How Long Does it Take to Find the Right House?
A breakdown of the homebuying process and tips for finding your ideal home faster.
By Emily Southey | 11 minute read
Buying a home is a dream come true for many Canadians. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or quick. In fact, depending on the market and the buyer, purchasing a home can take a considerable amount of time. So if you’re in the market for a new home and are wondering “how long should I expect the process to take?” you’re not alone. Luckily, we break it down for you below.
The average time it takes to find the right house
How much time it takes to find the right house varies. For some homebuyers, the process can be as little as a month but for others, it can be a months-long journey. On average, the homebuying process in Canada takes about three months. Please note that this calculation is based on the process beginning with hiring a realtor and shopping for homes and ending on the date you move into your new home. The overall process is much longer than this if you count the beginning as saving for a down payment, which can take between six months and two years.
If you’re a newcomer to Canada, then you may have some very specific challenges you’ll come up against during your house-hunting process: from lack of Canadian credit history to language barriers to understanding fixed vs variable mortgage rates. Get some tips on how to overcome these challenges.
While three months is the average, it’s not abnormal for the homebuying process to fall somewhere between two months and six months. If you buy a pre-construction home, you can add up to a year to this time frame. Alternatively, if you purchase a resale property with cash and no contingencies, the process might be as short as 30 days.
The length of time it takes to find a house is a crucial piece of information. If you currently rent your property, you may need to consider renewing your lease if the homebuying process takes longer than you expected. Below, we go into greater detail about how long you can expect each step in the homebuying process to take.
A breakdown of the homebuying process
Understanding each step in the homebuying process is vital to estimating how long it will take. From gathering the necessary documents to interviewing realtors, we break down the homebuying process below.
Saving money for the down payment: six months to two years
When purchasing a home, even if you intend to take out a mortgage, you will need to save some money first. This is the lengthiest part of the process and can take anywhere from six months to two years. Ideally, you should aim to save enough money for a down payment. Down payments are typically between 5% and 20% of the total purchase price. Therefore, the amount of money you must save depends on your budget and how much you plan to spend on a future home.
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage: one to 10 days
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is the next step in the homebuying process, and this can take anywhere from one day to 10 days. To ensure you are getting the best possible rate, we recommend shopping around and comparing quotes. However, doing so will add some time to the overall process. Plus, before you can apply for mortgage pre-approval, you will need to gather the necessary documents. Mortgage pre-approvals are based on key pieces of information provided by the homebuyer. Therefore, you will need to take some time to gather employment information, such as a T4, pay stub, letter from your employer, or notice of assessment (if you are self-employed), bank statements detailing your savings and investments from the last three months, a list of all assets and debts, and a void cheque. If a family member or close friend is helping you finance your home, you will also need a letter stating that the money is a gift and not a loan.
Touring properties: one week to two months
Touring properties is the next step and it can vary in length considerably. Depending on the market, you might have to move quickly if you find a house you like. However, if there are multiple bidders, your offer might not be accepted, forcing you to restart your search. The length of time this step takes also depends on your standards. If you have a long list of “must-haves,” there are probably going to be fewer homes that fit within your criteria, leading to a longer house-hunting process.
“Many homebuyers struggle to know whether they’ve found the right house. Like with most decisions in life, sometimes it comes down to a gut feeling.”
Making an offer on a home: 24 to 72 hours
If you think you’ve found the perfect home, it’s time to act. Your realtor can advise you on how and when to make an offer on a home. Keep in mind that all offers have expiration dates, and it’s not uncommon for these deadlines to be short (within 24 to 72 hours of the offer being sent). This means that you should receive a response from the seller before the expiration date.
Closing the deal and taking possession of the home: 30 to 45 days
Once an offer has been accepted, the final step in the homebuying process is to close the deal by signing the purchase agreement and taking possession of the home. This step varies in length but is usually no shorter than 30 days, especially if the deal is contingent on the buyer securing a mortgage. In some cases, this step can take up to two months or even longer, such as if a home sale contingency was included in the purchase agreement.
Tips to speed up the homebuying process
If you’re looking to buy a home fast, follow the tips below to help you speed up the homebuying process.
Decide where you need to live
Before beginning the homebuying process, carefully consider where in Canada you want to purchase a home. Do you need to live in Vancouver or Toronto? If the answer is no, this could speed up the homebuying process. If you are willing to live in a medium- or small-sized city with less competition, you might be more likely to find something affordable and to have your first offer accepted by the seller.
Ask your parents for help
Living in Canada’s major cities isn’t exactly affordable, which means saving for a down payment could take a long time. To speed up the homebuying process, consider asking your parents or another close friend or relative for help. Turning to someone you can trust is one of the quickest ways to boost your down payment savings without taking on debt. Plus, if borrowing money from your parents means you can offer a larger down payment on a home or pay in cash, a seller might be more likely to accept your offer, shortening the process.
Make saving a habit
If seeking help from your parents isn’t an option, then the best way to speed up the homebuying process is to focus on building up your savings account. This means creating a budget and sticking to it. Consider taking advantage of the gig economy, moving in with a friend to save money on rent, or cutting back on some of your unnecessary spending habits. Ultimately, the faster you can save up for a down payment, the faster you can buy a home.
Speak to a mortgage lender
Our final tip for speeding up the homebuying process is to speak with a mortgage lender or broker. If you plan on buying a house with a mortgage, going straight to the source can be invaluable. A mortgage lender can provide all kinds of useful insights into how much money you need to save for a down payment. They might even make you aware of homebuyer incentives you didn’t know you were eligible for or walk you through the process of getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Mortgage brokers and lenders have experience working with all kinds of homebuyers, including first-time homebuyers with small budgets. They can offer objective, unbiased advice on how to achieve your homeownership goals.
How to know when you’ve found the right home
How long it takes to find a home is partially dependent on the buyer. Some buyers are pickier or more cautious than others and require more time to make a decision. Since buying a home is the biggest purchase most of us will make in our lifetimes, it is not a process that should be rushed. To help you determine whether you’ve found your dream home, we’ve put together a list of signs.
1. The house meets your basic needs
First and foremost, your dream home will meet each of the basic requirements you have for your home. Basic needs vary from buyer to buyer but may include the number of bedrooms, the location, or the purchase price.
2. You want to go inside
If you pull into the driveway and find yourself positively giddy about the prospect of going inside, this is a really good sign. Curb appeal is real, and the exterior of the home matters almost as much as the interior. If the outside feels warm and inviting, this certainly means you’re on the right track.
3. You envision yourself living in the home
Anytime you walk through a home and you find yourself envisioning what it would be like to live there, especially if you start to visualize your future there, it’s a good sign. For example, if your mind goes to hosting birthday parties in the backyard or you start thinking about how you’ll decorate or where your future Christmas tree will go, it could mean that you’ve found the one.
4. You aren’t interested in seeing other properties
If you’re no longer interested in seeing other properties, this is likely a sign that you’ve found your dream home. It’s human nature to wonder what else is out there, so if you’ve found a home you like enough to quiet these doubts, you shouldn’t ignore your instincts.
5. You can afford it
This might sound obvious but another sign that a home is right for you is if you can afford it. It’s not hard to fall in love with a home above your budget but think of the turmoil that would come with overspending on a home. Spending within your means provides unparalleled peace of mind, allowing you to relax knowing you didn’t sink your entire savings into your new home.
6. Talking about it makes you excited
If you get excited just talking about the home to your peers, it’s a clear indication that you’ve found the right property.
7. You feel a sense of ownership over the home before it’s yours
If you walk into a home and immediately feel a sense of ownership over it or jealousy over the possibility of someone else buying it, this could be an indication of how much you love it. Similarly, if you overhear someone else saying something negative about the property and you find yourself defending it in your head, this is a sign that the home might be “the one.”
8. You don’t want to leave
If you have to pull yourself away from the home at the end of your tour, it might be time to make an offer. Or if you find yourself driving past the home in your spare time, showing up at open houses, or going back to the listing on your computer, this could definitely be an indication that it’s the right home for you.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if you found the right house?
Many homebuyers struggle to know whether they’ve found the right house. Like with most decisions in life, sometimes it comes down to a gut feeling. Do you envision your life in the home as you walk through it? Do you feel a sense of ownership over it or jealousy at the thought of someone else moving in? Does telling friends or family members about it make you excited? If you answered yes to these questions, it’s probably the right home for you. Other ways to gauge whether you’ve found the right house include whether it’s within your budget and whether it meets your list of criteria (for example, your preferred square footage, number of bedrooms, location, etc.).
How many times should you see a house before you buy?
Experts recommend seeing a house at least two times before buying it. However, in a hot market, you may be forced to make a decision quickly, which means seeing it more than once may be out of the question. If market conditions allow, a homebuyer shouldn’t hesitate to visit a property as many times as it takes for them to be sure it’s the right fit.
How long does it take the average person to buy a house?
It takes the average homebuyer in Canada three months to buy a house. However, this time frame can be as short as two months or as long as six months. The homebuying process ultimately depends on several factors, including the housing market, your personal preferences, and whether you are buying a resale or pre-construction property.
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