Home buyers tell us their No. 1 regret is not starting the process sooner. On average, it takes 4 1/2 months to buy a home, so we’ll start your buying clock at six months.

6+ months

• Request your credit reports, start paying off any credit card bills and continue saving for your down payment.
• Use Zillow’s Affordability Calculator to find out what you can realistically afford.

4-5 months

• Look at for-sale homes online and visit open houses to get a feel for your market.
• Assemble your team by interviewing real estate agents and lenders.

2-3 months

• Get pre-approved by your chosen lender so buyers know you’re serious. Most pre-approval letters are good for 60 to 90 days.
• Set up saved searches online so you’re notified when new homes come on the market.
• Tour homes with your agent.

1-2 months

• Make an offer, but be prepared: Our research shows that just under half of buyers have their first offer accepted.
• If your search stretches on, check to see if your pre-approval letter needs to be renewed.
• After an offer is accepted, schedule a professional inspection.
• If you’re renting, give your landlord notice.
• Start planning your move, either DIY or with a professional.

The home stretch

• Pick an insurer and tell the lender who it is. You can’t finalize a loan without homeowners insurance.
• Start packing up your non-essentials to make your move easier.
• Make sure your down payment funds are easily accessible.
• Fill out change of address forms and establish utilities in your name at your new address.

Closing day

• Block out a chunk of time to sign paperwork. Once that’s over (or within a few days, depending on your sales contract), you’ll get your keys.