Homebuyers Guide Real Estate

How long does it take to buy a condo?

Buying a condo is an important decision and shouldn't be rushed, but life circumstances or rising real estate prices, may spur you to move quickly. On the other hand, you may be the type of condo buyer who's willing to wait until you’re sure you’ve found the perfect home.

As somebody who purchased a condo in April 2020, after about an 18-month process, I would place myself in the latter of those two categories. (Although personal circumstances certainly factored into the timeframe for my purchase.)

So how long does it take to buy a condo? Here’s an approximate timeline based on the steps you’ll need to take.

Read more: The Complete Condo Checklist

Get Your Financial House in Order

Timeline: 1 day to 6 months

Some buyers already have the down payment funds in the bank, a good credit score, and acceptable levels of debt before they even consider buying a condo. Others may have to take some financial steps in the right direction before they’re ready to buy.

In my case, I had to wait until I paid off a personal loan and had enough money saved in my 401K plan to borrow against for the down payment before I could start my search.

Read more: The Hidden Costs of Buying a Home

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Timeline: a few hours to a few days

You can accelerate this process by having your financial information—including tax returns, bank and 401K statements, and pay stubs—readily available. You can access many of these forms online, so retrieving this information shouldn’t be time consuming. Providing you’re able to give the mortgage company the necessary information quickly, you can be approved within one to three days.

It took me about two weeks to get approved for a mortgage, but that was because I wasn’t happy with the terms of my first mortgage pre-approval and sought a second one that was better for me.

Read more: What is mortgage origination?

Find the Right Real Estate Agent

Timeline: 1 day to several weeks

It’s important to find the agent who’s right for you—who knows the neighborhoods where you’re searching and has a good sense of the condos that may be suitable for you. I got very lucky in my search in that I found an agent who lived in the same city as me and had an almost instant sense of the type of condo I was looking for.

Read more: How to Choose the Right Real Estate Agent

Select the Condo That’s Right for You

Timeline: 1 day to 6 months or longer

This is the heart of the condo-buying process and, therefore, shouldn't be rushed. Although it’s possible to find a condo in a day, it usually takes much longer.

In my case, I spent over a year researching available properties on many real estate websites, including neighborhoods.com. And while seeing condos on the Internet is much different than viewing them in person, my research gave me a great sense of the condos that were available in my price range in the neighborhoods I was considering.

By the time I secured a mortgage, I had narrowed my search to about six condo complexes that were right for me. When I first looked at the condo I eventually purchased, I was absolutely sure that I wanted to place an offer because I knew there was nothing comparable on the market in my price range.

Read more: Buying a Condo vs. Buying a House

Get Homeowners Association (HOA) Approval

Timeline: Several weeks

After your offer is accepted and the mortgage is being processed, it’s likely that you’ll need to receive approval from the HOA prior to closing. Most HOAs require financial documentation of your income (similar to what lenders require) and an interview with HOA board members. If you have a dog, you may even be required to bring it to the interview.

Depending on interview requirements, it make take a few weeks to schedule. My HOA interview was very quick and easy; the interview lasted less than an hour, and I was approved within a few days. 

Read more: HOAs: What You Need to Know

Complete the Mortgage Process

Timeline: 30 to 60 days

Banks generally take between 30 to 60 days to have an appraisal done and complete the mortgage process, even if you’ve already been pre-approved. (My mortgage company required that this process be completed in 45 days.)

During this time, you may choose to do an inspection on your property to see if you can negotiate credits to the sale price due to needed repairs or other factors. With my condo, the seller accepted my offer in late February, and despite being hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic that soon followed, I was still able to meet the 45-day deadline.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Home Appraisals

Attend the Closing

Timeline: A few hours

Closings are typically attended by representatives for both the buyer and seller, so it can take some time to arrange a date when all parties are free. During the closing, you’ll need to sign numerous documents, so this process can take a few hours.

In my case, I closed on my condo when the county where I live was under full quarantine, so the only people in the room were me and the lawyer representing the title company. To maintain appropriate social distance, we sat at opposite ends of a large conference room table and literally slid paperwork back and forth to each other. In an about an hour, I was an official new condo owner.

Read more: What happens at closing?
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