How long does it take to buy a house?  This is a many-layered question as it depends on the time of year, your own timeline and parameters, and other market variables.  For example, you may have less competition when looking for a home in the summertime, but there may not be as many homes available.  If you are searching in the springtime, you will likely have more homes to choose from but you will be competing with more buyers and higher prices.

This is why ultimately it is important to focus on your own timeline and goals.  Doing so will allow you to target your efforts, avoid wasting time, and ensure you are in your new home when you need to be.  Ask yourself “Why am I moving? What date do I need to move by? What will happen if I don’t move by that date?”  Your agent will be able to guide you towards the best timeline based on your answers to these questions.

Let’s take a look at an example scenario.  You have been renting the past few years, monitoring your credit and saving where you can.  You just renewed your lease for a year but would like to buy a home before you have to renew again.  How should you proceed?   

12 months out – Meet with a lender to assess your finances.  Get an estimated price range you can afford in your current situation.  Determine how much more you would like to saveand develop a plan to improve your credit score.

7 months out – Deposit any gift money you will be using towards your down payment into your bank account.  Avoid opening new lines of credit or making major financial changes from now until you have closed on your home.

5 months out – Meet with a lender again.  Choose your loan program and get pre-approved.  Gather all documents requested by the lender.  Select a real estate agent.

4-5 months out – Begin your search.  Give yourself enough time to deal with things such as low inventory, competitive market, and unaccepted offers.

2 months out – Finalize an offer on a home.  Give notice to your current rental.  Provide any additional requested documents to lender.  Decide when to lock in your interest rate.  Do home inspection.  Get homeowners insurance.  Schedule movers.  

Note: The typical timeline from contract to closing is 30-45 days, but some lenders need up to 60 days, and some sellers may ask for a rentback, where they remain in the home for a period of time after closing and pay rent to the new purchasers.

1 month out – Schedule time for closing.  Take off work if necessary.  Anyone whose name will be on the title or the loan must be present at closing.

1 week out – Get commitment letter from lender.  Review HUD-1 settlement statement.  Wire money to title company or obtain a certified check to bring to closing based on HUD-1 statement amount.

Close on your home!  This is typically done at the title company’s office. 

Note: If you have very specific search parameters (i.e., only focusing on one neighborhood), or if you have a home you must sell before buying another, the timeline may be longer.