How Long Does it Take to Buy a House?
For many people, purchasing a house is a big part of living the American Dream, but it can be a lengthy, and downright tiring process. Most home buyers are looking to improve their living situation as soon as possible, and naturally, one of the critical questions that they’re concerned with is: how long does it take to buy a house?
While the answer to this question may vary depending on the customs and real estate laws specific to your area, there’s a standard procedure for buying a home that requires you to invest a lot of time – and rightfully so.
Not only is it one of the most life-defining financial decisions that you will have to make, but it’s also irreversible, for the most part, once the contract is executed, and all contingencies have been satisfied.
So, although you may be eager to acquire the keys to your new home as fast as possible, it’s important that you invest sufficient time into purchasing a home and all of the factors that may influence time and money. Below you’ll find useful information on the average time to buy a house in the United States during the uncertain economy of the spring and summer of 2020.
Examining Your Current Financial Situation
Take a step back – are you even in a position to comfortably purchase a home or should you do further research on whether to rent before owning a house? If you conclude that buying a home is in your best interest, it’s important that you know what you can afford.
For most people this boils down to determining what size mortgage loan they can acquire from their lender, assuming that they do not have enough savings to purchase the house outright. The lender will need to determine if your existing income and debt (if any) qualify you to be pre-approved for a loan.
This typically involves conducting an interview to access your finances, at the end of which you may be given a rough estimate on what you can afford. The duration of the pre-approval process is pivotal to addressing the question: how long does it take to buy a house?
For individuals with a stable job and no current debt, the pre-approval process can take as little as a few hours at best to two days at worst. Others who are dealing with a lawsuit or those who may have declared bankruptcy recently or been through a divorce may require several weeks for approval.
The Search For A Real Estate Agent
Hiring a real estate agent who’s familiar with the market will help to reduce the average time to buy a house. A real estate agent will represent you for the purchase of your desired property and will be your go-to contact 24/7 to get your transaction completed.
Their job is to guide you through the intricacies of the purchase agreement, any addendums, the submission of the contract, negotiating back and forth with the property owners and guiding you through the steps to closing.
Generally speaking, you will want representation from firms that are outstanding with technology. Does the agent or firm have a great blog and website? Are they keeping up with the times? In the year 2019 and beyond, a great deal of time and effort can be saved through taking care of lengthy paperwork digitally.
There is nothing to prevent you from going on your home acquisition journey alone, but a great real estate agent is bound to make the house-hunting process less lengthy and daunting.
Shopping For The House
Most people won’t invest in a car, furniture, or even a piece of clothing before getting a feel for it first – “trying them on” so to speak. The same goes for when you’re shopping for your dream home. So, it is important that you allocate the appropriate time for shopping for a house. Typically, the time spent house-hunting will vary with each homebuyer.
You may find the perfect house on your first day, but if you are someone who is indecisive, it may take weeks or months.
On average, it takes three to six weeks for homebuyers to complete their home shopping. The trick is to be smart and use every resource available to help you find the right house in the shortest time possible.
This means relying on your real estate agent, scrolling through online listings, or simply driving around the area where you are looking to buy your home – old-fashioned style. Of course, most people will opt for screening their homes online to save on time. Even if you’re one of those persons who enjoy house shopping, you’ll be relieved once you find the perfect home.
Making An Offer
By now you should have a basic answer to the question: how long does it take to buy a house? Once you find a house and have confirmed that everything is to your liking, then it’s time to make an offer. Pitch your price to your real estate agent, after which he/she will need to write a professional offer to submit to the seller.
During this time, your real estate agent should provide you with their professional opinion of what it will take to get the deal done. Keep in mind that you can always raise the price of your offer later on, but sellers are almost never ok with allowing you to decrease your offer amount. So be a bit aggressive at first if the market conditions are in your favor.
Make the first offer low with some negotiation room. This makes sense most of the time, but if the property is mispriced for some reason and multiple offers are coming in from other buyers, you will sometimes need to come in with a full price offer. However, this is the exception and not the norm.
Current uncertain 2020 market conditions warrant a first offer that is at least 7% under the asking price. The drafting of the offer by your agent can take from one hour (if you have very few contingent items/conditions to add) to a full day (if you are making significant additions to the standard purchase agreement).
After receiving the offer, the seller will need to evaluate it and make a decision whether to accept or not. If they accept, you will be asked to put down a deposit that will act as an insurance policy for the seller that you will do what you say you are going to do according to the contract and move forward with closing.
In some areas, you have a few days’ grace period to change your mind and turn your back on the deal. If the buyer does not accept all of the pricing and terms of your offer, they may submit a counteroffer to you or your agent in which case you can choose to conduct future negotiations or walk away.
On average, a real estate purchase offer will have a 24, 48 or 72 -hour window, for the seller to respond. Ensure that the offer reflects the house value and do your research on the local market to get a good picture of how much you should be paying.
A tight offer time frame for a response puts pressure on the other side, which can be a good thing, but if the sellers are traveling or unavailable, you could wind up with a dead offer by being too aggressive with the time response.
In general, listen to what the listing agent has to say about the most aggressive response time possible from their client. (It’s best to play as nice as possible on most items that are non-monetary items).
A house inspection is one of the single most important steps in purchasing a home without regrets. In most cases, you’ll be able to complete the home inspection work in two to five hours, so it does not greatly affect the average time to buy a house.
The most timely component of the inspection is the arrangement of the inspection itself, so to keep things moving along efficiently, ensure that you have a qualified inspector lined up as early as possible.
The firms that provide these services often have their staff booked out several days in advance. Keep this item at the top of your checklist, and lock-down your inspector as soon as you can. On the day of the inspection, you and your real estate agent should both be present.
This is your time to get to know your home on a deep level. You’ll want to listen closely to the inspector’s feedback and get your feel for the quality of the home.
Knowledge is power, and as each and every flaw is revealed, so does your negotiating power. The inspector’s report is a very important item to the closing process. You will want each major flaw to either be fixed or credited back so that you can fix the problem yourself. This is a big day. Be present and enjoy the process of learning everything that you can about your potential new home.
Your lender will also be eager to get a copy of the inspection report, as this is a critical item in determining the true value of the home.
Finalize The Loan With Your Lender
The time it takes to close the home loan tends to vary with each lender’s processing efficiency and the home buyer’s individual situation. A good rule of thumb is to give anywhere from four to six weeks to finalize the home loan contract.
Moving forward, you will need to finalize the loan documentation with your mortgage lender. In most cases, the lender will let you know what additional information you need to submit to complete the process.
Expect an appraisal order to determine the value of your home by an expert appraiser. The results of this appraisal are very important. If the number comes in as expected, you should not have any delays with your loan.
If the value of the home comes in lower than expected, you may need to put down a greater deposit, or potentially even have the loan refused by the lender. Be prepared for this meeting; the appraiser can make or break your deal.
Make certain that your real estate agent brings good, supporting comparable property data (comps). This meeting needs to be a friendly cordial, meeting of the minds.
If there is some sort of personal problem with an appraiser or even if they are having a bad day, human nature could see that your new home dreams dry up. So strategize with your agent about how to make this day go as smoothly as possible.
Also, bear in mind that your loan contract may require that you present proof of home insurance for the house that you are purchasing, effective from the date of settlement. Although many companies will issue an insurance policy within a few days, for older homes it may take a few weeks. Therefore, you should make arrangements to have your homeowners’ insurance policy lined up at least two weeks before finalizing the loan.
The time it takes to close on a house varies greatly due to the workloads of the people involved in the transaction. This is why you’ll hear many homebuyers ask, “why does closing take so long?” It also varies based on each buyer’s unique situation. Those who are lucky enough to get a loan preapproval, as opposed to loan pre-qualification, are likely to close sooner.
To qualify for preapproval, the lender would have successfully verified all your credit and bank account reports, allowing you to close on your house sooner.
Then again, factors such as the type of loan you choose, marital status changes, and low appraisal, can all slow the closing time. For those of you asking, “how long does it take to close on a house with a conventional loan?” it can take up to 45 days to close from application date.
United States Federal related mortgage loan borrowers may have to give up to a month to close on a house. For those who are enrolled in a first-time homebuyer program, they may have to give an additional 5 to 15 days, although this mainly applies to people seeking assistance with their buyer down payment. Nonetheless, with the right assistance and knowledge, you’ll sail through the process.
Crossing the Finish Line
So, to answer the question, “how long does it take to buy a house?” On average, it will take three to six weeks to complete your home shopping, four to six weeks to finalize a loan contract, and generally two to six weeks to close.
Each homebuyers’ individual situation can affect the time it takes to get past various stages of their home buying journey.
For many, the process is smooth sailing, but for others, it can be a lengthy and downright tiring one. A great real estate agent and/or mortgage broker can make all the difference in the world. So, seek out top-level professionals to support this important undertaking.
Once you do cross that finish line and close on your first home, your second transaction later in time doesn’t seem quite as daunting. With each new transaction, you’ll get more and more experienced.
So, if you have been sitting on the fence for a while out of fear of the complexity of the home buying process, don’t worry, we have your back. Feel free to contact us with any questions that you might have about the process.