Buying a home is one of the most significant financial decisions you’re likely to make in your lifetime, and for that reason can a time-consuming process. After all, you’ll want time to find a home that fits your lifestyle, needs, and budget. However, when in the homebuying process is the best time to start looking for a house?

Timing is important when looking to buy a suitable home. Homebuyers should start looking for a house at least six months before they plan to move in; this allows them to get the right home loan, save for a down payment, build their credit score, and find the right property.

The following sections will highlight a timeline of what to expect when looking to buy a house, and when the process should start, especially as a first-time homebuyer. 

When Am I Ready to Start Looking for a Home?

Of course, purchasing a home is a big step, so it is essential to make sure you are ready. The following are four signs that it is time to start looking for a home to buy:

1. Your Family is Growing

Your family size always plays a role in the size and type of home you buy. Are you expecting a baby or are your kids growing up fast? Getting a new home to accommodate your new family member or your teenage kids may be a great idea.

2. You Have Steady Employment

Is your employment stable? Most lenders require at least two years of stable work. If you have had a steady job for the last two years, then you are ready to start looking for a home to buy. 

3. You Have Money Saved Up

If you currently have savings, you are already on the right path to homeownership. Most lenders require that you have 3 to 20 percent of your home purchase price as a down payment. Saving is essential because even if you qualify for a VA loan with zero down, you will still need to cover your inspection cost, closing costs, and warranties.

4. You Have a Decent Credit Score

Your credit score plays a huge role when seeking home loans. For most lenders, your credit score needs to be at least a 580 to qualify for most loan programs.

If all or most of these signs apply to you, you’re in the perfect position to start looking for a new home.

The Typical Home Buying Timeline

Although you may have determined that you are, in fact, ready to purchase a home, that does not mean that you should start looking for houses right away. There is a whole process involved with home buying, which begins with finding a real estate agent that can help you with your search.

Hiring the Right Real Estate Agent (1-3 Weeks)

When looking to buy a house, it is essential that you work with an experienced local realtor. The realtor you choose can make or break your entire buying process. While it is possible to find a realtor in a day, take your time to research a selected list of agents to ensure you find the best person to help.

Get Pre-Approved for a Loan (1-2 Weeks)

Before you start looking for a new home, you’ll have to get your home loan in order. After all, you’ll need to know how much house you can afford so you can look at homes that fit within your budget.

While most lenders will pre-approve your mortgage request within three days, you should spend time researching the different mortgage types and lenders around your locality. Your realtor may be of great assistance when finding the right lender or mortgage type.

Make a List and Go to House Viewings (1 Week to 4 Months)

Once your mortgage has been pre-approved by a lender, the next step is to draw up a list of homes that fit your needs. (This is the point in time you can really start looking for houses.) You need to make a list based on their price, location, and size and should discuss your expectations with your agent.

Your agent will need to help you set up home viewings based on your list. The timing of this aspect varies according to location. For some areas, for example, you may visit several houses and make an offer that gets accepted the same day. The average time spent on viewing homes is usually three months.

Once you have found a home you love, expect the following to happen next:

  • Make an Offer and Negotiate (1-14 Days)
  • Get Your Loan Approved (1-2 Months)
  • Conduct Home Appraisal (1-2 weeks)
  • Home Inspection (1-3 Weeks)
  • Closing (1-3 Days) {LINK: How long does it take to close on a house in Texas?}

The Bottom Line

While the timeline mentioned above may vary from person to person, it is generally recommended to start looking for a home six months before you expect to move in. This gives you enough time to find a realtor, apply and get pre-approved for a loan, and find the right home that fits your needs and budget.