How long does it take to find a house? That answer depends on your unique situation. Here are 9 tips for finding homes in today's hot market.
How long does it take to find a house? The national average to buy a home is 53 days, and that includes finding the house and closing on your mortgage loan. But if you’re in hotter-than-average markets, your home search may be dragging on longer than that already.
If you’re feeling dispirited, that’s understandable. It’s tough to see house after house, only to feel no closer to owning one.
But it’s important to not lose heart because home prices will continue to rise. Buying this year will help you avoid getting priced out of the market, and you’ll benefit from increased home values once you’ve made the purchase.
We’ll tell you how to jumpstart your home search if you feel like your pursuit of your dream home has stalled.
How long does it take to find a house in today’s market?
The answer depends a lot on where you’re buying a home and how much flexibility you have as a buyer.
In a competitive market with few available homes, it can take months – even close to a year – to find the right property. There are a lot of qualified homebuyers out there and not enough homes, so if you’re looking in popular cities and suburbs, it could take a while.
If you’re looking in more moderate markets, such as many in the Midwest, you may have an easier time. Markets there haven’t seen the rush for properties and the rapid rise in prices that some coastal areas and popular cities have.
But wherever you are, it’s no secret that homebuying in today’s market can be tough. Home prices in many areas have risen steeply. Bidding wars in hot markets are common.
Here’s the good news: People are still buying houses every day. You just need a strategy that makes you one of them.
In some areas, sellers have their pick of buyers making cash offers, making it even more difficult to compete if you’re using financing or don’t have a lot of money to put down.
This tough environment can be particularly frustrating if you’re renting and want to build equity in a home. Rising home prices work for you if you already own a home that’s appreciating in value.
But they work against you if you don’t. Plus, rents have risen dramatically in many areas as well. You may be paying more to rent or facing a hike in your monthly payments, which can impact your ability to save.
Here’s the good news, though: People are still buying houses every day. You just need a strategy that makes you one of them.
9 Tips for finding a home in the current real estate market
How long it takes to find a house depends on a variety of factors. Here are 9 tips for finding a home in today's market.
Tip #1: Reframe your thinking
Not seeing houses you really want? If so, try to reframe your thinking. Consider your main goals. If it’s to build equity, the home you buy doesn’t have to be a forever home. It just needs to be one you feel comfortable living in for a few years while you build equity you can leverage to purchase a more desirable property.
If you’ve so far refused to look at homes outside of a particular neighborhood or at different types of houses, reconsider how important those goals are to you. The rewards of homeownership are many, and they include wealth creation and stable housing costs.
Looking for homes in other towns or neighborhoods or considering a townhouse over a single-family home, for instance, might help you break through the current challenges you’re having.
And try to see the opportunities in reframing your search. You may be able to find an affordable condo in a community with a pool, fitness center, and round-the-clock security. If you buy a multifamily property with an FHA or VA loan, you can put little money down and rent out the units you’re not living in.
You must live in one of the units as your primary residence for at least 12 months. But you can buy a duplex, triplex, or quadplex and start renting out the unused units immediately. Depending on your monthly mortgage payment and typical rental prices in your area, you may be able to use the rental income to cover your entire monthly payment.
Tip #2: Focus only on must-haves
Homebuyers typically start their searches with two lists: their must-haves and their nice-to-haves. Must-haves are non-negotiables, like a second bedroom for visiting relatives or main floor living for elderly residents or those with certain disabilities.
Nice-to-haves are negotiable, such as a patio with a fire pit, a front deck, or walking distance proximity to popular restaurants and shops.
You can breathe new life into your home search by focusing only on non-negotiable items. Look solely at houses that meet your needs, and you may be able to add your “wants” later. You can’t change the house’s location, but you can add a deck or patio, install a fire pit, or remodel an old room into something more modern and exciting.
Tip #3: Look for a fixer-upper
Fixer-uppers aren’t for everyone. But looking for a house that needs a little work can lead you to properties that have less competition and lots of potential. Plus, they’re likely to have a lower sale price, but they’ll appreciate in value as you renovate.
You might also have more room for negotiation. Jeff Shmase, a Realtor at Lamacchia Realty in Beverly, Massachusetts, notes that “looking for properties that have been on the market for more than 14 days can identify some that might need work.”
In today’s market, a house that’s been listed for a few weeks can scare off some buyers because they assume something is wrong with it. Always do your due diligence on a property and schedule a home inspection to make sure it’s safe and that you know what you’re getting into.
But looking at the houses no one else wants can help you hack the housing market.
Plus, you may qualify for a low down payment renovation loan that allows you to buy a house and pay for repairs and upgrades with a single mortgage.
Tip #4: Stay in touch with your Realtor
It pays to keep in touch with your Realtor. Why? Because they often know about houses coming on the market but which haven’t been listed yet. They might also get referrals to motivated sellers. Checking in with them regularly about any changes to your search criteria and to find out about new properties that will become available is a good way to stay ahead of the crowds.
Building that relationship also keeps you top of mind. If you looked in November and then paused your search because you didn’t find anything, your Realtor may have since heard of someone who got a new job and will soon put their house on the market. Stay in touch with them so you’ll get the first look at any hot properties they know about.
Talk to them about strategies for beating the crowds as well.
“The best realtors have creative ways to find properties before they've hit the market, and being able to get early access is a huge win,” says Ryan Ross, a Realtor at Weichert Realtors in Morris County, New Jersey.
“The best realtors have creative ways to find properties before they've hit the market, and being able to get early access is a huge win.”
Ryan Ross, Realtor
Tip #5: Visit your target neighborhoods
While most people look for houses online, it can pay to keep your eyes peeled while visiting the neighborhoods you’re interested in. Scope out “For sale by owner” and “open house” signs to get a sense of what’s on the market there.
Plus, don’t be afraid to chat with the coffeehouse barista or the owner of the quaint antique shop about homes in the neighborhood. They may know someone who’s thinking about selling or have seen a “for sale” sign themselves.
Putting in the extra legwork may shorten how long it takes to find a house.
Tip #6: Keep friends and family in the loop
Let your friends, family, and even colleagues know you’re looking for a house. Ask them to share any potential leads with you, because you never know where the right home will come from.
Post your situation on social media, if you’re comfortable doing so. You never know when a cousin or high school friend might be thinking of listing their home or know of someone in their own networks that’s preparing to sell.
You may be able to see the property and make an offer even before it hits the market, eliminating all of the heartburn-inducing stress of bidding wars and open houses.
Tip #7: Practice self-care while house hunting
This market is not easy for homebuyers.
“Keep mentally prepared for competing in this type of fast-paced seller’s market,” recommends Donald Olhausen, Jr., a real estate agent for Realty ONE Group Pacific in San Diego. “The goal here is to be very patient and view as many properties as possible.”
Take mental health breaks when needed, and keep a long-term perspective. There’s a sense of urgency about homebuying these days, but it’s important to make an offer on the right property for you. Panic buying could lead to homebuyer’s remorse and even more stress.
“Be careful not to win a bid just to later regret it,” Olhausen says. “Wait for the right opportunity.”
Tip #8: Keep your information current with your lender
It’s a good idea to get preapproved* before you look at houses. But if it’s taking longer than expected to find a house, stay in contact with your lender to make sure they have the most current information on hand.
Preapprovals are good for 120 days, after which your lender will need to update your credit, income, and asset information.
To avoid any delays in the process, be proactive about providing your lender with updated pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns if you’ve filed since you were preapproved.
It’s also a good idea to check in with your lender as interest rates rise.
“Rates may have changed, so you'll want to get an idea of what your buying power is,” Ross says.
An increased rate could change your preapproval amount and you want to make sure you’re looking at homes that are in your price range.
Tip #9: Assess your budget periodically
A hot market can drive home prices up significantly within just a few months. Plus, inflation of consumer prices in general, at 7%, is higher than it’s been in decades. Interest rates may also tick up during 2022. The more they move up, the more your mortgage payment will rise.
If you drew up a budget of what was affordable before starting the search, be sure to update it periodically during a lengthy search. Your own assessments of what homes are in your price range may change based on your income and how your monthly expenses are affected by inflation.
The bottom line
It’s only human to feel a bit discouraged if you’ve been pounding the pavement to find your new home for a while now. But don’t despair. Use the steps above to invigorate your search, and keep going until you’ll find a home that meets your needs.
How long does it take to find a house? Key Takeaways:
- In some markets, it can take several months or longer to find a home and get an offer accepted
- Adjusting your expectations and requirements for a home can expand the number of potential properties available to you
- Fixer-uppers can be a great way to find affordable homes, and you can buy the house and pay for renovations with a single loan
- Ask friends, family, and colleagues to keep an eye out for potential homes
- Stay in touch with your real estate agent and lender, even when you’re struggling to find a home
*Pre-approval is based on a preliminary review of credit information provided to Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, which has not been reviewed by underwriting. If you have submitted verifying documentation, you have done so voluntarily. Final loan approval is subject to a full underwriting review of support documentation including, but not limited to, applicants’ creditworthiness, assets, income information, and a satisfactory appraisal.