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How Long It Takes to Buy a House: Purchase Timeline

By Jody McMaster · September 06, 2022 · 5 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

How Long It Takes to Buy a House: Purchase Timeline

Not counting the reams of time you probably will spend ogling homes and yard-shaming virtually and IRL, it could take as little as a month to make an offer on a house and close if you’re financing the purchase.

Here’s the scoop on how long it takes to buy a house and get the keys in your hand.

How Long Does It Take to Buy a House In 2022?

Once you’ve homed in on a home you love, the mortgage process — from application to closing — may take an average of 30 to 60 days.

So yes, a life-changing event can happen within a month or two.

But closing times vary. A cash buyer might be able to close on a house within days. An applicant with an iffy credit history and income may need 90 days or longer.

Before You Start Looking for Your Next Home

It’s a good idea to get your head in the game before the hunt begins.

Organize Your Finances

If you’re asking yourself How much of a mortgage can I afford? you can get an estimate easily.

A home affordability calculator will give you a feel for a home price limit and monthly payments. Getting pre-qualified will also give you a quick ballpark estimate.

Getting a down payment together to buy a house in many parts of the country isn’t as hard as many people think. The average down payment on a house is less than 20% (though putting less than 20% down on a conventional loan usually triggers mortgage insurance).

Conventional loans may call for just 3% down; FHA loans, as little as 3.5% down; and VA and USDA loans, nothing down. (With government loans, mortgage insurance or fees come along for the ride.)

Low- and moderate-income borrowers can sometimes get down payment assistance through a state or local agency.

Figure Out Where You Want to Live

You might know exactly what neighborhood, school zone, and vibe you want. Then your search can zero in on that area.

But looking at the cost of living by state can be eye-opening.

And narrowing things down, you might want to check out market trends by city and neighborhood.

Gain home-buying insights
with the latest housing
market trends.


Determine Your Must-Haves

Do you want to buy a house that has been completely updated, or will a dowdy abode or fixer-upper do? The cost of any renovations or repairs must be factored in, of course, and may be funded with a home improvement loan.

If only new construction will do, that can mean a tract home, spec home, or custom home.

What size range can you live with? Maybe you need more space, or maybe you’re financially downsizing.

Is a low-maintenance condo or townhouse more your style, or do you need a single-family home with room for a swimming pool or garden?

Five Steps to Buy a House

Ready? This timeline assumes you’re about to start seriously shopping for a house.

Step 1: Get Mortgage Pre-approval (Minutes to Days)

Unlike pre-qualification, mortgage pre-approval means one or more lenders have vetted your finances, usually with a hard credit inquiry. Once your offer on a home is accepted, if your chosen lender is one of these, it has a big head start on your final approval.

An online application might take about 20 minutes to complete if you have all of the documentation in hand, including two years of W-2s and/or 1099s, two years of tax returns, recent pay stubs, a list of fixed debts, and two months’ worth of account statements.

Lenders will look at your credit scores and credit history.

They will look at income, debts (including student loans), assets, proof of employment, rental history, divorce, bankruptcy, and gift funds for a down payment.

Depending on the lender, pre-approval could be nearly instantaneous or it could take days.

If you’re shopping for a mortgage, know that multiple credit inquiries by lenders are counted as a single inquiry for 14 days and sometimes more.

What Is a Pre-approval Letter?

A pre-approval letter from a lender states that you’ve been tentatively approved to borrow up to a specific amount. It lets sellers know that you are likely to be able to get financing. The letter will have an expiration date of 30 to 90 days.

What Is a Verified Approval Letter?

This is the term used by some lenders for a pre-approval letter, to make clear the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval. A hard credit inquiry will have been performed, and an underwriter will have examined your pre-approval application and additional documents.

Step 2: Make an Offer on a House (a Day to a Few Days)

Once you find a house you want to call your own, it might take up to five days to make an offer and come to an agreement with the seller on price and contingencies. A closing date will be in the purchase agreement.

Usually when you make an offer, you will provide an earnest money deposit to the escrow company.

Step 3: Secure the Mortgage (30 to 60 Days on Average)

Now you can make a full mortgage application with as many lenders as you wish, and not just lenders that pre-approved you.

It’s smart to look at more than rates — one of the different types of mortgage loans might be a better fit than the others.

You’ll need to choose a mortgage term as well. Thirty years is the most common.

Once you apply, you will receive official loan estimates, allowing you to compare mortgage APRs and more. Choose a lender. Check at the top of Page 1 of the loan estimate to see whether your rate is locked, and until when.

Step 4: Prepare for Closing

Appraisal and Title Search

Your lender will order an appraisal of the home. A property valuation that comes back lower than the purchase price could hinder loan approval.

The appraisal may be performed from 14 to 45 days before closing.

A title search of the property also will be ordered, resulting in a preliminary title report.

Underwriting

This is mostly a waiting period for the buyer. Credit reports are ordered, and the application information is verified.

Mortgage underwriting focuses on the three C’s:

•   Capacity (will your income and debt load allow you to make the mortgage payments each month?)

•   Credit

•   Collateral (did the appraisal show that the home price and value are aligned?)

Your mortgage loan officer may come back to you with questions. Once you receive final loan approval, a mortgage contingency can be lifted.

Home Inspection

A home inspection is optional but widely recommended.

Closing Disclosure and Cash to Close

Your lender is required to send you a closing disclosure at least three business days before the closing. It should match your loan estimate or come close.

You’ll need to send a wire transfer for cash to close one to two business days before closing. The closing disclosure will tell you how much money you need to wire.

Cash to close is closing costs (unless you chose a no closing cost mortgage) plus your down payment minus your earnest money deposit and any seller credits.

An option: Prepare to take a certified check or cashier’s check to the closing table.

Final Walk-Through

Your real estate agent will schedule a final walk-through within 24 hours of closing. This is a chance to be sure the home is in the condition you agreed to under the purchase terms.

Step 5: Close on Your Loan (an Hour or Two)

The lender will send your closing documents to the closing attorney or title company.

You’ll sign a river of documents in person or remotely.

The deed will be recorded with the appropriate county to transfer title to the new owner, you. Then you’ll receive the house keys.

The Takeaway

How long does it take to buy a house? It could take about 30 to 60 days from the time your offer is accepted. That’s a quick close on a new beginning.

Are you ready to buy a house? Time is of the essence. First look into the fixed-rate mortgages SoFi offers with low down payments. Then get a rate quote.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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