In buying a home, a question that inevitably comes up is “how long does it take”? The answer will usually vary depending on what kind of buyer you are. It will vary if the home is sold in a traditional, short sale or foreclosure sale. It’s important for anyone involved to know that the timeline for each transaction will be different and that your REALTOR® should provide you with the expertise and information you need. While it's sometimes hard to pin down exactly how long the home buying process takes, we can offer the steps you will go through when buying a new home.
Step One: Communication
It’s important to find a REALTOR® who you have a good rapport with and understands what you’re looking for and the time frame regarding your real estate transaction.
As a buyer, the first thing you should be looking for is not the house but a REALTOR® who can lend their expertise in helping you narrow down the possibilities, based on your criteria, to find a home that best meets your needs.
Step Two: Knowledge
Once you’ve decided on a REALTOR®, it is important to equip yourself with knowledge about what you’re looking to do.
As a buyer, your REALTOR® should be able to help you coordinate with a mortgage broker or lender who can pre-qualify or pre-approve you for a home loan so that you will have the documents in place to submit an offer upon finding your dream home.
Step Three: The Offer
Okay, well really, step two and a half is, "Yes! We found our dream home!"
But, once this is done, the submission of the offer is a time of negotiations for both the buyer and the seller. It is important to pay particular attention to dates and deadlines that will be put into place at this juncture of the transaction. Your REALTOR® should be able to communicate, coordinate and streamline the process to ensure that the transaction stays on track.
As a buyer, the type of financing you will be utilizing and the type of sale will not only determine the term of the contract and when a closing date can be arranged but also how long and when you can start performing your due diligence on the home.
Step Four: Escrow and Contract
The escrow amount or earnest money is a dollar figure in which the you, as the buyer, are figuratively (pun intended) converting your interest in purchasing the property into a monetary amount. Higher earnest money deposits (“EMD”s) generally equate that you are very interested and engaged since it stands to reason that this is, potentially, money you would stand to lose if you breached contract terms. In analyzing and reviewing the terms of a contract, there are standard Florida REALTOR® contracts that are typically used which include boilerplate language. Additional terms and clauses should be integrated at the behest of the offering party but keep in mind that your REALTOR® is not an attorney. Detailed or complicated circumstances should be discussed with a licensed attorney. It’s important for both parties to understand that your REALTOR® should coordinate to put you in touch with knowledgeable agents who are experts in their respective industries. Just like you wouldn’t want a car mechanic working on your teeth, be careful that there is not the unauthorized practice of law in interpreting and navigating contract terms and language.
As a buyer, there are different expectations of what money is required to be put down when dealing with various transactions and the type of loan used. Your REALTOR® should discuss a reasonable amount to put down and your financial tolerance for the amount that is integrated into the contract. The contract will also start the clock for when you can get the inspection(s), appraisal, etc. completed. It is your responsibility (and your agent’s) to ensure that you comply with these deadlines as failure to perform or extend can result in contractual breach.
Step Five: Title Commitment
A clear and marketable title is perhaps one of THE most important aspects of a transaction.
As a buyer, it is in your best interest to ensure that there are no clouds on title to ensure that your future disposal of the property is not impeded due to something that was there prior to your purchasing the property. Title Commitments are generally issued by the title company or an attorney and will set off a period (typically 5 days) for you to proceed with the transaction or to cancel due to issues that make title not marketable.
Step Six: The Closing
Prior to closing, the buyer’s agent should schedule a final walk through to ensure that the property is still in the same condition as when all parties had executed the Purchase and Sale Agreement. A final walk through is similar to marriage vows for some. It’s the time for you to assess the residence/building one last time before locking yourself into a significant transaction that will impact a huge chunk of your life, for good or bad. Finally, the closing is when all parties get together to celebrate over the age-old ceremony of signing papers, shaking hands and exchanging hands of the keys to the property. There will be some circumstances where this doesn’t occur and you will be closing by mail or at different times due to scheduling conflicts. It’s always a good idea to let your REALTOR® know in advance if you cannot attend closing so that they can ensure as seamless a transition as possible for all parties involved.
Each transaction is as different and unique as the parties involved in the transaction and “how long” will vary accordingly. However, it is my hope that this article gives you a better understanding of the nuances behind the determining factors of “how long does the home buying process take?"
About the author, Christy Lim: Christy graduated with a Juris Doctor from Florida Coastal School of Law. Her areas of focus include residential and commercial real estate transactions, immigration and foreign investments and visas, and contract negotiations and alternative dispute resolution. Having over six years of real estate experience in Florida and having managed commercial properties for over fifteen years, throughout California, Florida and Texas, Christy brings forth a broad and diverse understanding of the complexities associated with the legal and real estate fields. Like what you read? Read another post by Christy, FAQs on Property Investment in Central Florida.