How do I buy a home?

The process of buying a home can follow many paths. It can move as quickly as several weeks or as slowly as several years. But, generally, the process follows four steps—search, offer, go under contract, and go to settlement, regardless of whether you’re buying a house, condo, co-op, or apartment. Along the way, the DC Government has resources to help you as you prepare to buy a home. In some ways, the process is sort of like finding a spouse: 


The Search phase is like dating. You’re thinking about buying a home, maybe going to open houses, talking with a realtor, or scrolling through sale listings on your phone. 


The Offer phase is like the proposal. You think you’ve found the one! You make a formal offer to the current homeowner. Typically a realtor helps you prepare the offer paperwork. And then you wait for their decision… hopefully not very long!


The Under Contract phase is like the engagement. They said yes! The current homeowner has accepted your offer. During this period of roughly 30-90 days, you do things like have the home inspected, review condo rules, and move forward with securing your financing to buy the home.


The Settlement phase is like the wedding day. The day is finally here! You go to a title company who walks you through the paperwork process with the bank and city to officially make the home yours. You’ve tied the knot and leave with the keys.


Like finding a spouse, the process is a little more involved than this. So, let’s get into the details. Keep in mind that we’re outlining the common steps of the home buying process, but your experience may be different. As you learn about the process, you can view the DC Government resources to help you as you prepare to buy a home

Keywords: home buying, homebuyers, settle on a home, close on a home, put an offer on a home, find a home, homeownership, getting a home appraised, getting a home inspection, choosing homeowner's insurance

This page was last updated February 2021.