While everyone's homebuying journey can vary, there are a few essential steps that nearly everyone goes through. When embarking on the home-purchase process, you'll hit many of the following milestones, regardless of whether or not you're a first-time or repeat buyer.
Your timeline will likely look something like this.
Budgeting & Prequalification
This is one step where a previous buyer may have an advantage. Locating your preferred lender and settling on the ideal prequalification amount is often the first step on your timeline. (If you've done this before, you may already have a bank or credit union in mind, but first-timers should shop around for the optimum loan type and fee structure for their situations.) With online applications, this process can take a lot less time than it used to, but allot yourself at least a few weeks to weigh your financing options before running with a preapproval amount.
Assembling Your Team
Depending on the size of your community, odds are you already know (or know someone who knows) a licensed real estate agent. It's important that this person is someone whom you can trust and someone who knows the housing market in your desired area inside and out. Depending on how many options you have (many larger cities have countless agencies and independent agents from which to choose), this part of the process could take a week or two. Just make sure you connect with an agent who understands your needs and can deliver on them at the closing table. Should you have trouble finding an agent, check with the South Dakota Real Estate Commission, the regulatory body that licenses real estate agents.
Finding Your Home
Now for the fun part—searching for properties. Your real estate agent will be able to guide this process via access to the area's MLS network—he or she can pinpoint properties worth visiting based on your budget, your home requirements and desired neighborhoods. This is the part of the process that can vary most widely—while some people may find the ideal home within the first couple visits, many will take as many as 2-3 months before landing on the perfect space. Just remember that you don't have to settle—in a buyer-friendly market, you have a little more time to hold out for something closer to your "ideal."
Inspections & Appraisals
Once you've determined your house of choice, the process can feel a little more sped up. You'll need to obtain an appraisal of the property to assess actual value, and you may need an inspection to determine if there are any negotiable repairs that should be made by the seller prior to closing. Plan on spending at least a week in obtaining and executing a home inspection—and work with your real estate agent to decide which elements are ones you should request repaired. (The demand for the property and whether or not other offers are in play may factor into this decision.)
Closing & Moving In
Once an offer is accepted, the closing process can move quickly as well. It can be a matter of days before you're at the closing table, signing documents and writing checks. (This is an important reason to have your downpayment plans settled in advance of this step.) Post-closing, the timeline for moving in can vary quite a bit depending on your agreement with the seller. If it's owner-occupied, it may take a bit longer than if the house is new or vacated. Make sure that the timeline you agree to is mutually beneficial to both parties' housing plans.