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How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?

Dan Miller7-minute read
February 03, 2022

If you’re considering buying your first home, then you may be wondering how long it takes to buy a house. And the answer is that it depends, but the process will likely take longer than you’re expecting.

Buying your first house is exciting, but there are many steps involved. First, you’ll need to ensure that you’re financially prepared to purchase a house. Then you’ll have to demonstrate this to the bank, find a home you like, and go through the closing process. The home buying process can go faster or slower depending on a variety of factors outside of your control. This article will provide some first-time home buyer tips, so you’ll know what to expect.

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How Long Does The Home Buying Process Take?

If you are wondering how long it takes to buy a house in 2022, the answer will vary depending on your situation. In many areas in the United States, the housing market is incredibly hot for most buyers. This means that many new homes are snapped up within days (or even hours). This is one reason that you'll want to make sure that you have prepared adequately before you even start looking for a house. That will make sure you are in the best position possible.

But even if you find a house immediately, the entire home buying process still will take a bit of time, as you work through the various steps. There are certain factors that can influence how long the process will take. Some of these are within your control, while for other factors you may need to depend on other people. Here are a few of the factors that affect how long the home buying process takes:

  • Your financial situation: If you're applying for a mortgage as part of the purchase of your new home, the process will take longer than if you are a cash buyer. And if you're taking advantage of non-traditional lending programs, that could also lengthen the process.
  • Your budget: Your overall financial situation can affect how long it takes to buy a home. Lenders will look through your finances during the underwriting process, and may have questions about your finances in general and/or individual transactions.
  • The condition of the house: If the house you're buying isn't in perfect shape, you may need to go back and forth with the seller about items to repair or replace before closing. That can add to the time it takes to buy a home.
  • Miscommunication between buyers and sellers: Both buying and selling a home can be emotional, and miscommunications can happen. You can minimize the chances of miscommunication by being precise with your words and/or working with a real estate agent.
  • The availability of homes in the area: In a hot housing market like the one we’re in, it can be hard to buy a home quickly because there are so many buyers trying to buy a smaller number of homes.

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How To Speed Up The Home Buying Process

There are some things buyers can do to speed up the buying process. Here are a few things that you should look at doing to try and keep the process going smoothly.

Get Preapproved Before You Search

When you decide you want to purchase a home, it can be tempting to start looking right away. But you’ll save yourself a considerable amount of time if you get preapproved for a mortgage first. It makes sense to start the preapproval process as soon as you think you may be interested in buying a home.

When you get preapproved, this means that a bank has checked your credit score and determined that you’re a good candidate for a mortgage. If you qualify for preapproval, you’ll receive an estimated loan amount and interest rate. When you are ready to make an offer on a home, sellers will take you more seriously if you’ve already been preapproved.

You can make this process faster by preparing your mortgage preapproval documents ahead of time. Here are some of the types of documents you'll want to have on hand to start the application

  • Bank statements for the last 3 months
  • Social Security cards and driver’s licenses for each applicant
  • Copies of recent tax returns
  • Pay stubs or proof of income for each applicant
  • Explanation of any unusual financial transactions

Figure Out What You Need In Your New Home

Another step is to figure out what you want in your new home. This can be deciding how many bedrooms and bathrooms and the square footage, or determining a rough idea of what areas you want to look in. You'll also want to pencil in a budget of what you can afford. You can take as long as you need to figure this out before you start searching. The more clearly you can communicate your needs to a real estate agent, the easier it will be for your agent to find homes that you will be interested in. This can save time in the overall home search process.

Find A Real Estate Agent

Finding a real estate agent can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. If you already know or have worked with a real estate agent before, then you can work with them without having to interview several different agents.

When looking for an agent, it can be a good idea to get recommendations from trusted friends and family members. You should meet with several in your area before choosing one, as this will help you find the right person with the right personality and style for your needs.

While you can go it alone, working with real estate agents is one of the easiest ways to speed up the home buying process. They can help with the following, among other things:

  • Finding homes
  • Negotiating prices and terms with the seller
  • Speeding up the closing process
  • Helping you find inspectors and other service providers

And in many cases, it's the seller that pays the real estate commissions for both the seller's and buyer's agents, so there isn't a financial downside to working with a real estate agent when buying a house.

Make An Offer

Once you’ve found your dream home, it’s time to have your agent put in an offer. Once you’ve made an offer, the seller is generally required to respond within 48 – 72 hours, depending on the timing that you put in your offer.

In the best-case scenario, the seller will accept your first offer, and you can move forward from there. But if there are many offers on the house, it’s possible yours could be rejected, or the seller could counter with a different offer.

Just understand that negotiating with the seller is a standard part of the process and that it may take longer than you would like. Your real estate agent can help you figure out what to offer or how to respond to a seller's counteroffer.

Schedule An Inspection

Once you and the seller reach an agreement, it’s time to get the home inspected. This will be conducted by a certified home inspector who will examine the house and check for any issues that could affect the sale. Your real estate agent will be able to recommend a great inspector to identify issues and problems inside the house.

Typically, a home must be inspected within 10 days of signing a purchase agreement. If the home inspection shows that there are any significant problems with the house, you may need to renegotiate your terms with the seller.

Be Ready To Negotiate

It is rare for a seller to accept your first offer. In most cases you will go through several rounds of back-and-forth counteroffers. These negotiations are normal and expected for most home purchases, and can take several days. It's also important to keep in mind that in a seller's market like the one we have seen recently, there is often less negotiation. The seller may ask for your "highest and best" offer right away, since they may be in a position where they are deciding between multiple offers.

Prepare For Closing

Once all the paperwork is in place, you'll get ready for closing. The closing process may be one of the faster parts of the home buying process, but it’s also one of the most stressful. The closing process may take anywhere from 2 – 4 weeks. You can prepare for the actual closing day ahead of time by doing the following:

Get An Appraisal

Most lenders require a home appraisal, and you'll want to schedule your appraisal as soon as possible. The appraisal itself takes just 1 – 2 hours, but an appraiser may not be available immediately. So the sooner you can get on the list, the sooner the appraisal will happen. Your mortgage lender may have a specific appraiser that they require you to use, or your real estate agent may help you find an appraiser.

Respond To Requests From The Underwriting Department

Once you submit your mortgage application and get preapproved, the loan will move to underwriting before you close on the home. In underwriting, the mortgage lender will do a final verification of your income and financial information. The underwriting process usually takes about a month, but delays can happen. You'll want to respond quickly to any requests from the lender to make sure there are no unnecessary delays.

Wrap Things Up On Closing Day

On the actual closing day, you will usually close at your title company’s office, and it will generally take several hours. On closing day, make sure you bring a photo ID and all of your paperwork. If you owe money (like for a down payment) at closing, the title company should either give you wiring instructions or instruct you to bring a cashier’s check made out to the title company. Once you get the keys, the house is yours and you're free to move in.

Get approved to buy a home.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

The Bottom Line: The Timeline For Buying A House Looks Different For Everyone

Buying your first house is exciting, but many first-time home buyers are surprised by how long the process can take. Getting preapproved is usually a great first step that speeds up the process as a whole, as it will help clarify where you stand financially and will typically make any offers you make much more attractive to sellers. So, if you’re ready to get started, why not get preapproved today?

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Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free/cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids.