How Long Does it Take to Buy a House in San Francisco?

Search, Offer, Escrow

The search period, offer process and contract acceptance varies based on each client’s unique situation.  A good baseline backed with real client data is 103 days from our first meeting to you getting your keys to your new place! (After every set of 5 clients, I track the timing of each client and identify the average. This number changes and acts as a solid barometer of the market). Keep in mind, this is the average with some journeys shorter and some longer but 103 days is a good baseline for expectations.  Keep in mind, finding a home in San Francisco or Bay Area inventory restricted market is a Marathon not a Sprint.  That is not to say the market is not slow, it's the complete opposite. It takes cycles and time to find a home and beat out the competition with many factors making an impact. I like to say, it's a very slow fast process. You have to ready to move on a dime to either get in with a tight preemptive offer or be ready to move on an offer after very accelerated marketing cycles.

Why so long?

A main factor impacting the length of the process is the simple law of supply vs. demand.  90% + offers are multiple offer situations hence incredibly competitive in the bay area coupled with low inventory tends to elongate the process.  Another factor is the timing for clients to secure loan commitment (not just pre-approval, see below) which takes about 3-5 days for clients to gather the required documentation and about 10 days to go through the banks loan/credit commitment process.  Some banks are faster but this is a good baseline. Also, if clients are exploring neighborhoods unfamiliar to them, this can take a little time as they become familiar with the homes, restaurants, commute times, parks, neighbors of the area to gauge if this is a neighborhood they want to live.

Is the entire time about actively searching?

Not to fear, you won’t spend 103 days visiting weekend open homes (or by private appointment), reviewing disclosures, timing “practice commutes”, exploring blocks in the target neighborhoods, stressing out over offers, writing letters to sellers, providing documents (over and over) to the bank, asking inspectors questions, reviewing offer scenarios and comps, signing tons of docs via docusign etc…..The 103 days includes the “Escrow” period which average 21 days (you enter escrow once an offer is accepted) and if cash, they can be as fast as 5 days.  So it’s really just on average 82 days for all the other stuff 😊.

How can you help speed up the process and by default make you more competitive? 

A couple of key tactics enable a tighter home search/purchase period.  1. Secure a “loan commitment” vs. just a pre-qualification letter. This basically means an underwriter has reviewed your complete file and all is needed is purchase contract, appraisal and some minor conditions for the final loan approval. Getting past just a pre-qualification letter to Loan Commitment is key to not only speeding up the process but it makes you more competitive when you do submit an offer. It allows you to be more competitive as you will now have the option to waive your financing contingency which gives your offer the perception of lower risk than someone with financing that has not gone through the full process. 2. Be open, flexible and patient with yourself. Most clients come into the search with realistic expectations as they are well versed on the SF and Bay Area housing market.  They understand tradeoffs will be made but typically end up with what’s most important to them! 

Are you ready to buy or just thinking about it and doing your research? 

Let me know what your questions or concerns are. I’m here to guide you with a proven framework for succeeding in the San Francisco and Bay Area Real Estate Market!  415-999-1200

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