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How Long Does It Take to Buy a House?

by Point2 Staff
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9 min. read

Buying a home is different than any other transaction. There’s much more to it than just handing over money in return for the keys, and for a good reason — purchasing real estate is perhaps one of the most complicated transactions that many of us will ever make. As such, it’s wise to go in with your eyes open and a good idea of what to expect.

To that end, when it comes to buying a home, timing can be crucial. If you get it wrong, you could end up paying a mortgage and your rent at the same time. Or, you might find yourself essentially homeless if your lease has ended and you still haven’t closed the deal.

But, exactly how long does it take to buy a house? Well, it won’t happen overnight, that’s for sure. And, the actual time it takes is dependent on everything from the state of the local market and your search criteria to your financial situation and various other factors. Let’s find out more.

 

What’s the Average Time Spent Searching for a House?

How long does it take to buy a house?Predicting how long it takes you to buy a house is a bit of a balancing act. At the low end, you might seal the deal in as few as four weeks. Alternatively, at the higher end, you could be looking at up to six months or more. Plus, for a second home or vacation home (or for those who are unwilling to negotiate on the details of their dream home), the process can take even longer — in some cases, more than a year.

Indeed, it’s the shopping-around stage that eats up the most time, which is the biggest variable in terms of how long the entire process will take. For example, recent studies suggest that around 50% of buyers spend less than three months looking for their home. Conversely, some 13% spend between seven and 12 months searching.

Of course, there are ways to speed things up, such as being flexible when it comes to your search criteria. And, in most cases, searching online will also help move things along faster because you’ll be able to browse a far wider pool of properties any time you wish.

 

The Main Steps to Buying a House

So, beyond searching, how long do each of the major steps in the homebuying process take?

Finding an Agent: Up to 2 Weeks

Finding a real estate agent is easy. Just do a quick search online, and you’ll get plenty of hits. But, finding the right agent for you takes a little longer. Therefore, it’s worth thoroughly researching any potential candidates and checking out reviews from people who have worked with them recently. It’s also a good idea to take the time to find a great agent because a good realtor can actually shorten the overall process considerably.

 

Getting Pre-approved for a Mortgage: Up to 2 Weeks

Getting pre-approved for mortgageIt’s a good idea to get pre-approval for a mortgage as this allows you to make a strong offer that the seller is more likely to trust — and that’s especially important in a hot market.

The process of getting pre-approved typically takes one to five business days if your paperwork, credit score and finances are all in good order. However, like finding a real estate agent, it’s best to research various lenders to see which one can offer you the best deal.

To speed things up, do this at the same time as you’re looking for an agent. Granted, a good agent will often be able to help you find a good lender, as well as offer advice that will increase the likelihood of your application getting approved the first time.

 

House Hunting & Viewings: 4 Months, on Average

Viewing homes for saleAs mentioned, this is the most unpredictable part of the process, and it really depends on the state of the local market more than anything else. For instance, in some markets, you might be able to visit a house, fall in love, make an offer and have it accepted all in one day. In others, it can take months for the right home to appear.

Moreover, research suggests that, on average, buyers in the U.S. and Canada spend around 4.5 months house-hunting and viewing potential homes. For this reason, it helps if you know exactly what you need from your new home. The best advice is to make a needs and wants list, keeping in mind that you can be flexible when it comes to the wants.

While you may be intrigued by the idea of finding your dream home in less than a week and signing on the dotted line the same day, it’s worth taking your time. Specifically, be sure to research the area, verify that the house itself is in good shape and confirm that it’s actually a good fit for your future life there.

 

Negotiating With the Seller: About 1 Week

Homebuying negotiations When you do find that ideal home, you’ll need to put in your offer. Your agent will advise you and help you put in an attractive offer that works for you. Then, once you’ve submitted it, the seller may take a few days to either accept, decline or make a counteroffer and thus open up negotiations.

If they accept the offer, then it’s plain sailing. However, if negotiations are on the table, it can take a little longer before you reach a solution that both parties are happy with. The good news is that, for most sellers, it’s in their best interest to sell as quickly as possible. Now, that’s not to say that they won’t delay a bit (especially in a hot market) to see if they can get a better offer. Once again, it depends on the local market.

 

Securing Financing: Up to 2 Months

Being pre-approved for a mortgage will speed up this part by a couple of weeks, but you should still be prepared for it to take up to two months for your lender to underwrite and approve the loan. This is also known as the closing process. At this time, you’ll need to prepare all the paperwork and hand it over to your lender to get the ball rolling — so, the sooner you do that, the better.

From having your offer accepted to getting the keys, closing on a house takes around 50 days, on average. But, there are still several things to do as closing day approaches.

 

Home Appraisals & Inspections: Up to 3 Weeks

Home appraisal expertBefore your lender closes the deal, they’ll need an approved appraisal to assess the true market value of the home. To do this, they’ll arrange for a professional to inspect the property and study the local market. Normally, an appraiser will visit within a week of the offer being accepted. Then, it will typically take three days for their report to be completed.

If the market value is higher than what you’ve negotiated with the seller, then everything is good. On the other hand, if the appraised value is lower, your lender may require you to put down a larger down payment or renegotiate the price to match the appraised value.

At the same time, it’s worth arranging for a home inspection. While not mandatory, it’s wise to have the home inspected and your agent will likely advise you to make your offer contingent on the results. Generally, an inspector can visit the property within ten days and then you should have their report within 24 hours. Note that this timeline might be longer if the inspection unearths some problems that the seller needs to fix or that cause you to have to renegotiate the price.

 

Closing & Getting the Keys: 1 (Long) Day

Getting the keys to the homeClosing day is the day you’ve been waiting for! Before you pop the champagne, though, you’ll spend the better part of the day in a solicitor’s office signing paperwork, handing over the down payment and closing costs, and, finally, taking possession of the keys.

 

With all that said, you can typically expect it to take between three and seven months from start to finish to purchase a house. Of course, there are cases in which the process goes much faster, and you may be able to reduce some of those times considerably. In other cases, it could take longer. But, realistically, it’s best to plan for at least a few months.

Fortunately, knowing how long each step typically takes can be quite useful when trying to figure out the total amount of time needed to buy a house. Plus, a good real estate agent will also be able to help you with these estimations based on their inside knowledge of the market and your particular needs.


For an overview of the real estate market in popular areas across Canada and the U.S., visit the links below:

Homes for sale in Richmond
Homes for sale in Regina
Homes for sale in Ottawa
Homes for sale in Oakville
Homes for sale in Montreal
Homes for sale in Saskatoon
Homes for sale in Richmond Hill
Homes for sale in Vancouver
Homes for sale in Mississauga
Homes for sale in Kamloops
Homes for sale in Vernon
Homes for sale in Abbotsford
Homes for sale in Campbell River
Homes for sale in Kingston
Homes for sale in Lethbridge
Homes for sale in Windsor
Homes for sale in Medicine Hat
Homes for sale in Langley
Homes for sale in Barrie
Homes for sale in Burlington

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