FAQ: How Long Does it Take to Buy a House?
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to buy a house?
The length of a purchase transaction depends on quite a few factors.
- Your timeline – There are many aspects of a buyer’s timeline. Perhaps you have a home to sell, or your are in a lease currently. You may have a job change or relocation that dictates your timeline, or a baby on the way that really puts the pressure on to get moved by a certain deadline. Maybe you have business travel during your purchase timeline, or are active military and have limited access to communicate with your agent during the process. It is important to communicate your timeline restrictions or requirements to your Realtor so they help structure the purchase terms to fit your needs.
- The market – Housing inventory and availability of homes that meet your criteria can really make an impact on the length of a purchase. If the market is tight in your price range or location, it may take longer to put a property under contract. Both waiting for the right home to come on the market and competition from other buyers can delay the process. Ask your Realtor about availability of the type of home you are looking for so you can be prepared if it might be a more lengthy process.
- Your mortgage – If you are financing your home purchase, you can run into delays and snags in the mortgage process. It is important to speak with a lender and begin gathering financial documents before beginning your home search. Prompt response and delivery of any documents requested by your lender is imperative during the purchase process. Any delay in the lender receiving requested docs will delay your closing!
- Negotiation – Depending on the property, the offer and negotiation process can take more time than you might expect. Many purchase contracts are negotiated in a day or two, but more complex purchases can take weeks! Farm and Ranch properties, luxury properties, complex terms for possession, and contingencies are examples of situations that could take a bit longer to negotiate.
- Additional inspections – Typical properties undergo a general property inspection and termite inspection. Additional time may be needed for septic inspections, pool inspections, water and well testing, environmental testing, hydrostatic testing, and also for more in depth investigation if a problem is discovered during one of these inspections.
- Title issues – Once a property is under contract, the title company will begin title research. Most often this process goes smoothly, but if there is a hiccup in the chain of title or an ownership interest that was not disclosed it may cause a delay.
- Appraisal – If you are using a mortgage to help purchase the property, the lender will require an appraisal. The appraiser will give his/her opinion of the property value, and re-negotiation may be required if it is not in line with the contract price. Occasionally, an appraisal has to be disputed and evidence provided from your Realtor supporting a higher valuation. Most often the buyer and seller must decide how to deal with the difference, and that could result in some delay to the purchase while details are hashed out or lead to termination of the contract and starting over with a different property.
There are hundreds of steps that make up a real estate purchase, and just as many factors that could affect the contract-to-close timeline. Most often, an experienced Realtor will shield the buyer from small hiccups and manage the timeline effectively, leading to a contract-to-close duration of 30-60 days. Be sure to ask your Realtor about market conditions that can lengthen your search for the right home, and communicate any timeline restrictions or deadlines on your side. Being responsive and accessible to your real estate agent, lender, and title agent will help keep the process running smoothly and on time!
Christina Catalano, Broker, Realtor
e-Pro, Certified Negotiation Expert