The Real Estate Encyclopedia
What Is The Typical Timeline To Buy A Home, From Planning To Closing?
Category - Home Buying Questions - Search & Offer FAQ's

The following information contains a typical timeline involved when buying a home. The fact is that you may find your dream home in a week, or it may take months. Your timeline will also be influenced on whether you are moving across town or across the country. If you are being relocated, your employer will probably put you in touch with the relocation company and provide sufficient advance information for you to begin the search. 


6 months out

       Decide on a town first, neighborhood second, house third. Cancel out the towns and neighborhoods you don't care for. You can do this on your own or with a one-time area tour with an agent.


       Know your financial situation. Get a credit check. Leave yourself time to correct any problems. Determine how much house you can afford. This is just for your own use. The mortgage lender will also make this determination at a later point.


       Think about your budget and structure your home selection around that. Should you be looking at a townhouse or a single-family, someplace in the suburbs or a little farther out?

       Interview real estate agents to help you with your search. You can achieve this by obtaining referrals from you friends or colleagues or by searching the internet in the particular area you plan to move to. 



4 months out


       Select a mortgage broker or lender. They'll run your credit and get preliminary information such as bank statements and retirement and investment account numbers.

       Double-check your buying power. You don't want to waste time looking at homes you can't afford.

       Use a Calculator on your lenders website: How much house can you afford?

       Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Make an application. Collect the required documents and paperwork. Have a mortgage just waiting for the address of the property you want to buy.

       Your lender should give you a copy of a Housing and Urban Development publication called "Your Settlement Costs." It explains all the fees and expenses you should know about.

       Make sure you have a local real estate attorney. Don't wait until you find a house to find an attorney.  Your local real estate agent should be able to refer an attorney.


8 weeks out


       If you're doing a corporate relocation, find out exactly what is covered and what you're expected to do.

       Make a list of everyone who needs to be notified of the move - friends, relatives, creditors, schools, doctors and dentists.

       Select a mover. Arrange for a storage facility if you won't be moving into a new home right away after you leave your current home.

       Identify your new home.  Negotiate an offer.

       Title search - the buyer or the lender should initiate a title search. You want to be sure there are no liens or encumbrances on the property.

       Inspection - the real estate agent will recommend having a home inspection.

       The lender will hire an appraiser. This will ascertain whether the house is worth what the buyer is paying.

       Get homeowners insurance. Proof of insurance will be faxed to the closing agent.

       Consider a home warranty. It either comes with the listing or it can be purchased.


5 weeks out


       Contact insurance companies to make sure your belongings are covered during the move. If not, find out what the mover covers. Their basic insurance probably insures items by the pound, which isn't good enough. See what other insurance they offer.

       Have an appraisal done of expensive items you want shipped by the mover.




2 weeks out


       Reconfirm your closing date.

       Arrange to have utilities and phone service in your old home shut off, or transferred if it's a local move. Remember, movers need light so have the power cut off the day after you move.  Coordinate your plans with the buyer of your home, if applicable.

       Coordinate transfer of utilities to your name with the seller of your new home.  Obtain a list of utilities and contact numbers from the seller.

       Close safe-deposit box. Important papers, jewelry and the like should be kept with you during the move.

       If moving to another state, you may want to close savings accounts, but keep checking accounts open until you're able to open new ones in your new location.

       Get a cashier's check for the movers.

       Be prepared for closing. Review your paperwork and the HUD publication "Your Settlement Costs." The down payment, interest, taxes and insurance are among the costs you'll probably have to pay.

       Cash to close -- figure out where you'll get the money for closing costs. Do you have to sell stocks? If you're borrowing from a relative make sure the check is in your account long enough to clear.

       Get a cashier's check for closing costs made out to your own name then endorse to the closing agent at the time of closing. 

       Begin cleaning out your fridge and pantry.  Dispose of unusable items and pack canned products.  Dont wait till the last minute. 


Closing day


       Final walk through of the house. This is usually done the day of the closing or the day before.

       Make sure you have all the payments you'll need to take possession of the house.

       Make sure you have the address and directions for the location of the closing.

       Plan on traffic to get to closing.

       Make sure all parties signing the loan bring a picture ID.

       Check with your agent for any last minute developments. 

       Make sure you receive all keys and garage door openers for your new home. Ask any questions you may have of the seller after the closing.  Get a contact number you can use should problems arise.

       Place an order for meals on moving day.


Moving day


       Carefully review the bill of lading.

       Note the cell phone number and other contact information of the movers.

       If the old house isn't sold yet, make sure a relative and the real estate agent have keys.

       Plan for meals and child care. 

       Assign responsibilities to different family members, including someone waiting at the new home for the movers.

       Make sure boxes are properly marked, especially those containing important papers or immediate necessities.

       Hire a maid service to clean after the move.

Home Buying Questions - Search & Offer FAQ's
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