The length of time it takes to find a house to purchase depends upon 3 basic factors: How quickly you can find a commitment to finance your property; how competitive your current housing market is; and how demanding you are as a buyer.
Before you start looking for a house, you should shop your financing. If you begin looking for a property before you know how much you can afford, you are likely to set yourself up for disappointment. A $200,000 home is seldom as appealing as a $400,000 home. Having a lender's letter in hand when you find a property will also allow you to move forward quickly, which is important in a competitive market.
The Market Direction
How long it takes to find a house largely depends on the direction of your current market. Declining markets can be the most dangerous markets in which to buy. Your best protection is to have a firm understanding of the current value of properties on the market. In a down market, properties may be plentiful, but extraordinary bargains may still be competitive. Appreciating markets can also be frustrating because buyers are often willing to bid more than the asking price.
Your Wants and Needs
You need to know what you want before you begin looking. Put a higher emphasis on the qualities of a house that cannot be changed, such as the location, lot size, architectural qualities and the quality and long-term prospects for the surrounding neighborhood. Rooms can be painted or added on, carpet replaced and appliances upgraded, but a railroad track in the backyard is not likely to go away any time soon.
External factors may well influence how quickly you can find and close on a house. Are you looking for a home in a particular school district? Are you looking for a home with a certain number of bedrooms and baths? Are you looking for a home near your work or located near a highway to help facilitate an easy commute? Any of these factors and many more scenarios can slow down even the most eager buyers.
The Final Decision
If you are the final decision maker, then you won't have to worry about what anyone else thinks. If you have a partner, then you need to come to a meeting of the minds before you can move forward with a contract. Agreeing upon a house to buy can be a major issue with couples. Talk it over before you start looking. Draw up a list of features you both want. Use your list to help make the final decision. Try to find a home with at least 80 percent of the items on your list.
Your Exit Strategy
If you buy the property right, meaning below market value, you will have an easier time selling your property later. Most buyers are not thinking about selling before they buy, but they should. You simply cannot afford to overpay for a property even if you are planning to keep it for years.