Buying a home is an exciting endeavor, but one that often takes longer than people expect. There are many legal and financial steps that must be taken before a sale of a home is finalized, and it’s important to have a realistic timeline laid out before starting your purchasing journey.

So, How Long Does It Take?

We’ve all grown accustomed to instant gratification. We can get instant coffee and instant access to our favorite movies and TV shows. So, when timing is out of our control, being patient can be challenging. This frustration often arises when it’s time to buy a house. While many of us would like to purchase a house and move in immediately, buying and moving into a new home can take a few months, not weeks.

There are many factors that can affect the process of purchasing a home, but in most cases, you can expect to get the keys to your new home within a month of the seller approving your offer. The process may be expedited if you are making an all-cash offer and can be delayed for numerous reasons.

Let’s take a look at the traditional steps of buying a home in the United States, and set a realistic timeline for a typical buyer:

Getting Preapproved: 2 Weeks

Before you start looking for your dream house, it’s best to get preapproved for a mortgage loan. It’s important to know how much house you can afford before you engage a realtor.  It’s also a way to show sellers that you’re a serious contender and potential buyer. In most cases these days, sellers only consider offers from preapproved candidates.

In order to get a preapproval letter, you’ll need to hire a mortgage lender. Comparing mortgage rates and terms could take as many as two weeks. And under the new FICO credit scoring model, you could shop around for rates for up to 45 days without doing much damage to your credit.

Finding Your Dream Home: 4-8 Weeks

Once you’re preapproved for a mortgage, you can start looking for homes in your price range. You can expect to devote a big chunk of your time to hunting for a house you love (especially if you’re picky). According to the Home Buying Institute, looking for a new house typically takes a minimum of three weeks.

Just remember that mortgage preapproval letters are generally only valid for 60 to 90 days. If you spend too much time on the house shopping stage, you’ll have to set up another meeting with your lender so they can re-issue your mortgage preapproval. If your financial situation has changed, you’ll have to submit additional documentation.

Negotiating a Contract: 2-3 Weeks

Once you’ve chosen a house to buy, your real estate agent will help you fill out the necessary paperwork to put in an offer, which the seller can either approve, reject, or counter. You will usually get an answer within 1-3 days. If the offer is approved, you can move on to the next step, dealing with inspections and appraisals. If it’s rejected or countered, the negotiation process might drag on for a few more days.

Most contracts require that you get the house inspected and appraised before going forward with the sale—it’s in the buyer’s best interest to include these steps. This part of the process can take up to two weeks to complete, and generally must be wrapped up before the closing process can happen. If issues crop up at this stage, such as an appraisal value below the value in the purchase offer, or major problems found during the home inspection, the purchase may be delayed or even cancelled.

Other conditions could slow things down further at this point. For example, your contract may require that the seller repair the roof before closing, or that the home undergo a pest inspection.

The Closing: 4-7 Weeks

Once the offer is approved and the inspection and appraisal are satisfactorily completed, your lender will begin the closing process. The average time it takes to close a mortgage is 50 days, so don’t make any plans that depend on moving into your new home right away. If you were preapproved for a mortgage, the process is likely to take closer to 30 days, since much of the paperwork has already been taken care of.

Even if you’ve been preapproved for a mortgage, you will be required to provide additional documents during this period. You can help move things along by having important paperwork such as your tax returns on hand. If there have been major changes in your credit report or financial situation since you began the process, if you took out a new loan, changed your marital status, or had a lien filed against you, expect further delays.

Final Calculation: 2-6 Months

How long does it take to buy a house? It depends on many factors. Your financial status and conditions in the housing markets will have an impact on how quickly you’ll be able to close on a house. From start to finish, the whole process could take a few months. For someone with bad credit or other problems, buying a house could take as many as six months.

If you’re in a rush to get to the closing stage, it’s best to have all your ducks in a row. Staying organized and being financially prepared can shorten your journey to becoming a homeowner.

A NAEBA certified Buyer Agent can comfortably walk you through the process and will be by your side through ever step of this exciting journey. The process to owning your dream home should be a fairytale, not a nightmare, so let us take care of the scary bumps while you relish in the accomplishment. View our list of realtors in your area today.