How Long Does It Take to Buy a House?

Buying a home can take a few months or much longer, depending on the housing market and your financial readiness.
Linda Bell
By Linda Bell 
Edited by Alice Holbrook Reviewed by Michelle Blackford

Some or all of the mortgage lenders featured on our site are advertising partners of NerdWallet, but this does not influence our evaluations, lender star ratings or the order in which lenders are listed on the page. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners.

Whether you envision yourself in a single-family house in the suburbs or a condo near a city center, buying the home of your dreams can take time.

From the first credit check to closing, there are many steps in the journey to homeownership, and no one can predict exactly how long the process will last for you. But here are estimates of how long each step might take, from start to finish.

Getting your finances in order

Time varies

If, like most people, you plan to buy your home with a mortgage, knowing how much house you can afford is one of the first steps. Affordability depends on your income, debt and funds available for a down payment. This step might include:

To avoid the extra cost of private mortgage insurance, you might aim to put down at least 20% on a conventional loan. The cost of that 20% may vary quite a bit depending on home values where you live. It could take a household earning the median national income of $67,521 an average of 14 years to save 20% plus closing costs, according to 2022 data from U.S. Mortgage Insurers, an association representing private mortgage insurance companies. That’s to buy a home for about $350,000, roughly the national median sales price. Saving 5% would take the same household five years, but that would likely require mortgage insurance.

Want to become a homeowner sooner? Look into loans that allow some borrowers to buy a house with no money down, like loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You may also be able to qualify for local and state down payment assistance programs.

Did you know...

If you make a cash offer, buying a home can take as little as two weeks. Buying a house with cash can be simpler than financing a home purchase. Because there isn’t a mortgage, that means less paperwork — but an all-cash purchase isn't possible for many.

Getting preapproved and comparing lenders

Up to two weeks

A mortgage preapproval is a lender’s estimate of how much money you can borrow based on your income, credit score and debt. A preapproval includes the type of mortgage you’re approved for, the loan amount and other terms.

Though it varies by lender, a mortgage preapproval typically takes several days to complete. Most preapprovals last for 90 days, but some might last 60 or 30 days.

Getting preapproved with more than one lender helps you to compare loan offers so you can choose the best interest rate and terms. Preapproval involves a hard inquiry on your credit report, but shopping for rates within a 45-day period can minimize the impact to your credit score.

Plan to spend a week or two comparing offers from different lenders.

Explore mortgages today and get started on your homeownership goals
Get personalized rates. Your lender matches are just a few questions away.
Won’t affect your credit score

Searching for the right house

10 weeks, on average

Armed with a preapproval, you can begin your home search. Consider enlisting the help of a real estate agent to guide you through the process.

The number of homes for sale and the time of year are among the factors that will affect the length of your housing search. Time spent looking for the right home also varies by buyer, budget and how they choose to search. Buyers typically searched for 10 weeks and toured a median of five homes, according to a 2023 report from the National Association of Realtors.

Making an offer

A few days or longer

Once you find the right house, the next step is to make an offer. With help from your real estate agent, you can negotiate specifics with the seller, including the price of the home and closing costs. Negotiations usually last a couple of days but can take longer if there is a bidding war or a counteroffer.

Underwriting and closing

30 to 60 days

The closing process begins after the seller accepts your offer and the house is under contract. The length of time varies depending on the type of loan and the time it takes for you to complete the steps listed below.

Going through underwriting: Over a week

During underwriting, the mortgage lender confirms your loan eligibility by reviewing documentation of your debt-to-income ratio, employment and credit history. Underwriting typically takes over a week to complete, but it can be done in as little as two to three days.

Between preapproval and underwriting, it’s wise to avoid changing jobs, opening lines of credit or paying bills late. Anything that disrupts your financial status quo could make a lender reconsider your application.

Appraising the house: Up to three weeks

A property appraisal and home inspection typically occur after the offer is accepted. The appraisal assesses the home’s value and is usually ordered by the lender.

Depending on the property size, the appraisal is usually completed in a few hours. However, it can take the appraiser a week or more to review comparable, recently sold homes in the area and create a report of the home’s assessed value.

If the appraisal comes in lower than expected, you might want to negotiate a lower price with the seller. This can add more time to the appraisal step.

Inspecting the home: Seven to 10 days

Home inspections are not required but are recommended because they can uncover costly problems with the house. Home buyers usually have seven to 10 days after the offer is accepted to conduct the inspection. While inspections can be performed in a few hours, you may have to wait up to 10 days for a report of the findings. Negotiations with the seller on repair requests can slow down this timeline, too.

Conducting the title search: Two weeks or less

A title search determines who legally owns a property and whether there are any claims on it. The title search can take about two weeks; the length of time can depend on the type of property and transaction. Discovering any issues with the title, such as a lien on the property, can add time to this step.

Getting ready to close: At least three days

You’re almost at the finish line.

  • Before closing: Your lender will require that you get a homeowners insurance policy to protect your home and belongings.

  • At least three business days before closing: You will receive a Closing Disclosure, which outlines the details of your mortgage loan. Compare the Closing Disclosure with your Loan Estimate to make sure all of the information is accurate.

  • 24 hours before closing: It’s recommended that you conduct the final walkthrough, which is your last chance to see the property before you buy it. Make sure all the systems in the house are working, including heating, plumbing and electrical. Also, check whether the seller has conducted any repairs they agreed to make.

On the closing date, set aside an hour or so to review all of the loan documents. Once you’ve signed the last one and have the keys in your hand, congrats! You’re officially a homeowner.

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.