So you’ve decided you want to buy a house. That’s great! Now what? Figuring out next steps can be confusing. One of the first things buyers ask me is, “when should I start looking at houses?”
The answer depends on your particular situation but in general, at least 2-3 months before you want to be in your new home. Starting the process as early as you can is advisable. Looking for a new house can be like having another job. It can be very time consuming and there’s a large amount of information you’ll have to learn so the more time you have the better.
A Timeline For Buying:
Market Education – 90 days or more out
One of the first things you should do is start familiarizing yourself with the market before you start looking at houses. A Realtor can create a custom housing search specifically for you. Once daily, you’ll receive an automated email from the MLS that will display all the houses that match your search criteria. Reviewing these daily emails will educate you on what is available and for what price. This will also help you figure out what you’re looking for; you’ll be able to spot properties that are attractive to you more quickly. In a strong seller’s market like Denver, decisiveness when looking at homes is important.
Getting Pre-Approved – 60 days out
Before you go see homes in person, you need to get pre-approved by a lender. Pre-approval involves the lender will looking at your credit and financial information and making a determination regarding how much money you can qualify to borrow. This will tell you what your maximum purchase price is. If you can’t qualify for a loan, this process will reveal that; at least then you won’t waste time looking at houses you couldn’t have bought anyway. Pre-approval letters are generally good for 60-90 days.
Showings With A Realtor – 45-60 days out
The process of seeing properties with your agent and submitting an offer could take a few days or many months. It depends on what you’re looking for, your price point, how available you are to see houses, and market conditions. There’s also a possibility that it could take some time for your offer to get accepted. If you submit an offer on a property and get beat out by another offer, you’ll have start over and look for another property.
Go Under Contract – 30-45 days out
Once your offer is accepted, the clock starts. At that point you have a closing date set; it’s usually about 30 days out. What’s going on during that time? You as the buyer will be reviewing various disclosures and reports from the seller, inspector and appraiser on the home. The lender works to get the loan through underwriting, and the title company works on transferring the title from the seller to the buyer. The buyer’s and seller’s agents negotiate on behalf of their clients, coordinate all the moving pieces and work to keep the transaction together and moving forward while resolving any problems along the way.
Closing – 0 days out
Once you close and take possession of your new property, you’re done and you can begin moving in. Ideally you’d have a few days between closing and whenever you would have to be out of your former home to allow some buffer for packing and moving. Some buyers choose to move and close in the same day and it can be done. If the seller wants to live in the property after closing temporarily, your whole timeline could get longer by up to 60 days.
Questions? Let me know; I'd be happy to help!