Buying a home generally takes two to three months, depending on factors including your credit, how long lender approval takes, and the act of searching for the right property. “It varies, but on average it takes between 30 and 45 days to buy a home,” said Nadeem Qureshi, real estate agent at Champions Real Estate Group.
The process of buying a house can be broken down into six steps, each of which takes a relatively predictable amount of time.
1. Fix Credit Report Errors Before You Buy a House: 8 Weeks
“Before you can consider purchasing a home or securing a mortgage, you need to make sure your credit is good,” said Qureshi. What’s considered good is subjective. The FHA currently offers loans with just 3.5 percent down for people with scores of at least 580, but that score might be too low to qualify for a conventional loan.
Credit scores are based on factors like credit usage and history of on-time payments. Mistakes in your report can sink your chances for a good interest rate, or even prevent you from being qualified. Order a credit report early in the house-buying process and search for errors to challenge. All three credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — respond to disputes within 30 days. From there it takes another month for the changes to reflect.
2. Get Mortgage Preapproval or Mortgage Prequalification: 18 Days
“Smart shoppers will seek loan pre-approval prior to beginning their search for a home,” said Jason Haynes, broker associate at Century 21 Stopper & Associates. “I have a mortgage broker who I routinely work with, and given all the necessary information and paperwork, loan pre-approval can take less than 48 hours.”
According to CBS, however, that scenario is rare. Pre-approval requires borrowers to submit detailed, accurate records related to their finances, credit history, income, assets and debt for review by loan officers and underwriters.
That can happen in two or three days, or as many as 45 days, but those timelines are outliers. The average is about 18 days from the start of the process to finish.
3. Find a Real Estate Agent: 1 to 30 Days
“There is no real method to choosing an agent,” Haynes said. “I’ve been told I was chosen because I ‘looked like a nice guy on the website.’ Plus, picking an agent can take only a few minutes in the online world.”
But spending a few weeks researching can’t hurt — especially if you’re buying your first home. Buyers need to trust their agents and vet them to ensure they’re diligent, competent and honest.
Get references from friends and family, and hire someone local with intimate knowledge of the area in which you want to buy. Ask questions like:
- How long have you been in the business?
- Is real estate your full-time job?
- How many buyers do you work with at once, on average?
4. Research Potential Houses and Neighborhoods: 3 Weeks
“Searching for homes has become much more streamlined,” said Haynes. “With websites such as Zillow.com and Trulia.com, buyers can often create a short list of properties before reaching out to an agent.” Sites like these can be used to filter specific search parameters and help estimate the expenses associated with closing on a house.
“It’s a good idea to break up your housing criteria into needs, wants and desires,” said Candy Miles-Crocker, associate broker at Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc. “Needs are those amenities that the buyer simply can’t live without. Wants are those amenities that would be nice. Desires are those amenities that would be over-the-top wonderful.”
5. Find the Right House and Make an Offer: Varies
“After the initial meeting, the realtor will send the buyer various listings that meet their criteria, and the buyer can decide if they would like to see any of the properties,” said Miles-Crocker. “But once the buyer finds a house that they love, the process moves extremely quickly.”
That process is different for everyone. “I’ve had had couples take one day and couples that take up to one year,” said Qureshi.
“Once the offer is written and signed by the buyer, the realtor will present the offer and the seller has three options: accept, reject or counter,” said Miles-Crocker.
How long does it take to close on a house? That depends a lot on the next step: the inspection.
6. Get a House Inspection: 1 Week
“A home inspection is the single most important thing you can invest in when purchasing your home,” said Daniel Garcia, realtor with RE/MAX. “The consumer and real estate agent can only see cosmetic defects while walking through a property, whereas a home inspector will conduct a thorough inspection.”
A home might seem great, but if it needs repairs or has any issues, you need to make sure it’s still worth your money, Garcia said.
An inspection will take up to three hours, but getting the inspector to the house can take up to one week. Most real estate agents can recommend an inspector with whom they frequently work, but buyers can select their own inspector.
The house-buying process is different for everyone, and the average time to buy a house varies by homebuyer. Almost without exception, however, buyers will encounter these six steps.
Ashley Redmond contributed the reporting for this article.