Finding a new home takes time. From the moment you qualify for a home, look at available listings, complete virtual and in-person tours there will be at least a few bad apples in the search. Even during the pandemic, most home-searchers took on average four to six months to find a home and an accepted offer. The length of time it takes can vary because of the market, your budget, type of home you’re looking for, and local inventory. Let’s take a step back and look at the homebuying process once you’ve obtained a pre-approval letter.

The Search for a New Home

While looking for a new home, it’s important to take time to know the market. Your real estate agent will be the best source of input on the current market and if your ‘dream home’ is a reality or unrealistic. Buying a home can also be a lengthy process because it’s dependent on the state of your local housing market. As most markets in 2020 and the first half of 2021 are experiencing low inventory, it may take longer than usual to find your next home. This market trend started in 2019, as shown by the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, with 24% of buyers saying it was difficult or very difficult to find a home in their desired location.

Once you’ve narrowed down online listings to those appearing to meet your list of needs, thoroughly read the listings and complete an online tour. If you’re still interested in the listing, then it’s time to schedule an in-person tour. At the start of this process don’t be discouraged, you’ll find houses you like or dislike and that’s okay. Most searchers see at least ten houses before making an offer. It will take some time and you won’t want to feel forced into a decision and have buyer’s regret later.

As you start touring homes in-person your list of needs may begin to change. It’s okay when this happens, since you may end up finding just the right listing with a change of need. Then when it’s right, you’ll have the ‘aha’ moment, it could turn out to be a listing you viewed before. Always take a second tour to be sure. When you’re ready, then it’s time for the offer and negotiations.

The Offer and Negotiations

In a competitive market where listings are low and many buyers are vying for the same listing, buyers don’t have as much wiggle room for negotiations with an offer. Be ready to offer the listing price with little or only critical negotiation points. In these areas, your real estate agent can help by contacting the listing realtor and discussing negotiation points before submitting your offer. Sometimes, the seller may come back with a negotiated offer which you can agree to or walk away. A noteworthy issue stated in Zillow’s 2019 report is even when you locate a home quickly, only 55% of buyers close on the first home they make a successful offer on.

Next Steps

Once you have an accepted offer, it will take about a month or longer depending on the current market conditions. Your lender and real estate agent will be able to give you some idea of your closing timeline. While waiting, you can start planning your move, packing, and preparing for closing day. The first thing will be to schedule an inspection, which can take up to three weeks in a busy market. After the inspection is complete and no major issues hold the transaction back, you can start preparing for your move. This should include packing, starting the change of address process, and looking for homeowner’s insurance.

Before you know it, you’ll be preparing finances for closing, including a cashier’s check for the down payment, a final walk-through of the home, and a trip (or virtually) sign closing paperwork. Once all paperwork is signed, if in-person, you’ll receive keys for your new home. If completed virtually, your realtor will arrange a key drop off, usually within 24 hours. Then, it’s time to move in!