Home Buying Timeline: What to Expect and How to Plan

Getting ready to look for a new house? 

The home buying process is an exciting experience, but it also takes time to find your dream property and move in. Whether you’re selling an existing home, ending a rental lease, juggling loan payments, or coordinating a relocation, the details can get complicated.

But the process gets easier when you know and properly plan for how long each step is likely to take. 

To help you stay in control of your timeline as you buy a home, McGraw REALTORS has put together this list of what to expect, what to plan for, and how long to give yourself for each step along the way.

How Long Do People Usually Search for a Home? 

On average, it takes buyers between 3-6 months to actively locate and purchase a new house. 

But this timing depends on having everything lined up first, so you’re ready to make a bid when you see the house you want. If you’re not well prepared, you may face delays, lose bids, or find yourself spending more money than you budgeted.
Here’s what you’ll want to plan ahead for.

Factors that Affect Your House Buying Timeline

Personal Goals

Consider where you’d like to see yourself—one year, three years, five years, and ten years from now. How soon do you want to be in a new house?

Important Milestones

Will your adult children soon move out—and you’d like a smaller home? Perhaps you’re expecting children—meaning a larger property might be ideal? You may be retiring soon, or moving for a new job. All these factors weigh into how quickly you want to buy a new home.

Credit Score

Your credit plays a major role in the loan you can expect to receive. If you have a less-than-ideal credit score, talk to your lender about what you can do to bring your rating up. Use this period to pay off debt and develop healthy financial habits.

Down Payment

Do you have savings for a down payment? Remember, the more you put down in cash, the less you’ll have to borrow on your loan.


Not sure how much to save? Have your finances reviewed to see how much a lender would allow you to borrow right now. You can get pre-qualified with a Lender to help you with these numbers.

Current Housing Market Conditions

Even when your finances are in good standing, it can take up to 1 year to find your dream house. The market may favor the seller over the buyer. The area you wish to move into may not have new houses available as soon as you would like. Patience is key.

Existing Lease / Rental

If you’re renting a home or apartment, consider how much time you have left on your lease, and be prepared to be flexible. Here are some steps to take:

  • Read your paperwork carefully. You may pay a penalty if you move out early. 
  • If you have just a month or two left, consider paying the remaining rent monthly or upfront to terminate the lease.
  • If the lease allows it, advise the landlord you’d like to go month to month. 
  • Ask the landlord if they are willing to insert a mortgage clause into the lease so you can stay at the rental property until you buy a house. 
  • If possible, sublease your apartment for the remainder of the lease period.

How Much Time You’ll Spend Buying a House

Ready to find your new property? Here’s a quick look at how long these home buying steps will take.

Creating Your Wish List

1 week – 4 months

Identify what you want most in your new home. Separate the must-haves from the nice-to-haves so you’ll know where to compromise. When you visit open houses, pay attention to what features you love, hate, and feel neutral about.

Getting Mortgage Preapproval

1-2 weeks

Look for a mortgage lender while you’re looking for a REALTOR. Many real estate agents can recommend lenders they trust.

Finding a Real Estate Agent

1-2 weeks

Interview different agents and ask around until you find someone you like.

Making an Offer

1–2 days

Once you bid on a home, the seller determines how fast you hear back. Most REALTORS encourage their sellers to provide an acceptance, counteroffer, or rejection within 24 to 48 hours. 

Getting Loan Approval

1–2 months

After your offer is accepted, you and your agent must get all the required paperwork to your lender. This takes around 50 days. Do the next two steps while you’re waiting.

Obtaining an Appraisal

1-3 weeks

The mortgage lender needs an Appraiser to officially determine the value of the house. If the appraisal is lower than you expected, the loan amount may be lowered—so you may have to renegotiate with the seller or put more down in cash.

Hiring an Inspector

1-3 weeks

Typically, the home buyer hires a home inspector to check out the home and look for hidden issues that need repair. If anything major is found, renegotiating with the seller will become necessary.

Having the Closing

1 day

You’ve made it to closing day. You’ll provide your down payment and other closing costs, sign the paperwork, and receive your keys. Congratulations—you just bought yourself a house!

Find Your Dream Home with McGraw REALTORS   

Ready to begin the search for your new home? Our REALTORS make the process of locating and negotiating your house purchase simple and straightforward. And we’re here to answer your questions and ensure you enjoy your home-buying experience. 
Get started today! Reach out to us to find your dream home for the best price.

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