a real estate agent.
This is the step that has the longest variation in time. You might stumble upon the perfect home on your first search, or it could take a few open houses or tours to find the home you’re looking for. This could take as little as a few days or even a few months depending on your market and what you’re looking for.
Step 3: Give Your Offer
Next, you’ll need to actually put in an offer. Your agent will help you make a competitive offer depending on your budget and the market in your area. There’s a bit of paperwork required to formally put in an offer, and from there, it might be approved or denied by the current homeowner. You’ll likely hear back within three days about your offer.
Step 4: Negotiate the Contract
For the sake of this guide, we’ll assume your offer was accepted the first time. If it wasn’t you’ll need to either give a counter offer or move on to another property. Once the offer is approved, you’ll move onto the contract.
This is when you’ll need to get the home inspected and appraised. This can take up to two weeks to complete, and you’ll need to make sure all of this is finished before you close on the home. The inspection is in your best interest because it gives you room to negotiate conditions and price before you close on the home. For instance, if your inspection uncovers problems with the property, you might need these taken care of before you move forward. Any additional conditions will, of course, slow down the process.
Step 5: Closing on Your Home
Once your inspection and appraisal are done and all conditions are met, you can begin the closing process. While it might seem like you’re in the home stretch, this can be the lengthiest part of the process. The average time to close a mortgage is currently 45 days, though it can be as little as 30 days if things move quickly.
This is when you’ll need to finish up any paperwork, provide extra documents, and make sure all of your boxes have been checked. If anything’s changed in your financial situation, you’ll add additional time to the closing process.
How Long Does the Entire Home Buying Process Take?
Now that we’ve gone through all of the steps in detail, how long does the entire process take? If we add up all of the steps above, most buyers spend between 40 – 60 days buying a home. For some, the process might be as quick as a month. For others, it could take months and months to finally close.
Luckily, a lot of this is in your control. Taking your time during the preapproval process will go a long way to speeding up your closing. In addition, if you know exactly what you want and you’re in a buyers market, you’ll have a much easier time finding a home quickly. Now that you know just how long it’ll take to buy a home from start to finish, you can start the process with clear expectations.