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How long does it take to buy a house?

What we'll cover

  • General timeline for buying a home

  • Steps involved in purchasing and closing

  • Ways to speed up the buying process

What’s the longest you’ve waited in line to purchase something? Three hours, maybe three days? Well, if you’re in the market for a home, you may have to practice patience for a bit longer. Buying a home involves several moving parts, which means the process from start to finish can take anywhere from a month and a half to upwards of year.

To get a better idea of how long it takes to buy a house, it’s best to break it down step-by-step.

Your homebuying timeline

Buying a home looks different for everyone. Your level of experience with the homebuying process, knowing what kind of neighborhood vibe you’re looking for, and even your sense of urgency can affect how long it takes — which could be about 6 weeks at the short end or more than a year, should the process be drawn out. While there’s no one-size-fits-all timeline, here’s a general idea of what you can expect each step to look like.

A graphic titled, homebuying timeline. The subtitle states, “while the homebuying process can be slightly different for everyone, it typically takes anywhere from 6 weeks up to a year”. The graphic also displays an image of a timeline, from finding a real estate agent to the official closing. The first half of the timeline illustrates the home searching process and starts from finding a real estate agent to house hunting to obtaining pre-approval and, lastly, negotiating an offer. The second half of the timeline illustrates the closing process from assessing the property to the underwriting and loan approval process to addressing insurance requirements and, finally, the official closing.

Finding real estate agents

Time: One to seven days

Working with a real estate agent isn’t a requirement. But – especially if you’re a first-time buyer – they can be a great resource, from guiding you through the process to helping you spot great (or terrible) deals. Don’t be afraid to interview a few different agents until you find a person you can trust and are excited to work with.

House hunting

Time: One week to several months

This step can be highly variable. If you have specific wants or needs, or search in a market with less supply than demand, it could take weeks or even months. But that doesn’t mean you won’t hit the jackpot on day one of your search. On average, home shoppers end up viewing a median of nine homes (five of which they view only online ) over the course of eight weeks.

Ally Pro Tip: Many of the steps involved with buying a home can be completed at the same time – like browsing homes on your own while searching for an agent, or getting pre-approved while you’re still lining up house tours.

Obtaining pre-approval

Time: One day to a couple of weeks

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is one of the best ways to understand exactly how much house you can afford. It’s a formal process in which financial institutions review your information and provide an estimate of how much they’ll lend you and at what rate . Once you’ve picked out a home, a pre-approval letter can help speed up the buying process and show sellers you mean business.

Negotiating an offer

Time: Two to seven days

Once you’ve picked the perfect home, with a pre-approval letter in hand, your agent will help you make an offer . This can go quickly and smoothly. You may receive a counteroffer, or, in a competitive market, you could find yourself in a bidding war. In these latter situations, speed is of the essence — so don’t respond too slow during negotiations.

Underwriting and loan approval

Time: One to two months

Once your contract is negotiated, it’s time to officially kick off the closing process with underwriting and loan approval. Though you may have been pre-approved, you’ll likely need to resubmit  documents to your lender to confirm your loan eligibility. They will review things like your debt-to-income ratio , credit, and employment history.  As your loan is being approved, you can complete the next two steps.

Ally Pro Tip: The closing process begins after you negotiate your contract and is finalized when you sign the final paperwork and make your down payment. From start to finish, this usually takes between 35 and 45 days, and many of the steps completed during closing, like the appraisal and addressing insurance, can be done simultaneously.

Assessing the property

Time: Two to three weeks

Now it’s time for a home appraisal and inspection. Lenders order a home appraisal to inspect the property and assess its value — and it’s a key step to obtain a mortgage. You’ll likely want to get a home inspection as well for your own benefit once you have a contract. This will help uncover any issues you should be aware of. While both of these inspections typically take just a few hours to complete, you should budget a few days for scheduling and up to 10 days to receive your reports.

Addressing insurance requirements

Time: Two weeks

Before you can close, you’ll also need to handle title insurance and home insurance. Title insurance will check that you own your home outright. And homeowner’s insurance will protect you from losses or damages to your property and the belongings inside. Depending where you live, you might also need additional coverage like separate flood or earthquake insurance.

Official closing 

Time: One day to one week

The final steps of the closing process can be completed in just a few days. Before you sign the dotted line, make sure you have your down payment and funds for additional closing costs ready to go, whether via check or digitally. Then, conduct a final walkthrough of the home. And on your closing date, prepare about two hours to review and sign all your documents.

Congrats — you’re now a homeowner (so take some time to celebrate).

How to speed up the homebuying process

Buying a home doesn’t happen overnight, but you can take certain actions to liven up the process and steer your home search in the right direction.

Buying a home doesn’t happen overnight, but you can take certain actions to liven up the process and steer your home search in the right direction.

For example, you can:

  • Jumpstart your search by obtaining  mortgage pre-qualification  to give yourself a baseline idea of what kind of loan you’ll qualify for.

  • Do some research and planning before you start looking at homes.

  • Create a list of your nice-to-haves and non-negotiables so you’ll know what you’re looking for and can rule out certain properties right away.

  • Take time to review neighborhoods, learn about the nearby schools, and get a feel for the areas you’ll potentially live in.

Finally, use your realtor to your advantage. Rely on their expertise and guidance to smoothly navigate the process. Because hey, they’ve done this a time or two.

From contracts to closing to keys

How long does it take to buy a house? Well, the answer isn’t so straightforward. With so many variables at play during the preliminary work, search, and closing process, it could be a matter of weeks or months.

Note: The key is staying patient, diligent, and positive — because as they say, good things take time, and homeownership can be pretty great.

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