I’m going to start this blog with a caveat: This is my story. Based on people I’ve talked to and other stories I’ve heard, I think this story is becoming more common. If you’re looking to get into real estate, take this as your starter homebuying timeline.
Note: All time windows below are working backward from your goal closing date. For me, this was a goal of two weeks before my lease was set to end (and I still had to add two weeks onto my lease because finding a hosue was so difficult). Your closing date is the date of allllllll of the paperwork when you finally get your keys!
Homebuying Timeline Milestone: Start talking to lenders.
You can’t start shopping for a home if you don’t know what you qualify for. Well, you can, but it’s a really terrible idea. I started by contacting my bank. Most places can do a pre-qualification with less invasive questions that doesn’t run your credit. This will give you a good idea of what you qualify for. Once you’ve selected a lender, you’ll move forward with the pre-approval (more on that later).
You can also start building your house wishlist during this time too. If you’re unsure where to start, check out Writing Your House Wishlist.
I’d also recommend finding your realtor by this time. Once you get your finances in a row, a realtor is the next step.
Homebuying Timeline Milestone: Start going to open houses and scheduling house tours.
If you’re really ready to take the plunge, get out there! There are so many things you’re going to see in houses that you’ll need to add or remove from your wishlist.
Also, if you find a house you love, PUT IN AN OFFER. I put in five or six offers on houses before one of mine was accepted. I had multiple houses come off the market before I could even go see them. It’s a cutthroat world out there!
By this time, your offer should be accepted, and you’re in the midst of negotiations.
Homebuying Timeline Milestone: Due Diligence.
The Due Diligence period is when you take care of all of the “cover your ass” parts of the process. You get your inspection done, to see if there are any big issues that the seller needs to fix, or that you can use in negotiations to lower the purchase price. Generally, the due diligence period is 7 or 10 days.
You will need to drop off your earnest money as well. This is generally 1% of the purchase price, and will be seen again at your closing.
You should also start the appraisal process as well. The appraisal is done on the behalf of your lender to make sure they didn’t agree to give you too much for your house. This is completed by a third party on a very factual basis. If the house does not appraise (like it didn’t for me), your lender will adjust your loan amount. This is leverage with the seller to adjust the purchase price. For the record, I highly recommend doing some research around the neighborhood so that you’re a little prepared for what the appraisal may bring. Also, the “Zestimate” from Zillow was somewhat accurate for me. You have 21 days from the binding date on your offer to complete the appraisal..
If you were ahead of the game and already got pre-qualified, you’re golden. If not, you best get your finances in order. Those 21 days to have for the appraisal also applies to your finances.
Homebuying Timeline Milestone: Services!
By this point, you know what needs to be fixed or improved around the property. All of the logistics are basically finished.
Start reaching out to your services providers. Transfer your internet, call the water company, get your gas and electric bundled. Whatever you need, take this “downtime” to get everything lined up for when you move in.
Homebuying Timeline Milestone: YOU JUST BOUGHT A HOUSE!
I’m sitting in my new house as I write this, and it still doesn’t feel real. This house has been mine for almost a month, and it still feels like somewhere I’m just renting. However, I’ve done a lot of yard work, which I would not have done if I were renting.
But seriously, go have a glass of champagne or pop a La Croix. You just did a HUGE thing. Take your keys and go walk through YOUR house.
I have a lot of house “wisdom” to pass on, so let me know what you want me to share! I’ll do a house tour once things are settled, but I want to share my experience in the hopes that it helps you.