A Timeline For Buying a Home
Nov 02, 2023
Figuring out the logistics of when to buy or sell a home—much less trying to do both at the same time—can be confusing. People usually assume they’re the only ones who don’t know this stuff, but the truth is that most people get hung up on at least a few of these steps. Let’s break down the timeline for buying a home.
When you’re at least 6 months out, it’s time to:
Assess your situation and get your finances in order
Are you planning to stay in a home for at least five years? Have you saved up for your down payment and closing costs? This is the time to make sure you’ve filed your taxes and have a paper trail for major financial transactions from the past year. Discuss your financials with several mortgage brokers to shop for the best rate.
- Make a list of your cash accounts, 401(k), stocks and other investments.
- Identify and set aside your down payment.
- Move funds around early.
- Pull your credit report and look for errors.
- Pay down credit balances to a third of your credit limit.
- Don’t open new lines of credit or buy any big ticket items.
Start looking for homes online
The vast majority of homebuyers use the internet as part of their home search, so it’s likely that you’ll do some of your searching online. Narrow down your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Ask the questions that will help set parameters for your search on Realty Collective: Are you set on buying a home in a particular school district or neighborhood? How many bedrooms do you need? Do you want a single or multi-family home or are you open to a co-op or condo? Are you set on buying a home in a particular school district or neighborhood? How many bedrooms do you need? Do you want a single or multi-family home or are you open to a co-op or condo? Use this home buyer worksheet.
Get pre-approved. It’s best to choose a local lender and get a pre-approval letter before you begin house hunting in earnest. You never know when your dream home will hit the market, and you want to be ready to make an offer. Don’t be tempted to just go
Find a real estate agent who’s on your side. Homebuyers may spend as much money on a real estate agent as on a car, but many will choose an agent in less than an hour. Don’t be that person. Do your homework online and then ask to interview a few agents in person. Not sure what to ask? Check out How Do You Select The Right Real Estate Agent. At Realty Collective, agents are solely focused on helping you find the right home for you at the right time — no pressure, just customer service. We survey our clients through the entire home-buying process and post every review online, so you can see what other homebuyers have said about each of our agents.
Attend open houses and go on home tours. Check out our home tour checklist and questions to ask your agent during a home tour before you look at any homes. You might not think, for instance, to make sure water spouts drain away from the house or to turn off any music playing so you can gauge road noise and airplane traffic.
Stay strong. You may be waiting for a home that matches your criteria to hit the market or you may have lost out on a few offers. The home search process can be grueling, but keep your eye on the prize!
At 2 months out, it’s time to:
Submit or resubmit your pre-approval application. Most mortgage pre-approvals are good for 60 to 90 days. If your search extends beyond that, resubmit your application to last another 60 to 90 days.
Make an offer! You’ve found the home you want to call yours. Submit your offer as soon after touring the home as possible. Speed is of the essence in a competitive market with limited inventory. Talk with your agent about the terms of your deal and the competition you face.
You’re in the home stretch! At three weeks out, it’s time to:
Enter mutual acceptance, close the deal. It’s not quite time to sit back and relax. Buyers should be prepared to deposit earnest money, review the seller disclosure forms, review the ownership history and title and schedule a home inspection. Buyers also have to secure final loan approval from their lender and schedule the final walkthrough. All of this must take place before you can close.
Line up an inspector. You’ll want to have a licensed, skilled inspector conduct your home inspection. Your agent should have some recommendations.
You made it to Closing Day!
Get your keys! Attend the closing and bring a government-issued ID and payment for any overages. This is the time to celebrate — you did it!