If you’re a first time home buyer, one of the first questions you might ask yourself is “how soon should I start looking?”  What you really what to know is “How long will it take to find me a house?”  Great question.

Some buyers search for months and months, looking at dozens of homes, sometimes multiple times.  Then, just when they think they’ve found ‘the one,’ the seller accepts someone else’s offer and its off the market.  So they look some more, and see lots of homes that won’t work, before finding the perfect place.

Other buyers start their search by viewing two homes, one of which is perfect – and they buy it!  Quick and easy, done in a weekend.

Neither one is right or wrong.  Sometimes its hard to find what you’re looking for, but other times it shows up right away.  In today’s market, there aren’t many homes to choose from, as inventory has been on the decline for over 2 years now.  While more will come available in the spring and summer, there isn’t a tsunami of new options on the horizon.  More like a healthy ripple.

So back to the question – how long will it take, and when should you start?  Well, let’s start at the end and work backwards.  Suppose you have a lease that ends on June 30th, and ideally you’d like to be moved into your new house and not have to pay both rent and a mortgage payment.

Quick aside: when you purchase a home, if your closing occurs anywhere from the middle to the end of the month, your first mortgage payment won’t be due the next month but the following, ie: closing on May 15 means you’ll make your first mortgage payment on July 1.

In this scenario, you’d want to be closed on your new house well before the end of your lease, so let’s say June 15th at the latest (again, which would result in an August 1 first mortgage payment).  It typically takes anywhere from 30-60 days to close, on average around 45 days.  So if you planned to close June 15th, you’d want to have a property under contract no later than May 15th.

Here’s where it get’s tricky.  If you’re one of those ‘one and done’ buyers, you might see a house on May 14th, love it, make an offer and BOOM!  But if you’re like most people, you’ll be on the hunt for at least a month, and probably more.

I’d recommend you begin your search as early as possible – certainly it wouldn’t hurt to be looking at properties in March and April.  And even keeping an eye on things as early as February.

Bottom line: from start to settled in, expect the process to take somewhere around 4 months, give or take a little.  Happy House Hunting!

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.