How Long Does It Take to Buy a House — From Offer to Closing


It is super important for any real estate investor to be familiar with the process of closing the sale of a property. Whether you are buying a single-family home or multifamily property, you need to understand and navigate the process of closing on that property.

Just like in sports, you always want to be on the offense during this process instead of the defense. You need to understand what to expect so you can set yourself up for success and actually get close on your new home. You’ll also want to know what’s reasonable in terms of a timeline.

How Long Does It Take To Buy a House?

Whether you are buying a house for the first time, or the fifth, you want to know how long it will take. It is super important for any real estate investor to be familiar with the process of closing the sale of a property. Whether you are buying a single-family home or multifamily property, you need to understand and navigate the process of closing on that property.

Just like in sports, you always want to be on the offense during this process instead of the defense. You need to understand what to expect so you can set yourself up for success and actually get to close on your new home. You’ll also want to know what’s reasonable in terms of a timeline.

So you’re ready to buy a house but aren’t sure how long this process will take. While each deal is different and can vary in a multitude of ways, for the most part, buying a house is pretty straightforward and can take roughly 30-60 days once under contract.

Assuming that you will be taking out a loan to purchase your new home, you will have to follow most, if not all, of the steps below.

If you are going to be paying cash for your home, however, it will be up to you whether to follow many of the steps.

The Steps of Buying a House & Days to Complete Them

Saving for a down payment

This will be entirely dependent on your personal financial situation. I won’t be including this as part of the end analysis on how long it takes to buy a house, but it is a very important (if not obvious) step in buying a home.

For some special types of loans, you don’t have to put any money down; this step will take no time.

Most of the time, you should save 5%–20% of the purchase price as a down payment.

For example, for a home you purchase for $200,000, you would need anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 saved as a down payment.

Before you submit an offer, put all of the money you have saved into a savings or checking account that you aren’t be touching until you close on your new home. This will come into play later (see below, under Get Your Closing Funds Ready).

Find an agent you like (1–10 days)

This is one of the most important steps when looking for a home. You’re going to be in contact with your agent through the entire home-buying process. You will spend hours looking at houses together and look to this person for advice when it comes time to put in offers and negotiate.

You must take the time to search for a qualified agent during this period. Choose one who has experience buying houses in the area you’re looking at and knows the ins and outs of the market.

You also want to work with a real estate agent who comes recommended by others who have bought houses with them. These don’t have to be people that you actually know, but that is helpful.

On top of that, you want to find someone who matches your personality and the goals that you have for purchasing a home. For example, if you are a very laid-back person, it might not be in your best interest to go with someone who is always at an energy level of 30 out of 10.

Get pre-approved for a loan (1–3 days)

This process is very simple and can usually be completed within 24 hours.

Whatever lender you choose is going to ask you some pretty simple qualifying questions about your financial situation. They’ll want to know how much you make per month as an individual or a household. They are also going to want to know what recurring debts you have.

Debts can be other homes you own, car payments, and even credit card bills you owe. These aren’t the only types of debts, just the most common ones. Debt to income ratio is an important factor that mortgage lenders use to determine your financial eligibility for a loan.

After a short phone call, the bank will run a credit check on you to ensure you are qualified. Don’t worry too much about this part, even if you don’t have the best credit score; as long as your income minus your debt is above the bank’s threshold, you should be able to get a loan.

Go look for your house

This is another portion of the process that I won’t include in the final time calculation of how long it takes to buy a house. Your timeline can vary wildly depending on the market that you are searching in and how strict your criteria are.

It’s highly recommended that you house hunt during this phase of the process. While it is possible to find your perfect home in the first one that you look at, or even at a open house, it’s a great idea to see as many as you can stomach.

Once you have seen a home, or few, that you like, you should go by at different times of the day to see what the neighborhood is like in the morning, evening, and during high-traffic times when people are really coming and going from their houses. This will give you a good sense of the place where you are going to buy.

Submit, negotiate, and sign a contract (2–10 days)

You found a home that you want to buy. Congratulations!

The next step of the process is to decide what you want to offer the seller as a purchase price. Then you will have to determine whether you want to ask for closing costs, repair budgets, or any other contingencies you may require.

Your agent will get the offer written up for you to sign and submit it to the seller’s agent after you do so.

If the seller accepts your offer, great. A lot of the time, they will come back with what is called a counteroffer. You can evaluate their counteroffer and choose to accept it or make a counteroffer of your own based on your desired terms and the current housing market conditions.

After the back-and-forth is finished, you get to sign the finalized contract and move into the escrow phase of buying a home.

Get the loan finalized

There are quite a few steps to this process that make getting a loan a little frustrating.

Remember that pre-approval letter that you got before you even started looking for a home? Throw it away because it means nothing anymore. The bank is now going to dive deeper into your financials and make sure that you have not done anything financially crazy since getting that letter, like buying a brand-new car that your income won’t be able to support with a home loan. They will analyze your credit report in depth, assessing your credit score and overall financial health. At this stage, the lender will want to see your bank statements.

Along with your personal information, the bank is going to want to know about the house. This part of the process is much longer than your financials but will not require you to do very much, thankfully.

Overall, expect a timeframe of 2-4 weeks for your loan to get finalized. If everything is straightforward, it may take as little as around 10 days. In the end, you will get a closing disclosure document from your lender, which will clearly state the type of loan you have been given and its conditions. 

From here, many of the following steps will be going on simultaneously.

Process title work (3–5 days)

To get a home loan, the bank will need to know that the house has a clear or clean title.

A clear title means that there are no outstanding liens on the property. Liens can be anything from work that had been done to the property but never paid for to unpaid utility bills. A clear title also shows that the previous sales transactions were done properly and the current owner is allowed to sell the home.

Title work is going to be done by your title company or closing attorney and will require no work on your end, but it is part of the waiting process.

Get an appraisal (3–10 days)

The appraisal is a very important step in securing a loan on a home. Depending on the type of loan that you are getting, a bank will only lend up to a certain amount of the appraised value.

Let’s use that $200,000 home from our earlier example to illustrate how this works.

If you had that home appraised, and it came back that the appraiser thought it was valued at the $200,000 mark, then great—the bank will move forward with the loan approval process.

On the other hand, if the appraisal comes back at $180,000, then the bank will not loan you the amount you requested. In this situation, you’d either have to come up with a larger down payment or go back to the negotiating table and reduce the home’s sale price.

Banks do this because if you were to stop paying on loan, they want to know that they can get their money back by selling the house for around the appraised value.

The process of getting an appraisal is pretty simple. Most of the time, the agent or lender you are working with will have an appraiser, or a few, that they work with and trust. Depending on their workload, scheduling the person to come out to the home can take a few days.

Once you have the appraisal scheduled, the actual event is usually between one and two hours.

After the appraiser has done their walk-through of the home, they will put together a report of the home in its current state versus comparable homes that have sold recently around the area that they found to price-match against.

The appraisal is not something you really need to be there for, as the appraiser will not get into the nitty-gritty of the home you’re looking to purchase. It’s the next activity that you should set aside time for.

Get an inspection (3–10 days; 1–3 hours of active time)

While this is not required by a bank, a home inspection is probably one of the most important things you can do before purchasing a home. A good inspector is going to pick out every little thing they can find wrong with the house, as well as the big stuff.

Don’t skip this step, even if you think you’ve seen everything wrong with the home—or if you don’t think anything is wrong. I have seen new-build homes that an inspector has found issues with.

Just like the appraisal, it may take a few days to get a good inspector scheduled to come out and look at your home, so you want to start this process as early as possible. Depending on your contract, you will only have a brief window to complete your due diligence here.

The inspection can take anywhere from one to a few hours, depending on the size and type of home you are looking to purchase. The inspector is going to get on the roof and look around, go into the attic, and crawl under the house.

Once they have inspected the property, the inspector usually takes about 24 hours to get back to you with a report of all the things they found wrong with the home.

Negotiate repairs (2–7 days)

Now you know all of the things that are wrong with the house and need immediate, or not so immediate, repair. Unless you knew that you were buying the house as-is, meaning that the seller said upfront that they were not going to make any repairs, this is your chance to put that negotiating hat back on.

You will submit to the seller a list of the things that you want to have repaired before purchasing the home. You can ask them to make the needed repairs or credit you some money and have them repaired yourself.

Generally, you can sort this out within a couple of days, but sometimes negotiating takes longer. This won’t eat into how long it takes to buy the house, though, as it will be getting done early on in the process.

Purchase homeowner’s insurance (2–3 days)

Any bank that gives you a loan is going to require you to have homeowner’s insurance on the property. They will even wrap your insurance payments into your monthly mortgage payment (as well as taxes, if you choose), so you don’t have to worry about an extra bill to pay. This is where the term PITI comes from principal, interest, tax, and insurance.

You can usually get a quote within 24 to 48 hours after a brief phone call with an insurance agent. In very rare instances, it will take a little longer.

You can shop around for quotes on this, which will take you a couple of hours of active time on the phone or the internet, or just go with a company you already trust. As long as you have coverage set to begin the day you are set to close on the house, you are good to go.

Get your closing funds ready (36 hours before closing)

Up until this point, you should have done as little as possible to the money in your bank accounts. You don’t want to be moving money from one bank account to another, as that will make it harder for your lender to track your money and secure you for a loan.

You are going to want to get wiring instructions and the closing amount that you will need from your closing company or attorney for this step. Make sure you verify the wiring instructions with them, as this is where fraud can be committed, and you don’t want to lose all of your hard-saved money.

You can usually get a cashier’s check for the closing instead of wiring the money.

After you have the amount you need and the instructions for wiring, you just need to give the wiring details to your bank. Depending on your bank, you can do this on the phone or online.

Final walk-through (1–3 hours before closing)

This step is unnecessary if you haven’t had the seller make any repairs to the home, but you can always go by and ensure that they haven’t made any strange changes to the home before you purchase it.

This is your last chance to see the home before it becomes your problem to deal with.

If you have asked the seller to make any repairs, this is the final point to verify that they have done what they said they were going to do (although waiting until the last minute like this probably wasn’t a good idea).

Close on your new house! (1 hour)

You have made it to signing day. Congratulations!

The signing process can be a little time-consuming and wrist-tiring. You are going to be signing your name more than you ever have before.

Your closing agent will walk you through all of the documents you will be signing and make sure that you understand each of the places where you are putting your signature.

Don’t rush this process. You don’t want to sign something that you don’t understand. If you have questions, ask them. This is what the agents are getting paid for, so take advantage.

How long does it actually take?

Remember that a lot of these tasks happen simultaneously, and the totals given for each step are not necessarily cumulative. However, this doesn’t mean you will be able to buy a house in 17 days.

In reality, in between each step that a bank requires, a few hands are stirring the pot. Not every step is going to be as simple as just getting an appraisal or clear title.

So how long does it take to buy a house? In general, it takes between 30 and 60 days, with an average of about 45 days, depending on the market you’re in and the bank you’re working with.

What Causes Delays In The Home Buying Process?

Because there are no real shortcuts in the home-buying process, it can seem lengthy and take months or more. But it can take even longer if there are delays. Typically you have delays in buying a home because you tried to take shortcuts or skip steps. It will come back to bite you.

Bidding wars, where you and somebody else are going back and forth trying to outbid the other, are an extremely common reason to delay the purchase of a home. After all, the seller has to sell the house to the person who pays the most, especially during a bidding war.

If the market for housing in your area is low, there’s going to be a lot of demand, and you might not win the first or second home on which you make an offer. This is because someone can always outbid you, which ties directly into bidding wars.

If you aren’t properly prepared for your mortgage application, you may have more errors found and have to resubmit that paperwork. Mortgage companies are going to require a lot of paperwork from you, and you have to be able to provide that to them. This is because they’re investing in your future—helping you get home—so they need access to many financial documents. You need to be on time in responding to requests for these documents.

How Could I Speed Up The Home Buying Process?

When it’s time to find a home, be really choosy about your real estate agent. You want to pick someone experienced and who has time for you, so you don’t want somebody with a large group of clients to tend to. They need to know the market you’re in very well and be able to help you make competitive bids and counteroffers when you choose your home.

Gather all your financial documents early, and have your real estate agent help you ensure they’re what you need for the mortgage company. This will help you with the mortgage process. The exact paperwork depends on the loan product and lender, but you can expect to need:

  • Your last two pay stubs from work.
  • The most recent two years of tax returns and W-2 forms.
  • Two months of bank statements (checking and savings).
  • Statements for retirement accounts or other assets you might have (401(k), IRA, stocks, bonds).
  • Written explanation for any large deposits or purchases on your bank statements.
  • Statements for any other sources of income, like Social Security, alimony, or child support.

Buying a house is rewarding, but the process can be lengthy. Set your expectations beforehand to lower your house-hunting stress.

How Long Does It Take To Close On A House?

If you’re in the real estate purchase process, you will be wondering how long it takes to close a house. Whether you’re buying a home for yourself or as an investment, it’s important to know how long closing takes so that you can start making plans. 

Note that closing on a house refers to the very last stage of the home-buying process. It’s what happens after you have signed the purchase agreement with the seller. For most buyers, signing the purchase agreement begins the process of finalizing their mortgage loan, with all the different steps that entail, from submitting the necessary paperwork to waiting for the underwriting process and the home appraisal to be completed. 

On average, the process of closing a house takes 45-50 days, and in some cases upwards of 90 days. However, if you become a cash buyer, this timeline can shrink significantly because you will skip the mortgage loan finalization and the appraisal stages of the closing process. A cash buyer can expect to close on a home in as little as 1-2 weeks. The vast majority of that timeline will be taken up by scheduling the home inspection, which makes the buyer aware of the condition of the property and any necessary repairs. 

The formal stage of the closing process – the signing of the paperwork – typically takes only about an hour. 
So, if a quick timeline is essential, you may want to look into ways to become a cash buyer. If you’re not able to do so, always allow about two months to close on a house.  

Get the information and guidance you need to make the homebuying process a success with Bigger Pockets. Learn about down payments, homeowners insurance, mortgage lenders, budgeting, and of course how to buy a home. Start your journey to owning a new home today!

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