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When to Start Looking for a House (How early should we start looking at houses)

As you begin to save up your down payment and you have close to the correct amount, you will naturally wonder when to start looking for a house. Here is a good guideline for how early to start looking for a house and the steps you should take leading up to that time.

When Should I Start Looking For A House?

The best time to start looking for houses is about five months before you want to move in. This gives you enough time in the process to get things in order, look for a home and move in without feeling rushed.

How Much Time Will it Take to Buy a Home?

Assuming you have done no prior research on your house, you will need to get things in order before you get started. This is the average timeline for a new home buyer.

How long before my lease is up should I start looking for a house?

If you are renting a place and your lease is coming due in the next 5-6 months. That is an ideal time to start looking. It will give you enough time to look for places. First, get approved for a loan from a mortgage lender. Next, find a few houses in your real estate market that meet your search criteria. Make a couple of offers, and ultimately get one accepted. It’s by looking ahead half a year that you can anticipate when you should start looking for a house.

Things can always move faster, but if you are tied up in another place, getting the home buying ball moving sooner than later is better than leaving it until it’s too late. The last thing you want to do is be rushing into a quick property purchase.


Millennial Homeowner Tip on How Early You Should Start Looking For A House

To find out how early you should be looking at houses, the best thing to do is work backward. The last thing that you do to put things in motion will be to put in an offer on a house. This will take between 24 to 72 hours (depending on the terms you set out in the offer), so let’s say three days.

Possession of the house is usually around a month to a month and a half. Sometimes you will get an extended possession date, meaning you won’t get into the house for a long time (anywhere from 3 months or longer).

Then you will need to find a mortgage broker, real estate agent, lawyer, and good home inspector. As well as get all of your finances in order. Which can take a month or two, depending on how busy you are.

So to keep the stress down (because trust me, when you are looking at a house, it can spike up), giving yourselves five months before you need to be somewhere else is a great plan.

You can speed this timeline up (or slow it down), but to not feel too rushed, you should give yourself this extra time to do everything needed with enough due diligence to feel comfortable.

Note: This assumes that you have already taken a look at your credit report and done the work to increase your credit scores (if you are buying a house with a significant other).  If you haven’t done this yet, it’s a good idea to check your credit score and look into mortgage pre-approval. There is nothing worse than getting your offer accepted to find out the bank won’t lend you the funds.


Month 1 (5 months out)

Start to look at open houses in areas you like and see what the prices on the houses are. This is also an excellent time to start informally interviewing real estate agents (here are ten questions to ask a realtor).

The real estate agent will be showing the houses you view, and you can chat with them and see if they are a good fit. See our article on how to find a good realtor here.


Month 2 (4 months out)

While you are looking at houses, you will want to get your mortgage affairs in order. This means getting approved for a mortgage (find out the difference between pre-qualified and pre-approved mortgages). You can do this with an online mortgage broker such as Lending Tree.

All of this time, you are going out and checking out places to get a feel for different neighborhoods and home prices.


Month 3 (3 months out)

Around now, you can interview real estate agents and pick one that is a good fit. At this point in your timeline for buying a house, your agent will get you to sign a contract, and they will set up a search on their MLS system. This way, you will get emails when new homes get listed that meet your criteria. Make sure you have this house hunting checklist to help you out.

You are starting to get into the buying phase of the home buying process. It’s a fun time, and being a home buyer is something you don’t do too often, so enjoy it.


Month 4 (2 months out)

This month will be more looking at homes (use this home inspectors checklist to make sure a house makes the cut on putting in an offer). The average person will look at eight homes before making an offer. Sometimes it’s more, other times less. But this is a good ballpark to aim for, and if you are finding yourself looking at more, it’s ok. You may need to tweak your search criteria or make some changes. Once you put in an offer, you will be setting a possession date.

Usually, a possession date on the house is around 4-6 weeks. This means that if you were to find a home today and put in an offer, you could be sitting in it a month from now. Of course, some possession dates are quicker, but that’s usually how long it takes to get into the place you are looking at.

Sometimes the listing will have a date in mind (the seller will likely be moving and will want the date around a particular time that works for them. You can make it a different date, but it may end up costing you a little more on the purchase price due to the inconvenience of the seller.

Note: When you are putting in an offer on the house, make sure you consider closing costs and other fees that will come up in the home buying process.


Month 5 (1 month out)

Now that your offer has been accepted, things can really heat up.

While you are waiting for possession of your new home, the mortgage lending company or bank will want other information. You will be picking out the type of mortgage and term and verifying any other loan details (rates, private mortgage insurance, etc…) with the lender. This is also when you will know your monthly mortgage payment, which can help you get your finances in order for when you move in.

You will also book the home inspection to clear up any inspection contingencies on your offer and touch base with your real estate lawyer. If any issues come up

Additionally, you can also coordinate getting insurance on your new house if that was a condition on closing.

While all this is going on, you will need to start packing and getting things ready for your big move. Make sure to keep track of everything in a moving binder and follow a moving timeline to make sure you stay on track.

If you need things, make sure to use a home essentials checklist to ensure you have everything for your new place.

End Of Month 5

This is your possession date and when you go to the lawyers to get the keys and close on the house. It’s exciting! Make sure you have these moving day essentials. You have gone through the closing process of the house, and it is now officially yours. Move in and make it your own!

Final thoughts on when to start looking for a house

While this timeline can change from person to person, giving yourself five months to get things ready and in order will ensure you are taking enough time and doing your due diligence on all things related to buying your first home.

Ultimately how far in advance should you start looking for a house will depend on your specific situation, but the key is to make sure you give yourself a lot of time.  This is the biggest purchase of your life, and you want to make sure you are taking the proper steps to buy a house. We hope this helps you know how to start looking at a house and how long before moving you should start looking for your new home.

when to start looking for a house


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