10 Steps to Buying a Home
Step 1: Figure Out What You Can Afford
Determine what you'll be able to afford in mortgage payments each month, as well as what you can invest initially as a down payment. Keep in mind additional costs like closing costs, fees, homeowners insurance, and taxes will all add to the overall costs. Be sure to check your credit score, and remember that just because you don't have a traditional 20% down payment doesn't mean you can't buy a home!
Step 2: Shop for a Loan and Get Pre-approved
Finding a trustworthy lender and determining what type of loan you'll qualify for will help you figure out how much home you can actually afford. Get recommendations, check with the Better Business Bureau, and be sure to talk to at least three or four lenders before making a decision.
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Step 3: Determine the Selling Price of Homes in Your Location
If you have a preferred location or neighborhood, find out the actual selling price of homes in that area - not just their listing price—to confirm whether you can actually afford that location.
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Step 4: Find an Agent
You don’t have to work with an agent—but it is extremely recommended unless you are a highly experienced buyer or lawyer. Your agent should be someone you know you can trust, an expert on real estate in your area and neighborhood, and very proficient in working with buyers of your experience.
Step 5: Find Your Home
This is the fun part, where you get to visit open houses, tour homes, make notes, and really hone in on your perfect dream home! Make sure you keep detailed records of the homes you visit, noting things you liked, didn't like, pros and cons, etc. Taking pictures can also keep your memory fresh.
Step 6: Make an Offer
When you find your favorite home, work with your agent to determine a competitive but reasonable offering price. You'll want to choose a number that is comfortably within your price range but competitive enough that it won't cause the seller to immediately reject your offer.
Step 7: Get an Inspection
Nothing's finalized yet, so make sure you're getting your money's worth! Ask your real estate agent to recommend a trusted home inspector to walk through the house and check for any potential defects or problems. If necessary, you can request that the seller repair any issues you find.
Step 8: Review Your Contract
Before you sign any paperwork, it's important that you carefully read over the contract with your agent or lawyer to ensure there are contingencies - that is, if something falls through with your mortgage, you aren't still obligated to buy the home.
Step 9: Finalize Your Mortgage Approval
Work with your chosen lender to submit your mortgage application, review predicted closing costs, and have your home appraised. Common closing costs include attorney fees, title insurance, appraisal fees, home inspection fees, courier fees, government recording fees, and taxes.
Step 10: Close and Pay
It's time to close! Meet with your agent, lender, and the seller to finalize the paperwork, sign your contracts, and pay your down payment and closing costs.