The home-buying process is exactly that—a process. Though no two purchases are the same, most homebuyers go through a similar timeline with multiple steps. According to Zillow, the average sale takes about 50 days.
Here’s what to expect from start to finish.
Step one: research
The initial stage of the home-buying process is important: doing research. This can take anywhere between one day and two weeks and should help to elevate your understanding of your own needs and wants.
During this time, be sure to narrow down your home preferences, non-negotiable factors of your future home (location, size, etc.), your budget, the costs of homeownership, and start looking into resources available in your area, like lenders and loan types and real estate agents.
Step two: work with a lender
One of the most important steps is figuring out financing and getting pre-approved for a loan—it shows that you’re a serious buyer and can make the offer-making process go as smoothly as possible. This will also help you narrow down what homes are ideal for you and decide what you can afford.
This process can take some time, as the pre-approval process deals with lots of paperwork and takes a deep dive into your finances, from credit to bank statements to tax returns. On average it takes about five to eight business days.
Step three: work with a real estate agent
Here’s where the fun starts! Locking down an agent jump-starts the process. We can help you lock down a house with our expertise and experience. We are a resource to you, and are free! (The seller covers our cost.)
Step four: start looking at homes
The next step, looking at and shopping around for houses, can often be a wildcard for the timeline. It can take as little as a few days and as long as a few months.
You’ll work with your agent to find available homes. The length of time comes down to the market, available inventory, competition, and what you’re looking for. The typical buyer actively searches between 10 and 12 weeks and looks at an average of 10 homes before they find the one.
Step five: make an offer
After finding the home, the next steps are to make an offer (which the seller has to accept), negotiate, and sign a contract. This typically takes between one day and a week.
Your agent will help you throughout the entire process; from price to preparing all of the necessary paperwork; they’ll handle all communications with the seller’s agent.
Again, depending on the market, this can take a while. When inventory is low, sellers often receive several offers, usually at or above the asking price.
Step six: leading up to closing
After going under contract, there’s a set timeline leading up to closing day. There are several things you’ll have to do to prepare.
- Pay earnest money. You’re usually given a short window to do this, maybe about five days.
- Order a home inspection. Done by a professional, these take about three to seven days to schedule and two to three hours to inspect. This is one of the first steps after going under contract.
- Get a home appraisal. The seller orders this, and it can take up to five days to schedule; a few hours to do the appraisal; then up to five business days to get the report to the lender.
- Final approval for your loan. This can take between a few days, up to three weeks. Information, like the appraisal and inspection, are needed for final approval.
- Get insurance. You’ll need title insurance (one to three business days for the title check, about two weeks for a policy) and homeowner’s insurance, which can take up to two weeks.
- Get ready for closing. Namely, you’ll need to order your closing costs, whether through a cashier’s check, certified check, or digital transfer (your agent will let you know what you need). This can take either a few days to order or a few minutes, depending on the method.
- Do a final walk-through. This typically lasts an hour or less, the day before closing. You’ll get to check out the property and make sure the seller made any agreed-upon repairs and left things in good condition.
Step seven: closing
All of the aforementioned steps tend to take about 50 days on average, from going under contract until closing day. The actual closing, which is signing a ton of finalizing paperwork, should last between one and two hours.
Then, the home is yours!