closing on a house
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The home-buying process isn’t for the faint of heart, and the closing process is the final step of a potentially long road. The question is, how long does it take to close on a house? And how can you try to line up the process in a way that prevents you from an overlap of rent and mortgage, or an unexpected stay in a hotel? Let’s find out.

The Typical Timeframe for Closing on a House

Mortgage application software provider Ellie Mae recently released data on the average length of time it takes to close on a home. Their findings showed that in June 2019, the average on a newly purchased home was 45 days. That doesn’t venture far off the previous months of the year, which all stayed within the range of 43 to 49 days.

What does that mean for you? Averages are helpful, but they rarely tell the whole story. Times can vary based on you, your seller, and the property. Team Leader/Realtor at the Keefe Team of Keller Williams NJ Metro Group in Montclair, Jessica Keefe, said the average closing time she sees is 60 days. She adds that she has seen up to 90 in unique circumstances, and she called a 30-day closing “lightning speed.”

The thing to note is the special circumstances that can come up. Keefe goes on to explain a situation in which a seller said they removed an oil tank from their property — only for the buyer to find out there was a second one in the backyard. Removing it proved to be harder than expected, as it had a crack and the EPA had to get involved due to contamination in the soil. All told, the home took six months to close.

A situation like this isn’t common, but it’s a reminder to prepare for the possibility of unusual circumstances. To get an idea of how best to prepare, Keefe says that buyers could do well to start looking about three to four months before they need to move — which would leave two months to find a home and two months to close. The caveat is that the market in different places can vary quite a bit, but this is the timeframe that seems to work well in her domain of northern New Jersey.

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Preparation Can Make for a Smoother Closing Process

Some common delays to the closing process include financing issues, inspection issues, and low appraisals (which could lead to a new negotiation, as banks won’t fund a mortgage for more than a home is appraised for). The good news is, there are some things you can do to work towards a speedy closing.

To do your part to ensure a smooth closing, Keefe says that it’s important to provide your mortgage company with all the necessary documents immediately. It’s a lot of paperwork to gather, but crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s here means you don’t have to deal with time-consuming paper wrangling later.

Keefe also says that you can do yourself a favor by choosing a mortgage broker carefully. She experienced one deal in which the mortgage broker stopped returning calls, failed to order an appraisal and “had to be badgered into providing a mortgage commitment.” You can try to prevent a situation like this by talking to people you trust to see who they’ve worked with, or read reviews on any institution you might want to engage with for the mortgage process.

Getting Into Your Next Home

As difficult as the home-buying process can sometimes be, a long search might be well worth it if you end up in a home you can love for years to come. It doesn’t hurt to start looking around before you feel you need to move to get a feel for the prices where you live, while also seeing how quickly homes in your price range get snapped up.

Then, calculating a budget for a home you can afford (remembering to account for the extra costs of homeownership such as taxes, heating and cooling, and maintenance) and getting a pre-approval when you’re ready to start looking for real can ensure that you’re prepared to move if you find a home you want.

With any luck, you’ll be more than ready to move on your next home and could be living there within two months or less after closing.

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