How Long Does It Take to Buy a House?

Mortgage

If you’re ready to purchase a new home, you may be wondering just how long the process will take. After all, it’s possible you need to figure out some of the logistics of your move.

buying a home

You may need to decide whether to ask your landlord for an extension on your lease, for example. Or, perhaps you need to consider your child’s school schedule or how much notice to give your employer. With this in mind, it’s smart to learn and understand how long buying a house usually takes.

The timeline of any home sale can vary based on a broad range of factors. However, each step can be fairly predictable on its own. Here’s how much time you should expect to wait for each step of your home sale as you plan out the next important steps in your life.

Preparing Your Credit for Homeownership: Zero to Twelve Weeks

The credit score required to qualify for a mortgage can vary depending on the mortgage lender and type of mortgage. However, you will always have a better chance of qualifying for a mortgage loan with the best rates if you have good credit.

According to myFico.com, consumers with FICO scores of 740 or above have the best chance at qualifying for a mortgage with excellent terms and a low interest rate. Meanwhile, consumers with “good credit,” or FICO scores between 679 and 740, are not guaranteed the best terms. The chances of qualifying for one of the best home loans are much lower for anyone with a score below that level.

That’s why, if your credit history isn’t great, you should work on improving it before you apply for a mortgage. The most important steps you can take to improve your credit include:

  • Get a copy of your credit report and check it for errors. You can get a free copy of your report from all three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You get one copy for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Pay all your bills on time. This is important since your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score.
  • Pay down debt. Many credit-scoring models consider how much debt you have when determining your credit score. So, paying down some of your existing debt may help improve your credit in the short term and the long haul.

If your credit is already good or excellent, you can skip this step altogether. If it’s not, you have some work to do.

Get Preapproved for a Mortgage: Several Days to Three Weeks

Your credit is ready for a mortgage, so now what? Your next step is checking in with mortgage providers to get preapproved. There are a few reasons you should bother getting preapproved before you start shopping.

First, getting preliminary preapproval for a mortgage can help you discover how much money the bank is willing to lend you. This figure or range of figures will let you know the price range of homes you should search for.

Second, you will have much better luck getting an approved offer on a home if you’re already preapproved for a mortgage. Having a preapproval letter tells sellers you are able to purchase the home. You’ll have a huge advantage over other buyers who aren’t preapproved if you have a letter.

Shop Around for the Best Rates and Terms

As you prepare to get preapproved for a home loan, make sure you’re checking with several lenders so you can compare interest rates and fees. Some websites let you enter your information once to receive multiple offers from lenders who are competing for your business. Make sure to research lenders and mortgage websites that connect you with multiple home loans before you decide whom to work with.

To get preapproved, you typically need to supply the following:

  • At least one month of pay stubs
  • Employment information for the last two years
  • Two years of W-2s
  • One or two years of tax returns
  • Three months of bank statements
  • Even more information if you’re self-employed.

Keep in mind that this step can take a few days or several weeks. Make sure you have a mortgage preapproval letter in your hands before you move onto the next step.

Finding a Home and Getting an Accepted Offer: Varies

Once you’re preapproved and have a good idea of how much house you can afford, it’s time to start searching for your dream home. Unfortunately, this is one step that can vary dramatically in length and scope. You might find the perfect home on your first day of searching. However, it could also take months of searching for a home you actually want to buy.

You’ll obviously want to work with a real estate agent during this part of your journey. A real estate agent can help you find homes in your price range. They also set up times for you to enter and inspect homes you’re interested in.

Once you find a home to buy, you can also rely on the help of a realtor to write up an offer. This part of the home buying process can also take days or weeks depending on how quickly the sellers respond. They might submit a counteroffer that requires you to think long and hard about the home sale for a few days. Heck, you could each submit several counteroffers back and forth, each taking a few days to execute.

Closing on Your Home: Thirty to Fifty Days

Once you have reached an agreement with the home’s seller, you’ll begin moving toward the closing process. During this step of the mortgage process, your lender may need more financial paperwork that helps them verify you qualify for the loan.

To prove you are still in the same financial position you were when you were preapproved for your loan, you may need to provide additional bank statements or pay stubs.

Home Inspection

While you’re waiting to close on your home, you’ll also want to hire a home inspector to look over the property to check for needed repairs. The home inspection usually takes a few days to schedule, but only a few hours to inspect. After the home inspection, you may also negotiate back and forth with the seller to agree on who will pay said repairs and if any concessions should be made.

Sometimes closing takes as little as one month, but it can often take a lot longer than that. Either way, it helps to get back with your lender quickly if they ask you to submit additional documentation. You don’t want to leave them waiting and prolong the home buying process unnecessarily.

Once your closing date arrives, you’ll sit down with all parties. This includes lawyers when applicable, buyer and seller’s real estate agent, title company, the closing agent, and perhaps even a representative of the lender.

You’ll sign all the important documents pertaining to your home loan. You’ll also bring money to the table to cover your share of closing costs and your down payment. Once you’re done, the keys and the home are finally yours.

Bottom Line

The details above describe what usually happens when someone purchases a home. However, there are many variables that could throw these timelines out of whack. You may find you have trouble qualifying for a mortgage altogether, for example. Or maybe you spend months or years finding a home you like!

Whatever hurdles you encounter, make sure to keep your credit in good shape and continue saving for a down payment. The better financial shape you’re in, the better chance you have at winding up with the home of your dreams.

Holly Johnson
Meet the author

Holly Johnson is a credit card expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel.