Steps to Buy a House: How Long Do They Take?
Homes aren’t impulse purchases. It takes time to sift through listings and make your way from one home showing to the next; then, of course, there are those agonizing hours you wait to find out if your offer on a house was accepted, whether you can secure financing, and any number of other holdups.
Just so you’re prepared to play the waiting game, here are the steps to buy a house and how long they typically take, so you aren’t sitting there holding your breath and wondering if something’s up.
How long does it take to find a real estate agent?
Answer: A couple of days to a few weeks
Your real estate agent should be your most trusted consultant during the home-buying process. Don’t skimp on the search—even if you’re in a rush.
“The home-buying process is a complicated one, and the chosen agent must be the person who can best relay each step of the process in a way that will be understandable and reassuring to the homeowner,” says Diane Henderson, a Realtor® with McEnearney Associates in Alexandria, VA.
“Find the Realtor that ‘fits’ you,” she adds. “The whole process will go a lot more smoothly.”
How long does it take to get approved for a mortgage?
Answer: At least two weeks
Getting approved (or pre-approved) for a mortgage is no simple process. Lenders need to examine your documentation, review your financial information, and reconcile any problems. So even if all your documents are in order and you’re a stellar candidate, expect to wait two weeks or more to find out if you got the green light.
How long does a showing take?
Answer: 30 minutes to an hour
This one is largely up to you. A showing could be as quick as five minutes if you immediately decide you don’t like the property. But if you are interested, odds are you will take your time, poking your head into every closet and turning on every faucet.
That said, odds are you will know a home is The One surprisingly soon: One study found buyers spend an average of just 17 minutes inside a property before deciding to buy it.
Still, it’s essential to buy a home with your head as well as your heart, so go ahead and take your time to thoroughly vet every corner.
How long does it take for an offer to be accepted?
Answer: Less than three days
Unlike on “Property Brothers,” where offers are always accepted in a flash, the real world takes a bit more time. You may be tapping your toes in anticipation, but sellers have some leeway when responding to an offer. They have three options, each of which needs to be mulled over: Whether to accept your offer outright, counter it, or reject it.
Expect to hear back within three days (but hopefully sooner). Foreclosures are exceptions; banks might take up to 10 days to respond.
How long does a home inspection take?
Answer: Two to three hours for the inspection, then 48 hours for the results
Buyers should attend the home inspection, but be prepared for it to take a while. Inspections typically take about two to three hours—enough time for your inspector to examine the foundation, structure, fireplace, and other common problem spots. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if it means taking 30 more minutes.
“This is the best time to investigate your new home,” says Jeff Knox, the owner of Knox & Associates in Dallas. “After all, you have a licensed home inspector by your side. Nothing in the house is off-limits during your home inspection.”
Once the inspection is completed, expect to see a report in two days. When you have it in hand, you can work with the sellers to determine if any changes need to be made before closing.
How long does an appraisal take?
Answer: Up to two weeks
Like a home inspection, the appriaser—the professional who estimates the home’s value on behalf of your lender—might spend a few hours examining the property (and this time, your presence isn’t necessary). After viewing the house, the appraiser will examine comparable homes in the neighborhood (“comps”) and look through the neighborhood.
Because their prepared report can be quite comprehensive, sometimes reaching a hundred pages or more, its composition can take some time. Expect your lender to receive the report within two weeks.
How long does it take to close on a home?
Answer: 50 days
Home closing times are lengthening, currently averaging 50 days. Yes, it’s a pain. No one wants to wait more than a month to take possession of their new home, but don’t rush due diligence. Your lender will have a number of requirements, including providing paperwork like tax returns, before underwriting is complete. You can expedite this process (slightly) by having necessary documents prepared in advance.
By: Jamie Wiebe
Jamie Wiebe writes about home design and real estate for realtor.com. She has previously written for House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Real Simple, Veranda, and more.