Buying a home takes longer than you might think. It seems simple. Find real estate agent. View house. Make offer. Close. While those are the basic steps, the process can take several months. Here’s a rough home buying timeline to give you an idea of what to expect.
Research homes in the area (6-8 months out)
While that may sound like a long time before buying, you’ll have a better experience with your agent if you’ve done some basic homework in advance. While we don’t recommend using the Internet to find and make an offer on a house, it’s definitely a great research tool. We wrote a post on great apps you can use for your search. Check them out.
Use this research time to come up with your list of must haves. Consider neighborhood, school districts, and commute distance. Also think about features you want in a home, like backyard, large kitchen, walk-in closets, etc. The more information you can give your agent, the more likely she’ll be able to find the perfect home for you.
Get pre-approved for your loan (6 months out)
This doesn’t mean you’re locking in a rate, but pre-approval gives you an idea of what you can afford, and it will guide your research.
This is also the time to be conservative in your financial management. Don’t make any big purchases which could affect your credit rating later on.
Find an agent (4-6 months out)
Once you’ve done your research, you’ll need to find an agent. Although you could conduct the transaction yourself, we think there are good reasons to use an agent.
We’d love to be your agent, however, we do recommend interviewing at least two. Ask lots of questions to be confident you’ve found the right one for you. How knowledgeable is the agent about the area you want to live in? Is this the agent’s full-time job? How many transactions has he handled in the last year? You want to be certain you’re getting an agent who has enough experience to do a good job.
Tour homes (3 months out)
It’s possible this stage could go quickly or take months, depending on market conditions in your area, but prepare to spend enough time to find just the right house. While you might fall in love with the first home you tour, it’s good to look at enough so you have a good comparison.
If you are in a hot market, you might need to move fast and make an offer, so be prepared to consult with your agent on what’s appropriate in your particular market.
Resubmit your pre-approval application (3 months out)
Pre-approvals generally last 60-90 days, so make sure yours is still good.
Submit an offer! (2 months out)
Finally, you’ve found the home you love, and you’re ready to make an offer. Listen to your agent on all the details. Market conditions can definitely affect this part of the process, and it’s one of the main reasons you hired an agent. An offer can make or break the deal at this point.
Why so far out? The last stages of the process can take more time than you expect. Your first offer might not be accepted, and you’ll have to search further. Even if it is accepted, there’s still more to the purchase, such as depositing earnest money, having the home inspected and the title searched. If it takes less time, great, but again, be prepared and you won’t be disappointed.
Hooray! You made it. You’ll sign all the papers and receive the keys to your new property. Celebrate and prepare to enjoy your new home!
This is just an overview of the big milestones in buying a home. There are other steps in the process which your agent will guide you through. Always keep your eye on the ultimate goal: a new home you’ll love!