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First-Time Homebuyer in Houston? This Is the Timeline You Can Expect

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If you’re preparing to buy your first home in Houston, Texas, you may be eager to complete the process as fast as possible. The thought of moving into your new home is an exciting one, and it’s natural to yearn for the finish line.

However, there are many steps to buying a home, and you don’t want to rush through them—or you might miss out on some important details, or end up making a decision you regret. If you’re looking for a quick answer, estimates that the average home buyer spends 30-60 days shopping for a home, with 14-60 days between contract signing and closing. But let’s look at the factors that determine those periods in a little more detail.

Saving and Credit Preparation

The first part of the home buying process should ideally occur several years before the actual purchase is made. If you’re going to buy a home, you need to have the financial resources and stability necessary to do so, and that means saving money and making fiscally responsible decisions.

The typical down payment on a home is as little as 5 percent, with some qualifying for as little as 3 percent, and others opting for a stronger 20 percent stake. If you’re looking at a $200,000 home, for example, you should work on saving $10,000 for the down payment—which could take you months to years, depending on your income and spending habits. You should also take this time to make sure your credit score is in good shape; otherwise, you’ll have trouble securing a mortgage.

Bottom line: 1-3 years

Pre-Approval and Agent Selection

When you’re ready to start looking for a home, you’ll want to be pre-approved for a mortgage by a lending institution. This is a process that usually takes less than a week, and can be done by any financial institution. This isn’t a formal approval for a mortgage, so you aren’t under any obligation to follow through on it, but it will let prospective home sellers know that you’re serious about buying a home—and it will also help you understand how much you can afford. For example, you wouldn’t be able to shop for $200,000 homes if you’re only able to get pre-approved for a $100,000 mortgage.

After you have pre-approval, you’ll need to look for a home buying agent. You don’t technically need a home buying agent when looking for a home, but they’re especially helpful for first-time buyers. They work on your behalf to help you secure a better deal, can give you access to more homes on the market, and their commission is usually paid for by the seller—so you have nothing to lose. Find an agent who has lots of experience in your chosen area, and make sure they’re easy to work with.

Bottom line: 1-2 weeks

Touring and Researching

The next phase of the home buying process is by far the most variable. At this point, you’ll start looking for houses online and in person, evaluating them based on their value and how they fulfill your needs. Depending on what you’re looking for, or if you even know what you’re looking for, this process could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

For example, if you start out not knowing what you want and taking the house hunt at a leisurely pace, it could take you several weeks before you can put together a list of your wants. After that, if your list is extensive, it could take months of further house hunting to find the perfect residence.

On the other hand, if you’re chomping at the bit to get in a house as soon as possible (due to pressure from work, for instance), and you aren’t overly picky about the features of the home, you might be able to find a good fit in just a few weeks.

In any case, when you find a house you like, you’ll want to undergo a home inspection, which costs a few hundred dollars and takes a week or less to schedule and complete. This will tell you if anything is wrong with the house, and if so, you may require the current owner to correct these flaws before you make a formal offer.

Bottom line: 1-6 months

Contract to Close

When you’re sure you’ve found the right house and you’ve passed the home inspection, it will be time to work with your buying agent to prepare a formal offer, which may include stipulations (such as repairs to be completed before close). The seller will usually counteroffer, and negotiations will continue until a mutual decision is made. This process may take a week or two, but at the end of it, you’ll have a mutually signed contract.

This period of time is known as “contract to close,” and represents the final paperwork and financial hurdles you’ll undergo before you’re able to move in. The current homeowner may request a specific amount of time before move-in as well.

If you’re buying the home with cash, the closing process is relatively simple, and can take as little as two weeks. Otherwise, if you’re securing financing, there are many variables that could factor into the time it takes to complete. In some cases, your mortgage will be approved almost immediately. In others, you’ll experience a frustratingly long back-and-forth as the bank’s underwriters verify your information and research the feasibility of the loan. After that, your buying agent will work with you to secure the title, and your mortgage lender will work with you to finalize the financial paperwork. Still, most closing procedures are done within 4 weeks.

Bottom line: 2-4 weeks

There’s no such thing as a “typical” home buying process. You may go through most of the same steps that other home buyers will, but your preferences, your chosen area, your agent, and dozens of other factors will affect the length of the process. If you’re ready to get started, Green Residential is the perfect place to get started—we’ve got real estate listings from all over the Houston area, so you can get your timeline started today!

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