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How Long Does It Take To Buy A House: The Timeline

Matthew Levy Updated: January 3, 2024 • 7 min read
street of homes in the US

Key Points:

  • It's crucial to research neighborhoods, understand affordability, budget wisely, and know your credit score.

  • Mortgage preapproval involves providing financial documents and affects several aspects of the home-buying journey.

  • Understanding home buying factors can help manage expectations and reduce stress during the process and timeline.

Getting ready to buy a house is an exciting milestone. Below, we will look at the typical timeline of the home-buying process, providing you with what to expect as you move towards homeownership. Understanding a timeline when buying a home is an excellent place to start when planning your move, finances, and future.

A timeline when buying a home is an excellent way to plan your move, finances, and future.

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?

To predict how long it will take to find a home and get an offer accepted is challenging to say for sure. Many variables exist in the home-buying process. This process could take six months to a year, depending on the real estate market and the type of home you are looking for. 

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Understanding the Pre-Purchase Phase

Before you dive into house hunting, the pre-purchase phase involves some groundwork. Start by researching neighborhoods and understanding the kind of house you can afford. Budgeting wisely and knowing your credit score are important as they significantly influence your mortgage rates and approval. This initial phase sets the foundation for a smooth home-buying journey, helping you align your dreams with realistic expectations.

Mortgage Pre Approval

Understanding the significance and process of mortgage preapproval can help in the home-buying journey:

1. Early Evaluation: Mortgage preapproval is an initial evaluation by a lender to determine how much money they are willing to lend you based on your financial history, credit score, income, debts, and assets.

2. Documentation Required: You must provide documents such as proof of income, employment verification, credit history, and any other assets or liabilities. This helps lenders assess your creditworthiness and repayment capability.

3. Benefits of Preapproval:

  • Clear Budgeting: It gives you a clear idea of the price range of homes you should be looking at, aligning your house-hunting with realistic options.
  • Attractiveness to Sellers: A preapproval letter makes you a more attractive buyer in the eyes of sellers, often giving you an edge in competitive markets.
  • Speeds Up Purchasing Process: With preapproval, you can move faster when making an offer since the financial aspect is already sorted.

4. Validity Period: A preapproval letter usually has a validity period, often 60 to 90 days. Engaging in your home search and making an offer within this timeframe is crucial.

5. Impact on Timeline: Preapproval can significantly speed up the timeline of your home purchase, as it reduces the time spent on financial discussions and negotiations.

6. Conditional Approval: Preapproval depends on a final confirmation of your financials and a good appraisal of the home you decide to buy.

7. Effect on Credit Score: When you apply for a home loan preapproval, lenders will perform a hard inquiry on your credit report. This can temporarily affect your credit score, so limiting the number of preapproval applications is wise.

By securing mortgage preapproval, you're taking the first step towards homeownership, demonstrating your seriousness and financial readiness to sellers, and streamlining the buying process.

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House Hunting

The house hunting phase varies greatly in duration, often depending on market conditions, your specific needs, and availability. It's a time to visit homes, consider locations, and reflect on what features are essential for your new home. Patience is key, as finding the right home shouldn't be rushed.

Making an Offer and Negotiation

Navigating the offer and negotiation phase involves several key steps:

  1. Determine a fair price: Research and analyze comparable homes in the area (comps) and understand current market conditions to make an informed offer.
  2. Making the offer: Submit a formal offer through your real estate agent. This should include the price, contingencies (like inspections or financing), and proposed closing dates.
  3. Awaiting seller response: The seller may accept, reject, or, most commonly, counter your initial offer. This is where negotiation begins.
  4. Engaging in negotiation: Be prepared to engage in potentially several rounds of counteroffers. Each counteroffer refines the terms of the sale, including price, contingencies, and closing dates.
  5. Considering a cash offer: A cash offer can expedite the process. It removes the need for lender approval and is often more attractive to sellers, potentially reducing the negotiation time.
  6. Flexibility and patience: This phase can range from a one to 30 days. Influenced by the market competition, the property's demand, and flexibility of both parties is what determines the duration.
  7. Finalizing the offer: Once both parties agree on the terms, the offer becomes a binding contract, and the next phases of the home-buying process commence.

Home Inspection and Appraisal

After your offer is accepted, but before the deal is finalized, the home inspection and appraisal come. An inspection, usually conducted by a professional, assesses the property's condition, identifying any repairs or issues.

This typically takes a few hours, but reviewing the report and negotiating repairs might extend the timeline. Lenders require an appraisal that confirms the home's value aligns with your offer and the loan amount. This process usually takes less than a week but is critical in securing homeowners insurance and finalizing the mortgage.

Closing the Deal

Closing the deal is the final and perhaps most important phase in buying a house. This stage involves reviewing and signing various legal documents, transferring the property title, and paying closing costs — typically 2% to 5% of the home's purchase price. The closing process can take an hour to several hours, culminating in receiving your new house keys. Ensuring you understand every document you sign and the fees you are paying is essential for a smooth closing.

Post-Purchase Considerations

Once you've successfully purchased your home, a few immediate tasks await. First, ensure your homeowner's insurance is in place to protect your new investment. Then, address any immediate home repairs or improvements you planned during the buying process. Finally, familiarize yourself with your new community and neighbors as you settle into your new home.

Factors Affecting the Buying Timeline

Understanding the factors that can extend or shorten your timeline is a way to reduce stress in the home-buying process. From mortgage preapproval to closing, your decision can be influenced by different elements. Here are key factors to consider:

  • Market conditions: In a seller's market, where demand exceeds supply, you might find yourself in bidding wars, requiring quick decisions and possibly prolonging the negotiation phase. Conversely, in a buyer's market, you may have more homes to choose from and more negotiating power, potentially speeding up the process.
  • Mortgage preapproval: Obtaining mortgage preapproval is one of the first steps in the home-buying process. The time can vary depending on the lender and your financial situation. Being well-prepared with all necessary documentation can speed up this process.
  • House hunting duration: The time you spend looking for the right home can vary widely. Some buyers find their perfect home quickly, while others might search for months. Your list of must-haves and deal-breakers, the availability of homes in your desired area, and your flexibility with house features can all affect this duration.
  • Offer and negotiation phase: Making an offer and entering negotiations is a delicate part of the process. A cash offer can expedite acceptance as sellers often prefer the certainty of cash. However, if you're financing the purchase, this stage's length can vary based on how back-and-forth negotiations go, the number of counteroffers, and the complexity of any contingencies involved.
  • Home inspection and appraisal: These necessary steps can introduce delays, especially if the inspection uncovers significant issues requiring negotiation for repairs. The appraisal process also needs to align with the lender's schedule and the appraiser's availability, which can vary.
  • Loan processing and underwriting: The time your lender takes to process and approve your loan can vary. Factors include the thoroughness of your application, the lender's efficiency, and the complexity of your financial situation. Any issues discovered during underwriting can lead to further delays.
  • Title search and insurance: Ensuring the property's title is clear of liens or disputes is essential. This process can be quick if the property's history is straightforward but can take longer if complications arise.
  • Closing delays: The closing can be delayed for various reasons, including document errors, funding issues, or last-minute negotiations. Being proactive and prepared for each step can help minimize these delays.
  • Personal circumstances: Your situation can also affect the timeline. Coordinating both transactions can be complex if you sell a home while buying another. Your readiness to move, flexibility with closing dates, and any changes in your financial situation can all impact the process.

Understanding Your Rights as a Buyer

As a homebuyer, you're entitled to certain rights that protect your interests throughout the buying process. This includes:

  • The right to fair treatment under the Fair Housing Act ensures no discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or family status.
  • The right to a transparent process - mortgage lenders must provide clear information about loan terms and costs, and sellers must disclose known problems with the property.
  • The right to a professional home inspection and to renegotiate or withdraw if significant issues are uncovered.

Understanding these rights helps you navigate the home-buying process confidently and securely.

Making Financial Adjustments

Here are key strategies to navigate financial changes during the home-buying process:

  • Tell Your Lender of Improvements: If your financial situation improves, notify your lender as you might qualify for better home loan terms or increase your house budget.
  • Reassess Budget if Circumstances Change: Should you face unexpected financial challenges, reassess your purchasing budget or explore different mortgage terms.
  • Update Preapproval with Significant Changes: Keep the lender updated on any financial changes. This may affect your mortgage preapproval status or the terms of your loan.
  • Plan for Contingencies: Plan for financial emergencies or unexpected costs that may arise during home-buying.
  • Maintain Open Communication: Talk with your lender and real estate agent, especially if there are any changes to your financial status or future payments.


Buying a house is a significant process, often varying due to market conditions, financial readiness, and personal circumstances. Approach the process confidently and clearly by understanding each step, from preapproval to closing, and knowing your rights and how to navigate financial adjustments.



How long does the entire home buying process typically take?

The timeline can vary widely, but on average, it takes between 30-60 days from getting mortgage preapproval to closing, not including the house hunting phase.

Can making a cash offer speed up the buying process?

Cash offers can expedite the process as they eliminate the need for mortgage approval and related delays, making the offer more attractive to sellers.

What can I do to ensure the home buying process goes as quickly as possible?

Be financially prepared, get mortgage preapproval, respond promptly to requests for information, and work closely with your real estate agent and lender to anticipate and tackle any issues promptly.

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Written by Matthew Levy

Matthew is a freelance financial copywriter with 14+ years in financial services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics with business and finance options and is a CFA Charterholder. He is from Vancouver, Canada, but writes from all over the world.