Buying a house is achieved in spurts of activity


How long does it take to buy a house?

Buying a house can take anywhere from a few days to a few years. In most cases, the process will take several months of diligent effort.

There are two major phases to buying a house. First you need to find a house to buy. Once you find a house and negotiate a mutually satisfactory purchase contract with the seller, the next part of the process involves satisfying the terms of the purchase agreement so that title to the property can be transferred to the buyer.

Finding a house can be relatively easy. If you're buying a house directly from a friend or relative, you won't have to spend a lot of time searching. Likewise, if you're looking for a new house and there's plenty of inventory available in your area, your home search won't take long.

But if you're searching for a special house, or if the neighborhood you want is particularly low on listings of homes for sale, it can take months to find a house.

The timing of the second phase of the home buying process is easier to control. This part involves inspecting the property, making sure title to the property is clear, and arranging the financing.

Inspections can usually be completed within a couple of weeks. Lining up financing usually takes longer, but can be done in about 30 days, unless the purchase or refinance markets are particularly active. FHA and VA loans can take longer to process.

Most closings occur between 45 to 60 days after acceptance. If you're buying all cash, without a new home loan, the closing can occur in less than 30 days.

FIRST-TIME TIP: The home buying experience can be frustrating if you're ready to become a homeowner but can't find a house to buy. There are several things you can do to maximize your chances of finding a house within a reasonable period of time.

Be systematic and diligent in your search. Make a list of your housing wants and needs and give this list to your agent. Ask your agent if what you're looking for is available in the area where you want to live. If it's not, you'll have to go back to the drawing board.

A certain amount of compromise is necessary when buying a house. Carefully examine what features you can't live without and which ones you can sacrifice if necessary.

If you've looked for months and you're still not finding a house you like enough to buy, the problem could be your agent. Ask your agent for a list of the homes in your price range that have sold recently. Were you made aware of all these houses, or did you miss some? If your agent isn't keeping you well informed of new listings that might work for you, then find another agent.

THE CLOSING: The time of year can affect how long it takes to find a house. Fewer new listings come on the market during the winter, due to the weather and holidays. However, this is often the time when you'll find the best buys. You'll find a larger inventory of homes for sale than during the spring and summer.

Dian Hymer's column is syndicated through Inman News Features. Send questions and comments care of Inman News Features, 5335 College Avenue, No. 25, Oakland, Calif. 94618.

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