How Long Does Buying a Home Take?

A step-by-step home-purchasing timeline

A home is most people’s biggest purchase. A thoughtful, thorough, and comprehensive approach will suit you well when it comes to buying the real estate where you’re going to be spending significant portion of your time.

Once under contract, the typical timeline is about 40-50 days to close on a home. Let's not forget the steps leading up to that point—house hunting, pre-approval, and application process. Whether it's your first home, an upgrade from a starter home to something larger, or downsizing after many years, you shouldn't rush the process.

Key Takeaways

  • Do your homework and figure out what you want and need in a house and how much you can afford.
  • Shopping is the lengthiest part of the process at up to 81 days.
  • Buying a home takes about 40-50 days once you’re under contract.

The Six Steps (And days to complete them):

Find an agent (7 days)

Most of us know a friend, family member or colleague who recently bought a home. Ask those trusted sources, and in about a week you should be able to contact a reputable agent. You’re looking for someone you like, trust and who has a knowledgeable grasp on the available inventory in your desired community. A good agent should help you avoid a bad purchase and see you through the twists and turns of sealing the deal.

Get Pre-Approval (8-10 days)

Loan pre-approval is required and will let you know if you qualify for a mortgage. You’ll require documents including tax returns, paystubs, debt and credit information, and if you’re buying with a spouse or partner, you’ll both need these things. You can also apply with several lenders to check for the best rates. During the pre-approval process, there’s a 14-day window in which credit bureaus count credit inquires as only one since you’re buying a home.

House-Hunting (81 days)

 Many people consider real estate an addiction and love to look at real estate trends in various areas around the country including what homes are selling for, and how much home you can get for your dollar, but when you’re seriously in the market to buy, house-hunting isn’t always the most fun.

You may be stressed, pressured to compromise, or need to make the purchase in time to relocate your family or get the kids settled before school starts. A study reported by Insight Media found it takes 81 days browsing homes before finding one to buy. And most people view about 16 homes online before finding one they want. The average time looking before scheduling a visit? Twenty hours.

According to the study, 14% of people said they had to compromise on some aspect of their ideal home. And in today’s seller’s market where homes in many areas of the country receive multiple offers over the asking price or have a bidding war, a quarter of home buyers or more may experience an unsuccessful offer prolonging their home search.

Make an Offer (5 days)

You’ve found the house and now all you need to do is put in an offer. Your agent will explain everything you need to know but basically, you and the agent decide on the price you’re offering, you’ll need the standard 1% earnest money (yes, you get it back if you’re not accepted). Plus, in a tight seller’s market, you might want to bump that up to 3-6% to show you’re playing for keeps. You could also include a personalized letter to the owner telling them how much you love the home and why you’re interested in their house.

Get a Mortgage (21 days)

Your offer is accepted! Now the mortgage process starts. Though the lender you selected can lock in your interest rate, you’re about to jump through more hoops and gather up more documents like current back statements and work stubs for the final mortgage documents. Lenders will also require an appraisal and inspection and go through the lengthy list of closing expenses and estimate yours.

This process can take up to a few weeks in which you can hear from your lender via email or phone every few days with a new request. You’ll have to manage your inspection and appraisal reports and if there are any problems with either, you may need to renegotiate the price, arrange for repairs or compromise with the seller on any work that needs to be done. They’ll be a title search to make sure the home is free and clear of liens, and you’ll be expected to select homeowner’s insurance and provide the lender all the information. Your insurer may even need a pre-inspection before insuring you. There’s a lot to do in these weeks as your mortgage is prepared. One-third of the Insight Media study respondents found the process took longer than expected.

Close on the House (40-50 days)

You should have a final walk-thru on the day of closing or the day before to make sure repairs are complete and nothing’s been damaged. Your lender has likely told you how you must pay closing costs-- whether to bring a cashier’s check or how you’ll make a digital transfer of the money. You’ll also need a photo ID and a good pen for the pages and pages of documents you’ll be signing. In the end, keys are put in your hand and congratulations are in order. You’ve bought a home.

Which part of the home-buying process takes the longest?

Hunting for your dream home is often what takes the longest in the process. Planning, setting a budget and deciding on what things you’ll compromise on in advance can help make the process smoother.

What should you look for when house hunting?

While every situation is different, one of the most important things people look for is a good location. You may want the property located conveniently for work or school, or perhaps you simply prefer a certain area. Other things many people find helpful to note is curb appeal, the size and layout of the home, the number of beds and baths and the placement of windows for natural light.

What are some red flags to note when house shopping?

Look for big cracks in driveway, foundation, or walls. The home shouldn't feel damp inside or have a musty odor. Check for cracked paint on window frames. Don’t be fooled by staging furniture or baking smells.

Bottom Line

Buying a home can be complicated and stressful. The better prepared you are for each step, the better your odds are of landing a good home. Gather your documents, and choose a realtor and insurance provider before you start searching.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. "How to Find a Real Estate Agent: Where to Look, What to Ask." Accessed Nov. 10, 2021.

  2. Insight Media. "Study reveals how long it really takes for each step of the home buying process." Accessed Nov. 10, 2021.

  3. American Family Insurance. "Tips for Making An Offer on a House." Accessed Nov. 10, 2021.