If you’re a first-time home buyer or new to the area, you might be wondering, “How long does it take to buy a house in Vancouver?”

That’s a great question. However, we don’t have a short answer. Buying a new home is a journey that includes several important steps from start to finish.

 Priority List (1 to 2 weeks)

Before you start looking at potential properties, determine your price range. This step isn’t hard: obtaining a basic prequalification or talking to your bank will give you enough data to establish your budget. Moreover, it will save you from the disappointment of discovering that a house you adore is out of your financial reach.

Once you know your price range, decide what area(s) you want to live in. Compile a priority list as you make this decision. You need to consider what amenities are most important to you and which ones are luxuries that you can do without.

Along the same lines, figure out what type of home you want. Do you need multiple bedrooms and bathrooms? Are you hoping to have a yard and garden? Or are you simply looking for a cozy apartment?

Answering these kinds of questions will sharpen your focus and give you clarity when it's time to sort through real estate listings.

Find a Real Estate Agent (1 to 7 days)

Your real estate agent will be a trusted advisor on your home-buying journey. So it’s important to find an agent with experience applicable to your priorities. For example, if you’re looking to buy a single-family home, you’ll want an agent with demonstrative experience in that field. (Bonus points if you can find one who is intimately familiar with your desired neighbourhood.)

When the time comes to make an offer, a good real estate agent will provide strong data to inform your decisions. They should be able to guide you through each step with ease, giving you peace of mind that you’re putting your best foot and sharpest offer forward.

Get pre-approved (days to months)

Since pre-approval is more formal than pre-qualification, it’s difficult to quantify how long it will take. Your mortgage broker will walk you through a rigorous application so they can present you in the best possible light to lenders. A successful result will confirm your target budget and interest rate.

Depending on your credit score and available funds, some extra steps may be required to obtain the pre-approval. You can prepare yourself by reviewing your credit history and addressing weaknesses (like paying off current debts).

Keep in mind that most sellers are leery of buyers who aren’t pre-approved. You should complete this process fully before making any offers.

Go home shopping (days to months)

Now that you have your financial ducks in a row, start searching in earnest. Your agent will keep an eye out for you, but it is also wise to do your own browsing online.

Once you find a house (or three) that meets your criteria, notify your agent. They can arrange a private tour for you or find out if open houses are scheduled.

As you look at properties in person, pay attention to your own impressions. Do the tours change anything on your priority list? Do you still think you’ve found the right area? You don’t need to second guess yourself, but you do want your confidence to grow as you navigate this process.

Prepare an offer (1 to 2 days)

Success! You’ve found a home that you would like to buy. It lines up with your priority list, and you’ve confirmed with your mortgage broker that your choice fits your pre-approval. You're ready to draw up an offer.

The best real estate agents don’t just offer opinions. Rather, they provide comparative market analyses to help you establish the market value of the home. This step is important for two reasons. First, if the seller has gone with a high listing, you want to be careful not to overpay. Second, if the seller has gone with a low listing, it’s often a signal that they’re expecting multiple offers. In that case, you may have to make a higher offer to compete with other potential buyers. Whatever the case, your agent’s market analysis will be an invaluable tool for making the smartest offer in your situation.

Your real estate agent will also help you confirm other important details: deposit amount (usually 5%), included items, subjects, subject removal dates (typically 7 to 10 days), closing dates, terms, expiry date/time, etc. While they may seem mundane, these “fine print” items can impact both the success of your offer and the ease of completion if your offer is accepted.

Negotiation and offer acceptance (6 to 72 hours)

With your offer in the seller’s hands, you now wait for them to accept, reject, or counter.

Should they choose to counter your offer, you have the right to accept, reject, or counter their counteroffer. This back-and-forth will continue until someone rejects an offer or both parties come to an agreement.

Of course, there is a time limit (typically between 24 to 72 hours), which was established in your offer. Real estate agents generally confer before an offer is made, to ensure that the timeframe is appropriate for both parties. (For example, if the seller is going to be temporarily unavailable for some reason, their agent will recommend a longer limit for your offer.)

Subject removal (5 to 7 days)

Congratulations! Your offer was accepted! However, your work is not quite done. Now you must take the important step of due diligence, according to the subjects that you and your agent included with your offer. Common subjects include:

Financing and appraisal (so your lender can approve this particular property)
Document review (title, property disclosure, strata documents where applicable)
Home insurance (not required but a wise move so you can confirm how much this annual cost will be)
Inspection (hire a qualified inspector to perform a thorough assessment and prepare a report that details any issues or red flags they find)
If you’re satisfied with your findings and have financing confirmed, you can instruct your agent to remove subjects. You’re now committed to buying this home!

Submit your deposit (within 24 hours of subject removal)

As a show of good faith, your subject removal is followed by your purchase deposit. (The amount was stipulated in your offer contract, often 5%). These funds will be held in trust by the buyer’s agent’s brokerage and later makeup part of your down payment when the sale is completed.

This deposit triggers the seller’s agent to place a SOLD! sticker on the FOR SALE sign (or MLS listing). All that remains is to complete the sale.

Prepare for closing (2 weeks to months)

Your completion and possession dates were established during your purchase negotiation. The range varies widely, depending on the circumstances of both involved parties. Those dates could arrive in two weeks or they could lie months in the future.

In the meantime, you have some tasks to complete. Find a notary or lawyer to handle your side of completion (documentation, transfer of funds, title ownership, etc.). Finalize your mortgage commitment, to confirm your term and monthly payments. Acquire home insurance so that your new property is protected as soon as it belongs to you.

This process comes to a head shortly before the closing date, when you meet with your notary or lawyer to sign paperwork and provide the final down payment funds for the purchase.

Close on your new home and get the keys (1 to 4 days after completion)

The sale is completed once the title is transferred to your name and the funds are transferred to the seller. Just like that, you’re a homeowner!

In most cases, you’ll receive the keys to the house the next day. However, in some cases, you may have to wait a few additional days (again depending on the circumstances you previously agreed to).

Wait, how long did that all take?

In case you couldn’t tell from the ranges provided above, there’s no guaranteed timeline when it comes to buying a new home. A lot depends on you and your priorities: there’s no sense in rushing the process. Take the time you need to make a decision that you’ll be happy with.

That said, our clients often spend three to six weeks finding the right home and making an offer, one-week removing subjects, and two to eight weeks completing the sale. Our goal is to expedite this process as much as it serves the best interest of our clients.

If you’re at the very beginning of this process, we recommend focusing on financials: establish your budget and get your pre-approval from a mortgage broker. With this legwork out of the way, you can focus on the priorities you want from your next home.

Don’t let this lengthy process daunt you! Rick Clarke and the Real Estate Valley team are experts who have guided countless buyers through this process. Contact us today! We’d love to help you find your next home.

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Listing information last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 8:45pm PDT.