Quick question: how long do you think it takes to buy a house? If you guessed about a month or two, you’ll want to think again.
According to Zillow.com, it takes up to four-and-a-half months to close the deal on a new home. And that doesn’t include the potential delays that the current pandemic will likely cause. If that timeline seems overly long, note that a home purchase is a legal process that requires a lot of preparation, paperwork, and due diligence from both buyers and sellers.
What exactly are those steps and how long does each take? Take a look at this guide we prepared:
Most sellers won’t entertain your offer unless you have a pre-approval letter, which tells you how much a lender is willing to loan you if you applied today. Because you actually have to apply for a home loan to get preapproval, you need to submit proofs of creditworthiness such as payslips, bank statements, and asset declarations. Between collating these documents and having your application reviewed, you’re looking at two to three days of processing time.
Finding an agent
One of the first steps to buying a house for the first time is to look for a good real estate agent. Not only will they handle the legal legwork on your behalf, but they will also shortlist suitable properties and negotiate the selling price for you. That said, don’t rush your search for an agent—look for someone who’s both knowledgeable and has a good rapport with you. Allot at least two weeks to interview and select your real estate agent.
Shopping for a house
The most exciting part of buying a home is also one of the most time consuming, taking up to six weeks to complete. Indeed, a Zillow.com survey found that about a quarter of all buyers said that finding their ideal home was either difficult or very difficult. That’s why most people view at least six properties before settling on a decision, though some buyers definitely look at more. Several factors can also affect your buying timeline, such as your desired location, property inventory, preferred features, and even the season. It’s rare to find a house that ticks all of your checkboxes, so deciding which features are nice-to-have but not essential can drastically shorten your home search.
Putting in an offer
It takes about a day for your agent to draft your offer and transmit it to the seller. By law, the seller must respond to your offer (whether positive or negative) within 48 to 72 hours. When you place an offer, be sure to consider the condition of the real estate market. If it’s a buyer’s market, your offer can be just below the asking price; if it’s a seller’s market, up the offer to bolster your chances of being chosen. If your offer is accepted, expect multiple rounds of negotiations where you’ll discuss the final sales price, closing date, and requested repairs, among others. This back-and-forth will likely add a few days or weeks to the process.
Closing the deal
Once both parties are satisfied with the negotiations, they can proceed to the escrow phase, which is all about due diligence and tying up loose ends. As the buyer, you have to finalize the approval of your mortgage, which can take up to 45 days. Your lender will also request an appraisal of the house to ensure that its market value is in line with the amount you’re borrowing. If approved, your lender will send a closing disclosure at least three days before the agreed-upon closing date. You are also entitled to commission a professional inspection of the house, which is useful for uncovering necessary repairs or potentially deal-breaking defects. All in all, expect the closing process to last around 40 days.
Other factors to consider
Given the current pandemic, expect the home buying process to take a little longer than usual. You may find that applying for a mortgage or booking a home inspection might take a while because many businesses are currently undermanned. Property showings might also be delayed as sellers have to ensure that their homes are sanitized before your visit.
On a separate note, there are also steps that you should take well before you even start looking for homes. For example, you should start saving for a 20% down payment at least a year before buying a house to avoid taking out private mortgage insurance.
Buying a house is an exciting but often overwhelming endeavor. If you’d like to find your dream home in record time, call the Sousou Team at 925.413.4511 or send an email to manel(at)sousouteam(dotted)com. With our extensive portfolio of top-notch properties, you’ll be settling into your new home in no time at all.