You’re ready to make the leap into buying a home, but you’d like a better idea of how long this process might take. If you have all your ducks in a row and are able to find a home quickly, the buying timeline can take about 4.5 months plus an additional month to 60 days once you’re under contract, but this can obviously vary depending on your circumstances.
There’s no rule of course about how quickly you can purchase a home, but buying with cash can speed up the process. If you’re financing the home and want to do everything you can to make the home buying process happen more quickly, there are a few steps you can take. Complete all your paperwork quickly, schedule your home inspection as soon as possible and make sure your real estate agent remains in constant communication with the listing agent. Ultimately, though, the loan approval timeline is mostly out of your control, because of the complexities of the underwriting and title transfer processes.
Prepare your finances (6 mos before buying)
Start saving for your down payment (usually 20% of the purchase price) far in advance of buying. Buying a home can come with additional expenses, so at least 6 months before you start house hunting, be sure to save 2-5% of the purchase price to cover closing costs too.
Review your credit profile ahead of time, and see what you can do to raise your score (which can get you a better interest rate). Request copies of all your credit reports, start paying off credit card bills and resolve any discrepancies or errors.
- Determine your budget – How much can you afford to pay or how much do you want to pay for your house? Here’s a calculator to help.
- Down payment – Again, a typical and recommended (for potential interest-lowering purposes) down payment with a conventional loan is 20% of the purchase price of the house. However, depending on the loan you get, there are ways to do far less than 20% with a government-insured loan but that will likely cost more for you to pay back in the long run. With a $300,000 home, a 20% downpayment is $60,000.
- Get pre-approved – A full pre-approval letter that states your income, assets, and debt have been confirmed by your mortgage lender makes your offer much more attractive to sellers and their agents than just a pre-qualification letter. Take this extra time to gather your tax returns, bank statements, and pay stubs so that your lender can issue a full pre-approval. Most lenders can do a soft credit pull that won’t affect your credit score. If you need a recommendation for a good lender, ask your Trelora agent and they will be able to provide you with a few options.
Get to know the area you want to live (4-5 mos before buying)
- Create your list of needs and wants – Reflect on what is important to you and your family and create two separate lists: Needs and Wants. Needs are things that are absolutely necessary in your new home. Wants are things that would be nice to have. Typically the Needs list doesn’t change at all over time whereas the Wants list constantly evolves as you see more and more properties online and in-person.
- Have your real estate agent set you up on an MLS search – Third-party websites like Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com are great tools for buyers to use, but they aren’t always up-to-date and accurate. Ask your Trelora agent to set you up on a search on the multiple listing service (MLS) to ensure you never miss out on a property because of lagging or inaccurate information.
- Drive around some different neighborhoods – No house will ever feel like the perfect house until you know exactly what neighborhood you want to live in. If you’re still trying to narrow down exactly what neighborhood you want to live in, set aside a few hours and drive around a few different neighborhoods to get a feel for which ones you like and don’t like. Pay close attention to their proximity to schools, work, grocery stores, etc.
- Schedule showings – Tour homes virtually from the comfort of your own living room. A lot of listing agents are including video tours on each of their listings. You can move beyond that when you’re ready to in-person showings and open houses.
Make an offer (1-2 mos before buying)
Once you find a home you love, make an offer! Keep in mind, it might not be accepted right away, and in many sellers markets across the US, you may encounter multiple-offer scenarios too. According to Zillow, less than half of buyers have their first offer accepted. And according to the report, 25% of buyers make two offers, and 20% make three or more.
When the seller replies, they’ll either not accept your offer, accept your offer right away, or you’ll negotiate back and forth on price and terms. Once everyone agrees, the contract will be signed by both parties and the closing process will officially begin which usually takes about a month to 60 days more.
Other things to consider
Get your current home ready
If you need to sell your current home in order to purchase a new home, take this time to get your current home ready for the market. Slap on that fresh coat of paint, clean or replace that carpet, and finish up whatever other projects you’re working on. Ask your real estate agent if you need any help staging your home or getting it ready for photos.
Review your current lease
If you’re currently renting, find your lease and figure out what your options are as far as timing goes. Some leases allow early termination or month-to-month status after a certain amount of time. The more flexibility you have, the easier it will be for you to find your next home.
Save even more for your down payment
Take all of the money you’re saving by not eating out in restaurants or going on vacations and put it in your savings account. Higher down payments are attractive to both sellers and lenders alike, so you can’t go wrong here.
Mike is the Market Director for Colorado at TRELORA. He is personally responsible for closing over 600 successful real estate transactions and has played a role in closing hundreds more. He started at TRELORA in August of 2016 and began his real estate career in Jacksonville, FL in February of 2011. In his tenure at TRELORA he has been a Buy Manager, Buy Agent, Listing Agent, and Field Agent before accepting his current position as Market Director in January of 2021. Mike has a Bachelor of Science in Finance and a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship both from the University of Florida. Go Gators!