You’re hunting for a home and ready for a move. This is exciting stuff! But how long does it actually take to buy a house—from viewing those maybes to picking up the keys to the one?
If you’re the kind of person who likes the short answer, it’ll probably take two or three months from starting your search to signing all the paperwork on closing day. But there are a lot of variables that can speed things up or make them go more slowly.
So what’s all the in-between stuff you should prepare for once you’ve found the house you want? Let’s unpack that house-buying timeline together—right here, right now!
What Are the Steps to Buying a House?
First, let’s look through all the stages you may encounter when you’re buying a house.
1. Searching for a Home
The first step you’ll take is figuring out what kind of home you want. Are you upsizing? Downsizing? Are you flexible as long as the house is in a certain area? Searching for a house usually takes a couple of months with all those viewings and open houses filling your schedule. Housing market conditions can have an effect if you’re buying in a competitive market or looking in an area where homes don’t come up for sale often. Or you could be after a specific feature—like a pool or a backyard garden.
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2. Making an Offer
Once you’ve found the house for you, you should make a formal offer through your real estate agent ASAP. This offer is the contract agreement between you and the seller, which they will either accept, reject or counter. If all goes well and they accept your offer, you should schedule a home inspection to take place within a week. Depending on what the inspection says, there could be repairs needed before you can close the deal, which is why you want to have the inspection as soon as you can.
3. Contract to Closing
Now that the seller has accepted your contract, the balls start rolling in the contract to closing process. Here’s what happens during this time:
Your mortgage company will process your mortgage, organize an appraisal of the house, and get in touch with you about documents they’ll need from you. Early on in this stage, they’ll also give you a loan estimate. It has a breakdown of what to expect to pay on closing day.
Your title attorneys will search and check the title of the home and make sure that when it comes to closing day, there are no issues stopping them from transferring your name to the title and deed.
Your home insurance provider will also jump on board during this stage to set up the insurance for your new home and let you know what the annual premium will be.
Contract to closing usually takes around 30–60 days. But it’s good to be conservative and assume it’ll be about 45 days.(1) So, don’t arrange for the movers to come around too soon!
Contract to closing usually takes around 30–60 days. But it’s good to be conservative and assume it’ll be about 45 days.(1)
How Can You Speed Up the House-Buying Process?
Buying a house with 100% cash is the fastest way to do it! There’s no mortgage process for cash buyers. This means contract to closing will be a lot shorter—around 14–30 days.(2)
But if you are getting a mortgage, there are still some things you can do to speed up the process. You could:
1. Get Pre-approved for a Mortgage
Being pre-approved gives you a head start on the paperwork. It shows the seller you’ve seen a mortgage lender and have confirmed you can afford a house in the range they’re selling it for. From contacting the mortgage company to getting the letter, pre-approval takes a few days. But if you’re pre-qualified for a loan, the mortgage process (when it does start) will be quicker. It could help make contract to closing take about 30 days.
Being pre-approved gives you a head start on the paperwork. It shows the seller you’ve seen a mortgage lender and have confirmed you can afford a house in the range they’re selling it for.
2. Gather Important Paperwork
If you’ve been pre-approved by the mortgage company, you will have already dug up all your pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns. But keep them close and make sure they’re as recent as you can get. You’ll need them again during the mortgage application process.
3. Find a Good Real Estate Agent
This is really important—especially if you’re a first-time buyer. Find a good and trusted real estate agent. They’ll be your go-to lifeline to help you find a home, view it, and make an offer, and they’ll also guide you through inspections, walk thorough and closing day. They’ll also answer all your questions in between!
Find a good and trusted real estate agent.
4. Have Your Closing Funds Ready
Make sure you can easily access your bank account to be able to move your money for the closing costs to the right place when the time comes!
Tip: Have a Plan If Things Are Delayed
If closing day is delayed for any reason, have a backup plan ready. You might need a place to stay in case you have a fixed move-out date from your current home. That’s why it’s always worth giving yourself a buffer of a few extra days (after your closing date) to allow for delays.
Find Experts on Your House-Buying Journey
If you’re looking for a house to buy and you need an expert real estate agent to help you through the process, we have just the people for you!
Great agents are the professionals you’re looking for when buying your new home. Don’t try to navigate the complexities of the home-buying process alone. Get a pro on your side to help things go as smoothly as possible.