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New home buyers expect to live in their homes for a median of 12 years, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). So you’ll want to do your due diligence when making a decision that could affect you for the next decade.
That said, it’s also important to have realistic expectations for your timeline, so you can plan accordingly. Generally, you should plan on taking at least 3 months to buy a home – even if everything goes smoothly. Of course, timelines will vary depending on individual circumstances.
We’ll get into the different steps to buying a house, explain how long they usually take and suggest some options to speed up the process.
How Long Does the Home Buying Process Take?
One reason it’s difficult to give a general answer to this question is because it depends on how long each step takes. For example, if you find a house in a few days instead of a few weeks, it’ll have a big impact on your overall timeline.
For the purpose of calculating a general timeline, we’ve broken down the process into these steps.
- Find a real estate agent: This will vary depending on how many real estate agents you talk to. It can be done as quickly as 1 day, but it may take weeks to find the right person.
- Get preapproved: This usually takes a couple of business days, but it can take a few weeks, depending on your financial situation and what documents you need.
- Find a house and make an offer: The average buyer spends a median of 8 weeks house hunting, according to NAR data. But if you love a home, you can make an offer the day you find it.
- Close on the home: This varies depending on your financing and the seller’s needs, but one recent average was 45 days.
For a more detailed breakdown of the process, check out our guide to buying a house.
Steps in the Home Buying Timeline
Let’s take a closer look at what goes into each step of the process and the factors that determine how long each will take.
Find a real estate agent
When you’re searching for a home, a real estate agent can be an invaluable resource. Ideally, they know the market better than you do, can help you find a property and protect you from overbidding.
Given all they do, it’s worth taking the time to find a real estate agent you trust. In practical terms, this means you’ll need to speak with them. If you find someone you connect with in a day or two, fantastic. If it takes longer, don’t be discouraged.
Recommended time frame: 1 – 2 weeks
Getting preapproved for a mortgage is a good idea for several reasons. First, it gives you a more concrete idea of what you can afford. It’ll also strengthen your offer in the eyes of sellers. In fact, some real estate agents won’t accept offers without a preapproval.
Another reason to get preapproved is that it can speed up the mortgage underwriting process. This can allow you to close on the home faster.
The time it takes to get approved will vary depending on your financial situation and job history. For example, if you’ve had the same job for the last 5 years and have W-2s, that income will be faster for the lender to verify versus someone who’s self-employed and has to provide more documentation.
Recommended time frame: 2 – 5 business days
Get approved to buy a home.
Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.
Find a house and make an offer
There’s no right number of houses you should look at before deciding to put in an offer. If you fall in love with one of the first homes you see, you may want to stop looking. The objective is to find something you love, especially if you plan to live there.
For context, recent home buyers viewed a median of 8 homes and spent a median time of 8 weeks searching. This means you can expect to spend about 2 months looking for a home if you fall in line with general trends.
Buying a home is a massive purchase. You should feel comfortable putting in an offer you can afford for a home that you like. Don’t stress if it takes some time to find the right fit. There’s a reason this step usually takes the longest.
The good news is once you find a home you love, you can usually put in an offer that same day.
Recommended Time Frame: 2 – 3 months
Close on the home
After finding a house, closing is the part of the process that usually takes the longest. Generally, closing can take anywhere from 30 – 45 days. In some cases, closing can be completed in under 30 days, but there are a lot of steps that need to happen first.
Here are the requirements to close on a home:
- Title search: This is done to verify that the seller is the legal owner of the property and that there are no other claims to the home.
- Property appraisal: This is an independent review that’s done to establish the value of the home, for both the borrower and the lender.
- Home inspection: A licensed professional will closely examine the home, looking for defects and issues that will need to be addressed.
- Secure homeowners insurance: Most lenders require the borrower to secure homeowners insurance before they’ll close on the loan.
For more details on these steps and how long they take, learn more about closing here.
Recommended time frame: 30 – 45 days
Common Reasons for Delays When Buying a House
While exciting, buying a home can be a draining process – considering the investment of time and emotional energy. This is especially true when borrowers hit roadblocks that cause delays. Here are some of the most common reasons for delays:
- Issues securing financing: If the loan isn’t finalized, you can’t complete the closing process. This is where getting preapproved can put you ahead of the game, as it allows you to deal with any lender concerns before negotiating with the seller.
- Appraisal gaps: This happens when the independently appraised value of the home doesn’t match the accepted offer price. If the appraisal value is significantly lower, the lender might not loan you the difference. Your options are to either renegotiate the offer with the seller or pay the difference yourself.
- Home inspection results: The buyer has the right to renegotiate with the seller based on the inspection results. If the inspection reveals serious issues with the home, negotiating who will be responsible can significantly slow the deal.
Once your offer is accepted and you go under contract, it usually takes 30 – 45 days to close.
Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or not, the home buying process is largely the same – but you might take longer to go through the process the first time. For example, if you’re buying a third home, you may already have a trusted real estate agent. How you choose to finance the purchase will also impact the overall timeline.
Because you don’t need to worry about securing financing, a cash offer can significantly speed up the process. How fast you close will be dependent on the seller’s needs and how quickly you can get through (or waive) steps like the appraisal and home inspection.
Buy a Home at Your Pace
Remember, there’s no right or wrong timeline when it comes to buying a home. Move at a pace that feels comfortable to you, and try not to stress if one step seems like it’s taking longer than it should. Buying a home is a marathon, not a sprint.
The Short Version
- Plan on it taking at least 3 months to buy a home – even if everything goes smoothly. The actual timeline will vary, depending on the market and your circumstances
- Usually, finding a home to buy is the longest step. If you find a house fast, you can significantly decrease the time it takes to complete the entire process
- Financing issues, appraisal gaps and home inspection results are some common reasons for delays when purchasing a home
National Association of Realtors. “2022 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report.” Retrieved March 2023 from https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2022-home-buyers-and-sellers-generational-trends-03-23-2022.pdf
ICE Mortgage Technology. “Mortgage Solutions Software, Support & Education.” Retrieved March 2023 fromhttps://www.icemortgagetechnology.com/