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How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?

Kevin GrahamFebruary 12, 2020

If you’re eager to get into your first home, a natural question might be how long the whole process takes. Unfortunately, there’s not a great answer, in part because it’s different for everyone and in part because it depends on your timeline. You can often go from the contract signing to the closing table in a little over a month or so, but the process of finding and putting offers in on homes can last much longer.

This post will let you know some of the factors that go into the timing of your home purchase process. Knowing what to expect will help you to be better prepared and avoid unnecessary stress.

How Long Does It Take To Get Approved For A Mortgage?

When you first begin looking at homes, it’s always a good idea to have a really good understanding of what you can afford. When you’re shopping around, different lenders offer different programs, so it’s important to be aware of what’s out there. It’s common within the industry to call a mortgage approval a “preapproval” or “prequalification,” but some lenders use these terms to mean slightly different things.

Our friends over at Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans®have a three-tier process that takes the confusion out of this.

  1. Prequalified Approval: In a Prequalified Approval, your credit is checked. For the purposes of mortgage qualification, your median FICO®Score is looked at. If two or more people are on the loan, the lowest median score is what counts. You’re also asked to provide verbal or written statements as to your income and assets, which helps with your debt-to-income ratio calculation to estimate how much you can afford. The downside here is that it’s only an estimate because your income and assets aren’t verified, so it’s not strong.
  2. Verified ApprovalSMIn a Verified ApprovalSM 2, Quicken Loans® checks your credit,but we also ask forcopies of documentation that can verify your income and assets like W-2s, tax returns and bank statements. This approval will mean more in the eyes of real estate agents and sellers because you’ll know exactly how much you can afford based on empirical evidence.
  3. RateShieldSM Approval: Knowing how much you can afford is extremely important, but it’s not the only thing you think about when it comes to getting a mortgage. With a RateShieldSM Approval3, you’re able to lock your rate for up to 90 days while looking for a property. When you find a home, the rate you originally locked is compared to current market interest rates. If rates are higher, you get to keep your current rate. If they’re lower, you get the lower rate. It’s a win-win!

Getting approval for your mortgage amount shouldn’t take very long. Quicken Loans gets a Verified ApprovalSMdecision back to you within 24 hours.

How Long Does It Take To Find A House?

For many people, actually finding a house can be the longest part of the process. Some of the factors that play into this include how serious you are, as well as the market you’re in. If there are fewer houses for sale in your area, you can have a harder time finding a home than in an area where houses are plentiful.

One thing that can help at this point, and through the rest of the process, is to hire a real estate agent. Through our agent network, you can connect with someone who will help align your goals with what you’re looking for in a home. Real estate agents are very familiar with your local market, because they buy and sell houses every day. A real estate agent will also be able to help you with offer negotiation.

The process of actually finding a house could take anywhere from a couple of days to several months. It just depends on your level of urgency and the market conditions.

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House After Making An Offer?

Let’s say you found a house and you’re ready to make an offer. How long does it take for the offer to be accepted so you can actually buy the home? There are several considerations. We’ll start with negotiation and then look at various scenarios that contribute to the amount of time it takes to close on your home.

How Long Does Negotiation Take?

Once you make an offer, depending on state law and local customs, a seller is usually required or expected to get back to you within 24 – 48 hours. They may accept, reject or counter your offer. If they counter, there may be several more days of back-and-forth, depending on how many counters are made.

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House With Cash?

Most people can’t afford to do this unless they’ve been saving at extremely high rates for many years or are independently wealthy, but in the instance where there are cash sales, these can be some of the smoothest transactions. They can close in as little as a few days as long as everyone has time to get the paperwork together. However, there are good reasons to take a little bit longer, even if you’re paying with cash.

It’s a good idea to get an appraisal done even if it’s not in connection with any loan. The appraiser will make sure that the house meets basic safety standards and will give you a market value for the property. Doesn’t matter how much money you have; no one likes to overpay.

Additionally, it’s also an extremely good idea to get a home inspection. The inspector will take you through the house and tell you what’s wrong with the property or what could go wrong, so you know what to look out for in the future. If after the inspection you were to find out that the HVAC system has a limited remaining shelf life, you can use that as a negotiation point to either have them replace it or take money off the sales price for a new HVAC system, assuming you have this included in an inspection contingency as part of your purchase agreement.

Appraisals and inspections are often completed within 10 days of a purchase agreement being signed.

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House With No Chain?

Another thing that can significantly speed up the process of buying a home from a buyer’s perspective is finding a house that’s being marketed as having “no chain.”

No chain means there’s nothing holding the seller back from selling the home. They either don’t need the home anymore because they are moving into an apartment or other living situation or they’ve already moved into their new home and are free to sell this one.

If there’s no chain, there’s less chance of the sale falling through for reasons beyond the buyer’s control, such as the seller not being approved for the mortgage on a new home.

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House With A Mortgage?

Buying a house with a mortgage takes longer than buying with cash, but you’re not really at much of a disadvantage because the vast majority of home buyers have to go this route. Houses are expensive.

When you have a signed purchase agreement, you send that to the mortgage company, which will then schedule your appraisal. Appraisals are required when you’re getting a mortgage. The mortgage company can’t loan you more than the home is worth because the home serves as the collateral for the loan.

As mentioned above, the appraisal can typically be completed within 10 days of the purchase agreement being finalized. Although it’s not required, it’s a good idea to take advantage of this time to also get a home inspection.

Simultaneously with the appraisal process, your lender will be doing a final underwriting check. The sooner you can get any requested documents back to them, the better. If your lender did their homework up front, they should have your income and asset statements already to determine what you make and how much you have in the bank, but depending on your chosen loan option, there may be other required paperwork. Lenders will probably try to get as much of this paperwork as possible out of the way up front, but if for any reason you end up with a different loan option than you started with, there may be different documentation needed.

In the next couple of sections, we’ll go over the conditions for some popular government loan options that have special requirements.

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House With An FHA Loan?

Like any other mortgage, you have to get an appraisal for an FHA loan. FHA appraisals come with some specific safety standards, and if any repairs need to take place, that could delay the closing of your loan. Among the appraisal requirements are things like no visible floorboards or studs, and no water damage in the roof. Stairs also need a handrail and the driveway can’t be cracked in a way that’s dangerous.

The biggest thing to be aware of for FHA loans and appraisals only applies to houses built before January 1, 1979, when lead paint stopped being used in construction. In houses built before that date, if there’s any chipping or flaking paint, the area has to be scraped and repainted in order to guard against the dangers of potential lead poisoning.

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House With A VA Loan?

On a VA loan, inspections for wood-destroying pests like termites are required in many states. There are some states that only require inspections in certain counties. If at any point in the inspector sees termites or other wood-destroying insects, they’re required to order the inspection regardless of where you live. If the inspection turns up issues, these will need to be fixed before you can close.

Beyond the inspection, you’ll need a certificate of eligibility from the VA to be eligible for the loan. If you don’t already have one, VA-approved lenders should be able to help you obtain your certificate if you have the proper documentation. However, if you don’t square that away up front, it could delay your transaction. It’s best to handle this as soon as possible.

Now that you know more about the process of buying a home and how long it will take, you should feel more prepared. You can apply online with Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans®.

1 Quicken Loans®and Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC are separate operating subsidiaries of Rock Holdings Inc. Each company is a separate legal entity operated and managed through its own management and governance structure as required by its state of incorporation, and applicable legal and regulatory requirements.

2Participation in the Verified Approval program is based on an underwriter’s comprehensive analysis of your credit, income, employment status, debt, property, insurance, appraisal and a satisfactory title report/search. If new information materially changes the underwriting decision resulting in a denial of your credit request, if the loan fails to close for a reason outside of Quicken Loans’ control, or if you no longer want to proceed with the loan, your participation in the program will be discontinued. If your eligibility in the program does not change and your mortgage loan does not close, you will receive $1,000. This offer does not apply to new purchase loans submitted to Quicken Loans through a mortgage broker. Additional conditions or exclusions may apply. Verified Approval within 24 hours of receipt of all requested documentation.  

3 RateShield Approval locks your initial interest rate for up to 90 days on 30-year conventional, FHA and VA fixed-rate purchase loan products. Your exact interest rate will depend on the date you lock your rate. Once you submit your signed purchase agreement, we’ll compare your rate to our published rates for that date and re-lock your interest rate at the lower of the two rates for an additional 40 to 60 days. Quicken Loans reserves the right to cancel this offer at any time. Acceptance of this offer constitutes the acceptance of these terms and conditions, which are subject to change at the sole discretion of Quicken Loans. This is not a commitment to lend. Additional conditions or exclusions may apply.

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    Kevin Graham

    The Rocket Homes blog is here to bring you all you need to know about buying, selling and making the most of your home. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner, selling your current home or looking to keep your place in tip-top shape, our writers and freelancers bring their experience and expertise to meet you right where you are.