I’m often asked how long the process of buying a home takes. The answer is that there is no one set-in-stone timeline that fits everyone’s purchase process.
Different people take longer or shorter than average at different stages. For instance, I’ve had buyers who found the home they bought during their first day of looking. I’ve had others who took over five years.
Here is a typical home buying timeline I share with my buyers, giving them an idea of how long to expect each step to take, or when the steps should be completed.
Activity/Task -- Date
Mortgage Pre-approval -- Day 1
Search for Property -- 1–??? days
Offer to Purchase -- As soon as practical after the home is identified
Offer Accepted -- Within 24–48 hours
Home Inspection --Within 7–10 days after Accepted Offer
Due Diligence -- Prior to signing the Purchase and Sale Agreement
Purchase and Sale Agreement (P&S) --- Within 10–14 days after Accepted Offer
Submit Complete Mortgage Application -- Within a day or two of P&S (Including P&S, pay stubs, tax records, etc.)
Mortgage Commitment Letter --10 to 21 days after signed P&S
Buyer Secures Insurance Binder (n/a for condos) -- At least one week prior to closing
Set Up Utilities -- At least two days prior to closing
Closing --Typically 5 to 8 weeks after accepted offer (this can vary greatly, as needed)
Bear in mind that we do things a little differently in Eastern Massachusetts than in they do in most of the U.S. For one thing, most of the country skips the offer to purchase and cuts right to the purchase and sale agreement. Like most things in life, there are pluses and minuses to doing it one way over the other.
I happen to like the offer to purchase, which serves as the outline to the deal. This allows the buyer and seller to focus on the high points of the deal, without getting bogged down in all the details. I prefer seeing if the parties can first figure out if they can reach a meeting of the minds on terms such as the price, closing date, and contingencies, without worrying about such details as how many visits the buyer is allowed prior to the closing, remedies to clear the title, warranties, etc. Why waste time with that level of minutiae if the buyer and seller will never agree on a sale price?
If you’re a cash buyer, you can theoretically close in a matter of days after getting an accepted offer. That may help you negotiate a better price, especially if the seller is losing money with each passing day. Even if you finance your purchase, it’s possible the closing can happen fairly quickly, even in today’s tough lending environment. I work with one lender who says if everything goes perfectly, he can still close a purchase loan in as little as three weeks.
So even though there are typical times for the various steps in the purchase of a home, I recommend each buyer should figure out what their preferences are. If something should deviate from the typical amount of time, determine the financial and other implications. Then decide if the benefits are equal to or greater than the costs and risks.
If they are, ask for them. You just might get what you want.
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