The Buyer’s 7-Step Timeline

Here is quick guide to show you the major steps in buying residential real estate. The average amount of time between an accepted offer and closing is 60 days. All cash offers can close in under 30 days while some transactions can take 90 days or more.

Step 1: Mortgage Pre-Approval

Most buyers need a loan to buy a home. Other than all cash offers, no seller will take seriously an offer that does not have a mortgage pre-approval letter attached to it. (See full article on getting pre-approved for a mortgage)

Start gathering the documents that the lender will need to pre-approve you. Among others, these documents include: recent bank statements, recent pay stubs from your employer, and your W-2 or 1099 from your most recent tax returns.

Step 2: Shopping and Getting to Know the Market

Shopping is fun but the key goal is to understand value and the local inventory better than the sellers do - and almost as well as the realtors do. If you have seen enough properties, you won’t worry or second-guess your offer when you finally make one.

Step 3: Making an Offer and Understanding Deposits

After I have thoroughly educated you to the marketplace and value, you will be more than ready to make an offer. (See full article on making an offer and understanding deposits)

Step 4: Attorney Review Period

Once the seller accepts your offer and signs it, the contract goes to the buyer's and seller’s attorneys for review. The Attorney Review is typically 3 days long and this period is mandated by law. This law grants you, and the seller, the right to change your mind and cancel the transaction without giving a reason and without penalty.

Step 5: The Inspection

Once attorney review is over and the property is under contract, an inspection is scheduled which usually takes place within approximately 7 days. I will be present, with you, for your inspection. Although I will remain in the background and let the inspector do his or her job. Once the inspector issues his or her report, you will review it and we will talk over any issues to be negotiated. The attorney may advise you as well. If there is an inspection issue that cannot be resolved; meaning that the sellers will not address a repair item that you feel is important, you may withdraw from the transaction and cancel the contract.

Step 6: The Appraisal, Final Mortgage Commitment and Insurance

Once attorney review is concluded, the bank will send the contract to the underwriting department for the purpose of issuing you a final mortgage commitment. This can take anywhere from 15-45 days, depending on the lender.

During this time, the bank will send an appraiser to the property to assess whether or not the home is worth at least what you offered to pay for it. Once the lender issues a final mortgage commitment, you are generally cleared to close.

However, prior to closing, you must obtain homeowner's insurance on the property. The insurance company or broker will give you either a receipt or what’s known as the deck page on the new policy to serve as proof that you have obtained it. You cannot close without it.

Step 7: Final Walk-through and Closing

On the day of the closing, I will take you to the property for a final walkthrough. The purpose is to be sure that the property appears to be in the same condition that it was in at the time you made the offer; that it is vacant, broom clean and free of debris, that the appliances, heat and hot water are all in working order. Closings usually take place at the buyer’s attorney’s office. When you arrive, you will spend 30-60 minutes signing loan documents. Once that is done, the actual transfer of title takes place and you are given the keys to your new home. It is best to call your insurance broker immediately following the closing to let them know that the transaction is complete.