How Long Do the Individual Steps to Selling a House Take?

Have you been wondering whether or not you should sell your house, but lack the necessary information to make an informed decision? You’re not alone.

For many new or prospective home sellers, house sales are complicated, long-winded processes. They have many moving parts and necessary steps — leaving it difficult to pinpoint exactly how long each part of the selling process takes — so we tried to give you a good rule of thumb here so you won’t be caught off guard.

Generally speaking, home sales move much faster when there’s high demand in the local market, and when little inventory and asking price is lower than those typical of the neighborhood. Time to sell also varies a great deal by location. In January 2017, for instance, the average days on market (DOM) for a home in Seattle, WA was 70, whereas the average DOM for homes sold in Los Angeles, CA was 82.

Wondering how long you’ll likely spend on selling your house?

Let’s break down the steps to selling a house and figure it out.

a photo of a clock inside house steps to selling house
Source: (Lubo Ivanko / Shutterstock)

How Long Does It Take To Decide To Sell Your Home?

Estimated Time: It’s up to you

Before listing, the first thing you have to do is decide whether or not to sell your home — a process that can take some homeowners years. But taking the time to be sure you’re ready to make the leap to sell is incredibly important, as everything will only move faster the minute you start putting your plans in motion.

Once you begin searching for the right agent to represent your home, a lengthy process that can be easily expedited with the right resources, you’ll be rolling right along.

a photo of working online steps to selling a house
Source: (Allie Lehman / Death to the Stock Photo)

How Long Does It Take to List The Home?

Estimated Time: 3 to 5 days after signing with a real estate agent (longer if your house isn’t cleaned, prepped, and ready to go)

Usually, listing in the MLS takes a short amount of time — around 3 to 5 days — since it’s become relatively easy to list houses online. If your house is market-ready, listing your home won’t take any longer than a week.

However! If your agent thinks some prep work would be beneficial — they could suggest superficial renovations, moving furniture around, or completing a few repairs — then it’ll likely take some time to make the property really shine before listing in the MLS.

Jody Parrish, who ranks in the top 2% of seller’s agents in St. Louis, MO, shared that the majority of her homes are actually listed as MLS-exempt — even if the home is almost market ready — to begin. Even though the house is still listed, Parrish explained that it’s ideal to start the house off as MLS-exempt in order to have enough time to properly stage the house, “have the photographer go in, get the pictures, and make the brochures.”

Although it’s uncommon for houses to be MLS-exempt for long periods of time, Parrish recounted one particularly interesting instance in which her team had to significantly rearrange the furniture to make the house more appealing to buyers.

“Some people’s artwork is very eclectic,” she said, laughing as she told the story. “In a master bedroom one time, they had a picture of themselves, you know, doing the nasty. And it was a beautiful picture — but it didn’t need to be there while we’re showing the house. Someone seeing the house wouldn’t have known it was them — it was a picture, [a painting], not a photograph — but I knew it was them. It was their faces.”

How Long Should You Expect to Wait for Offers to Come In?

Estimated Time: 30 to 60 days after listings

Although some of us have friends — incredibly lucky friends — who have received offers within a month of listing, the reality is that most of us will wait between 30 and 60 days before encountering an interested buyer. If you’re in a particularly slow-selling area, you may even spend over 90 days on the market — In Fort Lauderdale, FL, for instance, the average DOM is 106!

Typical real estate trends have historically shown that house sales increase as the seasons get warmer, often reaching a peak in late spring or early summer. It appears that, across the board, selling has gotten a little bit easier over the last few years. As reported by the MLS in July 2016, the average DOM was 36 — a staggering drop of 33 days from the average DOM of 69 reported in July 2012.

If you’re looking to negotiate offers, it’s possible that the waiting period may be even longer, as it can take a great deal of time and effort to go back and forth with a potential buyer.

a man closing the door steps it takes to selling a house
Source: (Sutham / Shutterstock)

How Long Does the Closing Take (Including Inspections, Appraisals, Escrow)?

Estimated Time: Up to 50 days

Although many people are aware that they’ll spend a significant amount of time waiting for an offer, few people take into account how long the closing period takes, despite the many things that have to happen after the buyer’s offer is accepted.

Typically, closing can take up to 50 days to settle payment, negotiate move-out dates, and for the buyer to do “due diligence” for house assessment.

In North Carolina, a person typically spends between 14 and 30 days “under contract” — that is, in the period after the offer is accepted but before the buyer and seller sign on the dotted line.

Walking through the process in detail, Parrish explained each step of the long and sometimes cumbersome closing period:

“Once we get the offer, we’ll go through [it] with them. Point out the good parts, the bad parts. So many sellers don’t even know the buyer’s going to do an inspection, and in our area, municipal inspections are almost always required.”

She added that, her team will often conduct these inspections before the closing period, as the seller may not even “be able to take the offer if they have a $7000-8000 repair.” Inspections are usually pretty short — thirty minutes or so — but can add up. If the offer can be accepted, the buyer will then conduct an appraisal and do a final walk-through — which may take a couple days or so in total — the week before closing.

Payment will also affect the length of time it takes to close. Even though cash payments can be closed quickly — in as little as 10 days — loans can take around 45 days. Throughout this period, your agent will likely be checking in that loan commitments are coming in, or touching base with the other agent to make sure that he or she is meeting the landmarks to make sure the loan will go through.

According to Parrish, the actual closing appointment is very short for sellers — usually about half an hour, even though she recommends sellers to allot a 2 hour period for signing. The seller receives payment from the buyer, and should also be ready to move out, once the agreement is signed. In St. Louis, Parrish estimates the closing period to be between 4-6 weeks — a little longer than that of North Carolina — depending on move-in date negotiations.

If you’re ready to be moved out, you’re expected to start transporting your things almost immediately, unless both parties agree otherwise.

How Long Do the Steps to Selling a House Take Overall?

Estimated time: 70 – 80 days, longer in slower real estate markets

Even though total length of time varies depending on location, you can typically expect to dedicate 70-80 days to selling a house. If there’s little inventory in your local market, high demand, and it’s a good time of the year to sell, you might find that the process will go a little more quickly than you expected.

Selling a house is not an easy feat; in fact, it’s one of the most important financial steps we take in our entire lives. Be prepared to invest 2-3 months of preparation, listing, and work to make it happen.