Month-by-Month Timeline to Buy a House

Dated: 02/01/2020

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Month-by-Month Timeline to Buy a House

Is one of your goals for the year to purchase a home? Not sure where to begin with such a monumental decision? We're here to help guide you through the step-by-step process of buying a home. Laid out below is a typical timeline for purchasing a home. While some may move through the home buying process much quicker (or much slower!), six months is a good amount of time to expect to invest in finding your dream home.

6 Months Out: Information gathering

This is the home buying step that some are tempted to breeze past; however, it is one of the most critical steps. The first piece of information to gather is an accurate financial picture. Before you start browsing through all those pretty listings online, you need to determine what exactly your budget is. When assessing your budget, most remember to include the cost of their down payment. However, you also need to plan for closing costs, taxes, insurance, and unforseen expenses that are sure to arise with any home purchase. In addition to creating a budget, you'll want to ensure your credit cards are paid down for a maximum credit score and that you have papers in order for all your major financial transactions of late.

The second piece of information that is critical at this point in the home search is a mortgage pre-approval and picking a mortgage lender. A pre-approval will keep your house hunt realistic, and make your offer stronger as it will show you are a serious and qualified buyer. While you may be tempted to just go to your current bank for a mortgage, it's important to shop around for the best rate and lender for your needs.

Three Months Out: Find an Agent & Start the Hunt

Finding a good agent is the next critical step in your house hunting journey. A good agent will have a wealth of experience, be an expert on the home buying process, be very familiar with the area, be well known by other local agents, and be a skilled negotiator. Make sure you ask around for reviews and testimonials before you select an agent.

Next is perhaps the most fun part of the journey - looking at houses! However, it is quite possible to get lost in the fun and overwhelm yourself with possibilities. Consequently, before going out on the hunt develop a list of must haves and limit your property visits to homes that meet those criteria. While visiting homes, don't forget to pick your agent's brain and get their opinion not just on the house, but on the neighborhood as well. The right house in the wrong neighborhood can end up being a bad choice!

Two Months Out: Resubmit Pre-approval & Make an Offer

Most pre-approval letters last 60-90 days. Consequently, if your letter is expired at this point you will want to resubmit for another. It should be quite easy to get a second letter. Once you have secured your pre-approval you are ready to make an offer. Speed is of great importance when making an offer in a competitive housing market with limited inventory. Your agent should be able to help guide you to a fair offer price. You should expect to receive a counter-offer and to go through a period of negotiation with the seller. Your agent is your best friend during this process! Once you and the seller agree on terms, your closing process will begin. Closing usually takes 30 to 45 days and involves many steps and hoops that your agent will help guide you through.

One Month Out: It's all in the details

Earnest Money: The closing process will involve many tasks for you to complete. One of the first will be to deposit earnest money, which is an agreed amount of money deposited in an escrow account to show your serious intent to purchase the property. When the sale is complete, the earnest money will be applied to your closing costs.

Title: Within a week of an offer acceptance you will recieve a preliminary title report that will be finalized when the home closes.

Home inspection: It will be your responsibility to arrange a home inspection. This is a critical step in the home-buying process as it will reveal any significant material defects or necessary repairs on the home. If you had an inspection contingency in your contract, you will likely enter negotiation again after the inspection. You can ask the sellers to perform repairs, provide funds to cover repairs, ask for concessions, or back out of the sale.

Mortgage Application & Appraisal: While pre-approval has paved the road for this step, you now need to finalize your mortage application. In order to do this, the lender will ask for an appraisal of the home.

1-2 Weeks Out: Final checks

A licensed appraiser will determine the value of your home. Once this is completed it will typically take a lender about two weeks to complete the paperwork for your mortgage and final approval. Once you have approval, you will do a final walk-through of the home prior to everything being finalized. At this time you will want to verify that the condition of the home hasn't changed and that all requested repairs have been completed.

Closing day: You made it!

On closing day you will get to sign your name more times than you ever have in one sitting. You will need to bring a government approved ID, as well as other requested paperwork. At this time you will also need a cashier's check for all closing costs and the down payment on the home. After that you'll have the keys in your hand and your goal accomplished - you just bought a home!

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Tricia McCullough

From farming in Warden, WA, to living in Australia and then back to Wenatchee, I’ve always been profoundly aware of the fundamental need to help others. Whether through their financial picture or he....

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