It doesn’t matter how many times you do it — buying a home is challenging. The process can be even more daunting for first-timers. Understanding the homebuying timeline before you even start shopping for homes can help you navigate the process more smoothly and with less stress.
Continue reading to learn more about the homebuying process, from getting pre-approved for a mortgage to receiving the keys to your new home on closing day.
The Homebuying Process From Start to Finish
The homebuying process begins when you first consider purchasing a home and extends through closing day. The timeline averages between four and six months and includes several key steps. Understanding these steps will help you prepare for what’s ahead, so you can cruise through the process without any significant surprises.
Decide if Buying a Home Is Right for You
Buying a home before you're ready can result in serious financial difficulties. Consider the cost of buying versus renting in your area and whether your income is stable enough for a mortgage.
This step typically involves analyzing your budget, saving for a down payment and closing costs, and improving your credit. Once you feel confident you’re ready to buy a home, it’s time to continue to the next step of the process.
Experts recommend getting pre-approved for a mortgage before you start browsing for homes. This process involves finding a reputable lender, providing them with your financial paperwork, and waiting for pre-approval. Having a pre-approval letter in hand proves to the buyer that you’re serious. It may be the difference between a seller accepting your offer or another buyer's.
Veterans looking to buy homes can opt for VA loans with more flexible criteria and little to no down payment. Qualified lenders can help you through the VA loan approval process.
Find Your Real Estate Agent
Your real estate agent will help you through every step of the homebuying process, so you must choose someone knowledgeable and enjoyable to be around. An expert agent can clue you into desirable houses before they hit the market, advise you on making a fair offer, and negotiate for you.
House hunting is the fun part. This is when you discuss your wants and needs with your realtor, and they recommend the best available options. Find one or several appealing homes, and the realtor will arrange a tour. It’s essential to view a potential home quickly, as competition can be fierce.
Make an Offer
Your real estate agent is an invaluable asset when the time to make an offer on your dream home comes. They’ll help you determine a fair offer based on the market, comparable sales in the area, and any costly repairs you may need to do.
The seller may return with a counteroffer, and your agent can help you negotiate to settle on a price. At this time, you’ll also agree on the payment of earnest money, fees, and other contingencies.
The Home Inspection and Appraisal
The home inspection and appraisal offer more room for negotiation. A home inspection is not necessary but is highly recommended by most realtors. A professional home inspector will review the interior and exterior of the home and report any issues. If significant repairs are necessary, you may negotiate with the seller to lower the sale price or have them perform the repairs before closing.
Your lender will also order an appraisal on the home. The home will typically appraise for the sale price or higher. However, if the appraisal is lower than the sale price, you may negotiate with the seller.
Finalize Your Mortgage
The underwriting process can take between three days and three weeks to complete. Waiting for the lender to review your finances and finalize the loan can be nerve-racking. However, if your finances are in line and you are responsive throughout the process, your lender will likely clear you for closing.
Close and Move Into Your New Home
Finally, you’ll arrive at the most exciting day of the homebuying process! It’s time to close on your home and get the keys. The closing process involves signing numerous pages of paperwork, paying outstanding costs, and providing proof of homeowners’ insurance. When your writing hand is sufficiently sore, the only thing left to do is move in.
The homebuying process is as intimidating as it is exciting, but knowledge can be powerful in helping you move through the steps smoothly. Learn more about the homebuying process in the attached infographic.
Author bio: With over 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry, team leader Sherry Riano exudes a deep passion for helping families in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida and Alabama financially obtain their dream home. Ensuring its clients and business partners are top priority, The Sherry Riano Team consistently takes into consideration each customer’s needs and goals to build a lifelong relationship. With a specialized approach to self-employed borrowers, first-time homebuyers, jumbo loans and VA loans, The Sherry Riano Team has knowledgeable advocates for any customer with which it partners.