Home Buying and Selling Timeline
What Happens When You Buy or Sell a House?
You’ve decided to find your dream home. What’s next? Whether you are a first-time buyer or need to prepare your house for sale so you can downsize or upgrade, let’s walk through what your timeline will look like as you progress through the home buying or selling process.
Timeline for Buying a House
Step 1: Decision to Buy
Congratulations! You have decided to make your dream of owning a home into a reality. Now what’s the next step in your buying a house timeline?
Step 2: Plan a Budget
Before you begin the process of buying a house, decide how much you can comfortably spend. You can learn more about this process here.
Step 3: Shop Around for Lenders
Begin the process of securing a mortgage lender to get prequalified for a loan. There are a variety of approaches you can take for your mortgage, learn more about your options here.
Step 4: Contact a Real Estate Professional
Once you've assessed your spending qualifications, you will need to find a real estate professional. This person can guide you on home tours, as well as providing guidance on your offer. Read our blog to see some questions you can ask potential agents.
Step 5: View Homes and Choose
Work with your real estate agent to schedule tours and when you are ready, make your decision for your next home. Need guidance on how to select your dream home? Visit our blog to learn how to build your dream home checklist.
Step 6: Create the Sales Contract
Now’s the time to work with your real estate agent on your sales contract. This will include the terms of your transaction, including the buyer and seller information, property details, purchase price, contingencies, and more.
At this point, some negotiation may take place between you and the seller in regarding the price and final terms. Read our blog to learn how to navigate this process here.
Step 7: Go into Escrow
You've successfully put a home under contract and entered the escrow period. Once you submit your earnest money, here’s a few things to prepare before closing day:
- Option, Contingency, or Inspection Period: This is the time between your offer’s acceptance and the final real estate contract. The amount of time is negotiated between the you and seller, but it typically ranges 7-10 days and represents the amount of time you have to back out of the transaction without losing your earnest money deposit. This usually occurs doe to issues found during inspection.
- Home inspection: Now is the time to have a professional inspect the house. This is the time to ensure you know what you are signing up for in terms of repairs or potential remodeling costs. Visit our blog to deep dive the home inspection process and how to find an inspector.
- Appraisal: Your mortgage lender will require an appraisal of the home before lending you money. After making an offer, your lender will send an appraiser to assess the home’s value. You may need to put more money down should their determined value exceed the sales price of the home.
- Attend a final walkthrough: this typically takes place 1-2 days prior to closing. During this time, you will walk the home to ensure overall property is in the state you last saw it and any agreed upon repairs have been completed.
Step 8: Go to Closing
This is the big day – you are about to be the owner of a new home. Here, anticipate signing several documents that will tie off the home buying process. Read our article on how to prepare for your closing.
Interested in going more in depth on the closing journey? Visit here.
Timeline for Selling a House
Step 1: Decision to Sell
Your house is too small. Your house is too big. It’s in the city and you want to live in the country, or it’s in the country and you want to live in the city. Now is the moment to make the call on moving into a new space.
Step 2: Contact a Real Estate Professional and Select Your Price
Work with a real estate agent to determine an optimal market price. There are many strategies you can take for this step, but you are more likely to benefit by determining a fair value and sticking close to it than by asking an unrealistic figure. Visit our blog for more details on working with a real estate professional.
Step 3: Home Showings
Prepare your home for planned or unexpected showings. Your house should always be available for a potential buyer to see, even though it occasionally may be inconvenient for you. Click here for a few home staging tips for open house.
Step 4: Accept Offer or Counter
A valid real estate contract must be in writing and be freely offered by the buyer and accepted by the seller. All parties to the contract must be legally competent to do business. Money or other valuable consideration needs to be exchanged for title to the property. For tips on negotiating your sales contract, read our article here.
Step 5: Escrow: Contract to Closing
You’ve accepted an offer and are under contract. Here’s what you can expect during this transitional period between sales contract and closing:
- Option, contingency, or inspection Period: This is the time between accepting the buyer’s offer and the final real estate contract. The amount of time is negotiated between the you and buyer, but it typically ranges 7-10 days and represents the amount of time the buyer has to back out of the transaction without losing their earnest money deposit.
- Title search and curative: The title to the home will be reviewed during this time to ensure your property ownership is free and clear. Should any issues arise, your title company will work to resolve them for a clean real estate transaction. Paying for this process is a common seller concession – consider if this is something you are willing to cover prior to accepting an offer.
- Home inspection: During this time, an inspector will review your property for potential safety hazards. Depending on what comes out of the inspection, you may need to negotiate with the buyers as to who’s responsible for any repairs required. Visit our blog to deep dive the home inspection process and how to find an inspector.
- Appraisal: After receiving an offer, the buyer’s mortgage lender will send an appraiser to assess your home’s value. Here they will determine if the property value exceeds the sales price of the home. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to challenge the appraisal or negotiate with the buyer to save the transaction. Read our blog for tips to help to get a higher value on your appraisal.
- Prepare for a final walkthrough: this typically takes place 1-2 days prior to closing. During this time, the buyer will walk your home to ensure it’s in expected condition. You can prepare for this by ensuring the home remains in the same state as it was during inspection and that the requested repairs are complete.
Interested in learning more about the overall escrow process? Visit our blog here to read more.
Step 6: Go to Closing on Home Buying and Selling Timeline
As the seller, you have relatively little to do at this point. Avoid common glitches by keeping abreast of progress on both sides and be prepared to sign several documents that hand ownership from you to the buyer. Visit our blog for tips on how to prepare for your closing.
Interested in learning more about the closing process? View more about our closing services here.
Learn More About the Real Estate Transaction
Want to learn more about the home buying and selling process? Our Insights website section is dedicated to providing this information. From home listing tips, décor for home staging, to ways to approach your new home’s budget, we have a variety of information dedicated to helping you stay informed about all things real estate.
Visit our Home Buyers and Home Sellers Corner
For more specific guidance as to how the transaction will progress in your area, contact your local Stewart Title office.
* Real estate transactions vary based on state and local jurisdiction. This page is meant to provide an overall guide as to the home buying and selling process.