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How Long Does It Take to Buy a House?

So, you’re planning to buy a house—awesome! Maybe you’re about to start a new job in a new city, or maybe you’re about to become a homeowner for the very first time.

Whatever the reason is you’re looking to buy a home, you’ve probably got one big question: How long does it take to buy a house? 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.

How Long Does It Take to Buy a House From Start to Finish?

You can expect buying a house to take four to five months. That range includes the time it takes to find the right house and, after that, to go from contract to closing.

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. So, to give you a better idea of how long it’ll take you to buy a house, let’s break down each home-buying step to get even more detail.

First, though, you should know that it’s really important to save up a strong down payment before you launch into the home-buying process. If your down payment is too low, your monthly payments will wind up being too high—and that’s a recipe for winding up house poor.

First-time home buyers should save enough cash to make a down payment of at least 5–10%. The best option, though, is saving up for a 20% down payment, since putting that much down keeps you from having to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). That may take a few years, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. Big time.

1. Finding a Real Estate Agent

Time: A few days

A whopping 89% of home buyers work with a real estate agent to buy their home—and that’s the way it should be.1 Having a great agent on your side is a must when you’re buying a house, for a ton of reasons. They’ll coach you through the entire buying process, help you find a home in your price range, and handle a lot of the paperwork.

A good agent will only take a few days to find and, best of all, you likely won’t have to pay them a dime since sellers typically pay the commission for their agent and the buyer’s.

You could find an agent in your area by doing a quick Google search, but don’t do that—it’s a great way to wind up with someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing. Instead, connect with a local agent through our RamseyTrusted program, which matches you with multiple top-notch, experienced agents in your area.

With the right agent, taking on the housing market can be easy.

Buy or sell your home with an agent the Ramsey team trusts.

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2. Searching for a Home

Time: Two to three months

That’s right—shopping for a house is a major time commitment! There’s a ton that goes into it.

Find expert agents to help you buy your home.

First, you need to make a list of your must-haves. Chances are, there are a few things a home’s got to have before you’ll even consider buying it—like a certain number of bedrooms, bathrooms or stories. Or maybe you want a yard, a pool, a three-car garage, or a kitchen with marble countertops. You also may prefer to live near schools, community spaces or shopping centers that fit your lifestyle.

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 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!

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Finalizing Your Mortgage

Time: One to two 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 send you back to square one on the mortgage process.

While the appraiser is doing their thing, your lender will review all 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. 

Want to make sure this part of the process doesn’t drag out? Get preapproved for a mortgage before you even start house hunting. (We’ll talk more about mortgage preapproval later.)

6. 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 (also called escrowing).

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.

7. 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, hand over one of the biggest checks you’ll ever write, and then the keys are yours.

How Can You Speed Up the House-Buying Process?

Buying a house is going to take some time no matter how you slice it up, but there are some steps you can take to speed things up a little bit.

Here are a few things that could help you accelerate the process of buying a home.

Pay cash for your home.

Want to put the home-buying process into overdrive? Pay for it with 100% cash. That’s right—no mortgage.

Think about it: If you don’t need a mortgage, you won’t have to deal with all the time-sucking aspects of nailing one down. No need for an approval process, loan paperwork, or anything else like that.

Now, we get that buying a home with 100% cash isn’t for everyone, but more people do it than you probably think. These days, around 30% of homes are bought with cash—no mortgage.2  Those folks probably didn’t spend nearly as long in the home-buying process as the average Joe!

Get preapproved for a mortgage.

If you do decide to get a mortgage, getting 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 the house you’re looking at.

From contacting a mortgage company to getting the letter, preapproval takes a few days. But the extra time usually pays off later by speeding up the time from contract to closing. Our friends at Churchill Mortgage can lend a hand with this step.

By the way, the only type of mortgage you should consider is a 15-year, fixed-rate conventional mortgage—going with a 15-year instead of a 30-year will save you tens of thousands in interest. Also, steer clear of FHA and VA loans because of all the fees involved.

And make sure the monthly payment on your mortgage, plus the cost of homeowners insurance, property taxes and HOA fees, is no more than 25% of your take-home pay (even though a lender may approve you for more than that). That way, you’ll have enough money left in your budget to put toward other important financial goals like saving for retirement.

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 on hand.

But keep them close and make sure they’re as recent as you can get. You may need them again as your mortgage is finalized.

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.

The Bottom Line

Like we talked about earlier, the amount of time it’ll take you to buy a house may be shorter—or longer—than some of the timeframes we’ve looked at. You may live in an area with a hotter housing market where things move quickly, or you may be in the opposite situation.

Here’s what you should keep in mind: The biggest key to making this whole process go as quickly as possible is being prepared. You may not be able to speed up the process (at least not much), but you can certainly prevent it from taking longer than it needs to by taking the steps we just went over. You’ve got this!

Next Steps

1. Take our free quiz to see whether you’re financially ready to buy a house.

2. Once you are ready to buy a home, connect with a RamseyTrusted real estate agent. The agents in our network are the best of the best, and you can trust that they’ll help you find the best home for you—one that helps you reach your money goals.

Connect With a Pro

Frequently Asked Questions

From the time when you hire a real estate agent through closing day, buying a home will likely take you four to five months. That said, there are steps you can take to speed up the process or, at the very least, avoid the process dragging out—like getting preapproved for a mortgage and having all your paperwork ready to go ahead of time.

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.

Ready to be blown away? You actually don’t need a credit score at all to get a mortgage and buy a house. Crazy, huh? If you don’t have a credit score, mortgage lenders can still make sure you’re a reliable borrower through a process called manual underwriting. If you do have a FICO score, though, you’ll likely need a score of at least 620 to get a conventional mortgage.

The time it’ll take you to save for a house depends on how much money you’re able to save each month and how big of a down payment you want to make. Typically, though, a down payment of 10–20% will take a few years to save up.

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About the author

Ramsey

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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