So, you’re planning to buy a house—awesome! Maybe you’re about to bring a new bundle of joy into the world or start your dream job in a new city, and you’re just not sure how all the timelines will work out.
Don’t sweat it. We’ll show you how long it usually takes to buy a house so you can tackle your moving goals with confidence.
Get your calendar ready!
How Long Does It Take to Buy a Home From Start to Finish?
On average, it takes about four to five months to buy a house. That range includes the two to three months it takes to find the right house.1 And another one to two months to go from contract to closing.2
Keep in mind, that’s just a rough average. There are a ton of variables that go into buying a house that could make things go faster or slower—depending on your situation.
For even more detail, let’s break down each home-buying step.
1. Saving a Down Payment
Time: A few years
If you already have a down payment that’s at least 10–20% of your home price, great—you’re ready for the next step!
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If not, this will probably be your longest task to complete before buying a house. To take control of the timeline, check your budget and see how much money you can set aside each month into a savings fund. Then mark your calendar with the date you’ll reach your savings goal. Trust us, this will motivate you to save faster!
If you save up a big down payment, your monthly house payment will be more manageable. Plus, you’ll avoid paying tens of thousands of dollars in interest on your mortgage, and you’ll pay off your house faster!
2. Finding a Real Estate Agent
Time: A few days
You could find a real estate agent near you instantly by doing a quick internet search. But finding a great one could take a little more time. It’s smart to invest that time into interviewing a handful of agents so you can weed out the amateurs and only hire the best fit for your situation.
3. Searching for a Home
Time: 2–3 months
That’s right—shopping for a house is a big time commitment! There’s a ton that goes into it. First, you need to make a list of your must-haves.
Figuring out your must-haves could involve researching locations for neighborhoods, schools, community spaces, shopping centers and commutes that fit your lifestyle.
It could also include deciding if you need a two-story house, a ranch or a specific number of bedrooms (or maybe a garden that’s big enough to fit your rapidly growing gnome obsession—no judgement).
After your agent knows your must-haves, they’ll get busy finding homes for you to visit. That means you’ll also be busy balancing your work and life schedule with trying to make it to those viewings and open houses.
The housing market also plays a huge role in how long it takes to find a house. When you’re up against a ton of buying competition in a market with fewer homes listed for sale, the best homes at the lowest prices get snatched up quick.
With that said, you may have to be extra patient to find a house that fits your budget and lifestyle. Don’t give up, and don’t go over budget!
4. Making an Offer and Negotiating a Contract
Time: A few days
Once you’ve found the house for you, make a formal offer through your real estate agent ASAP. This offer is the contract agreement between you and the seller, which they’ll either accept, reject or counter.
If they make a counteroffer, you might find yourself going back and forth to negotiate the best deal—that’s why this part could take more than a day or so.
5. Scheduling a Home Inspection
Time: A few days to schedule—but only a few hours to inspect
If all goes well and the seller accepts your offer, you should schedule a home inspection. Depending on what the inspection says, the seller might need to make repairs before you can close the deal—which is why you want to get the inspection done as soon as you can.
6. Finalizing Your Mortgage
Time: 1–2 months
After you and the seller settle on a contract, your lender will start finalizing your mortgage. This process includes something similar to a home inspection—the home appraisal.
Again, the appraisal itself will probably only last a few hours—but it may take a few days to schedule one. If the appraiser determines that the home value is drastically different than the selling price, it could set you back to square one on the mortgage process.
While the appraiser is doing his thing, your lender will review all of your financial documents and your state or local policies to write up the terms for your loan.
During this time, your title attorneys will also search and check the title of the home. They’ll make sure there are no issues stopping them from transferring your name to the title and deed.
7. Getting Home Insurance
Time: A few days
The next thing you’ll need to do is set up home insurance for your new home. This payment is usually rolled into your monthly mortgage payment.
This step may take extra time if your insurance provider has to send a representative to inspect your home to help determine your coverage and policy.
8. Closing on Your House (Woo-hoo!)
Time: A few hours
The final step is closing day! The only time commitment here is to meet with the pros who have been helping you transfer the house into your name. You’ll sign a ton of paperwork, and then the keys are yours!
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.
But if you are getting a mortgage, there are still some things you can do to speed up the process. Let’s cover those next.
Get Preapproved for a Mortgage
Being preapproved before you go house hunting gives you a head start. 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 a mortgage company to getting the letter, preapproval takes a few days. But the extra time usually pays off later by helping make contract to closing go a lot faster.
Gather Important Paperwork
If you’ve been preapproved by a mortgage company, you’ll already have all your pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns at hand.
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.
Use a Real Estate Agent Referral Program
Remember, you can find any amateur agent by doing a quick internet search—but finding a rock-star agent takes effort. To save time, try using an agent referral program.
A good referral program will have already done the legwork of vetting the best agents. For example, the agents in our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program have to meet high qualifications before we refer them to you.
Have Your Closing Funds Ready
When you’re saving for a house, don’t forget to save up for closing costs too! You’ll want to keep these funds somewhere you can easily access them. That way, you’ll be ready to move that money to the right place when the time comes.
What to Do if Your Plans 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 Expert Agents on Your House-Buying Journey
The best way to stay on track of your timeline when buying a house is to work with a real estate agent. For a fast and easy way to find agents we trust, try our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program.
We only recommend agents who meet our high standards for excellent service—so you know you’re getting someone who will help you get the job done right and on time.