- how much time will be required before you’re ready to choose a home to purchase (or how many homes will you need to see)
- how many offers will you have to write
- and finally, how much time is involved in getting the transaction closed
We are presuming that our readers know that a pre-approval, not a pre-qualification, is absolutely necessary. Being pre-underwritten is better still. The lender decision needs to be made early on, before house hunting.
The short answer: if you are pre-approved, have cash in the bank, are decisive, are on the same page (if buying with someone else), and committed, you could go from getting the pre-approval letter to owning a home in 6 weeks – if everything lines up perfectly. For most people, it’s 2- 4 months.
What could go wrong? What could slow things down? Please read on!
How long does it take to buy a home in Silicon Valley: first step, selecting a home to bid on
Often our clients need to see 10 homes, sometimes a little more, in person before they feel like they know the market and the choices well enough to select a home they want to write an offer on. This is after a highly refined search, usually, with a lot of info provided upfront and online. Many properties are eliminated before we ever see them.
How long does it take? Depending on how broad of an area they’re considering, and how much of a hurry they’re in, this varies, but normally is 4 – 6 weeks for most of our home buyer clients. Some are faster, some slower.
Clients relocating to the San Jose area often want to settle in. If they’ve owned homes before, they may have a perfect idea of what will and won’t work for them. Once I sold a Los Gatos house to a couple before the wife ever saw the property! They moved every couple of years, the husband knew his wife’s requirements perfectly and they had no trouble being expedient.
If clients look for 3 or 4 months and never even write an offer, they are either not serious, not realistic, or if there are two buyers, they aren’t in agreement with each other. We see this too often.
Ranking priorities well can speed up the process of finding a house worth buying
It’s much harder for home buyers, who may not be positive about their priorities (and ordering of them). In every market, understandably, it takes more time and exposure to listings before they’re ready to take the plunge. Clair and I do our best to help our clients to identify their priorities and then to rank them.
Without the ranking, it’s almost impossible to make a decision.
If it’s a couple buying and they rank things differently, that makes it nearly impossible to find an acceptable home, too. Not only should they have the same “must have” list and “would like to have” list, the top priorities need to be in order. If you want a home with X school features, Y commute, and Z square footage, which of these is most important?
For home buyers with clear priorities and solid grasp of what they can afford, often the “looking” part of the equation is a month or less, especially if they’ve been visiting open houses and doing research on the web. Some will be faster, some slower, but if you’re buying a home I do suggest seeing at least properties before writing an offer to purchase one of them.
Multiple offers may mean writing offers multiple times
Today, the process is longer than many entry level home buyers would want because there are so many multiple offers that frequently several bids will be made before one is successful. What may seem like a 2 month process from the outside (searching for a home, bidding on it, and closing on it) may really take six months or more.
Part of the time is due to a “buyer’s learning curve” for some. It seems counter-intuitive to write offers higher than list price, or to limit or eliminate contingencies, but if there are several other offers besides yours, that’s probably what you’ll have to do to get the home. We hate the pressure that is put on home buyers, but acknowledge that the Silicon Valley real estate market conditions are highly competitive.
Most buyers do not get the first property on which they write an offer. Some do. Many get it on the 2nd or 3rd try. If buyers only like one house every 6 weeks, it could be a long haul. When prices are rising, that is also an expensive situation. Many times I have seen self proclaimed “picky buyers” or “conservative buyers” get priced out of the market.
First time home buyers: how long does it take to buy a home if getting far away family advice?
When home buyers are young, far away, older relatives may want to help by providing advice, whether sought or not, and in some cases may push their young family members to this or that type of sale.
Worst is when the parents or other family members don’t see all of the homes or do all of the research, but then veto the purchase in an effort to protect them. Very frustrating.
Advice to bid, but poorly, can also be obstacles to home buying. Sometimes these well intention family members strongly advise low offers or terms that strictly favor the buyer. A few years ago, one buyer said to me that her relatives just didn’t understand that when there are multiples you pay more than list price, not less. “I’m just not going to discuss it with them any more”, she said, after losing out 4 or 5 times. The next time she placed an offer on a home (this one got 16 offers), she was successful, and is very happy in her new house.
This can happen with less pressure from “over the cubicle wall” input from people who have not bought or sold recently and who remember a different type of market, contract, etc.
How long does it take to buy a home with family and friends advising you? If they are local, invite them along when you tour homes. If they are going to weigh in, they should get educated just as you are getting educated. Be sure to give them the market statistics so that they can get their sticker shock out of the way early on.
How long does it take to buy a home in terms of the escrow period?
Once in contract, the typical time to close escrow, or to finalize the sale, is 30 days. It can be faster (a week or less) for “all cash” transactions. We’ve seen financed sales close as fast as 18 days. It can be longer (45 or 60 days) if the seller needs a longer escrow or there are special circumstances.
Bank owned homes usually close in a typical 30 day timeframe. We don’t see many of them in this market. Also we see few short sales. Those can take months to close.
Escrow delays can happen due to loans sometimes, or due to truly unforeseen events, such as a natural disaster, fire, etc. Most of the time, though, escrows close on time or very close to on time.
You may not be able to move in the day that escrow closes
Rentbacks and seller leasebacks are fairly common right now as sellers many times are buying nearby and need to do work prior to moving into the next home. (Some rentbacks are free, some aren’t – it all depends upon how you write up the contract with your Realtor.) So your move in date may not be the same as your close of escrow date.
Whenever you get possession of the house, then you can do whatever work is necessary before moving in. Most homes need around 1% of the value of the property, to maybe 1.5%, in needed repairs. Some of them can be done after moving in, but some items, such as fumigation or refinishing hardwood floors or dry rot in bathrooms are most often done before you move in.
At the extreme, some houses need a lot of remodeling. We have known people who took a year to rehabilitate a house before moving in. For most people, it’s 2-4 weeks.
Final thoughts on what it takes to buy a house, and how long
How long does it take to buy a home in Silicon Valley? There are a lot of variables. It’s not an easy time for buyers as the best homes tend to get multiple offers, and it may take a few tries before getting your offer accepted. If you hire a great Realtor (or a strong team of Silicon Valley real estate agents), heed their data and follow their advice. Some homes may be worth fighting for, and others maybe not so much.
On this site, and on our others, we have a number of articles on buying a house or condo. We hope that you’ll find them informative and valuable.
How long does it take to buy a home in Silicon Valley? – Related Reading
Evaluating your priorities (on popehandy.com)
Viewing an open house (on popehandy.com)
Silicon Valley home buying and bidding wars (on Move2SiliconValley.com)
San Jose districts and their values (on Move2SiliconValley.com)
Luxury homes for sale in Los Gatos (on LiveInLosGatosBlog.com)
List of Los Gatos neighborhoods – dozens of neighborhood profiles (on LiveInLosGatosBlog)
Looking for a professional real estate guidance?
We are a mother-daughter team with lots of experience, big on service and educating and guiding our clients to get their desired outcomes of buying or selling homes in Silicon Valley. We are responsive, hard working, and always put our clients’ interest first. We aren’t salesy but we are info centric and data driven. We offer any prospective client a free, no obligation one hour consultation. Please ping me by email at email@example.com and from there we can set up a call or video chat.