Checklist for first time home buyers
Buying your first home is not as easy as looking at listings online, waltzing into an open house, and declaring, “We’ll take it!” Before you’re ready to buy, there are a number of things that can be done to help you prepare for the house-hunting process. The following checklist can help first-time buyers on their journey from browsing listings to closing and move-in day.
- Figure out how much you can afford
Figure out what you can afford based on your income, savings, credit score, and other debt. Make sure to take into account not just a monthly mortgage payment but also other expenses such as insurance, HOA fees, utilities, and more. Likewise, ensure you have enough in the bank to cover closing costs.
- Get pre-approved
Pre-approval means a lender has reviewed your income and financial history and conditionally agreed to give you a loan for a specific amount. Pre-approval lets sellers know you are serious about buying as well as helps you establish a price range for your home search.
- Discuss wants vs needs
Before you start looking for homes, discuss what your wants and needs are. How many bedrooms or bathrooms does your home need to have? Would you prefer a one or two story home? Knowing what you want – and do not want – can help narrow down your searches.
- Find a great real estate agent
An experienced agent can help first time buyers navigate the ins and outs of the real estate industry. In addition to helping you find listings and scheduling showings, agents can help answer your questions and advocate for you to the sellers.
- Set up showings and visit open houses
While the internet is a great tool for looking for homes, it is no substitute for visiting a home in person. Avoid getting too emotionally attached to one property; remember, there are likely multiple homes that can meet your family’s needs.
- Submit an offer
After you find the perfect home, your agent can help you submit an offer. The package will include the offer price, contingencies, a timeline for closing, and more; plan on submitting earnest money, or money paid to confirm the contract, with the offer.
- Negotiate with the sellers
Be prepared to negotiate if the sellers present a counteroffer. This may include changes to any of the details of the offer including price, contingencies, disclosures, or closing date.
- Schedule a home inspection
A thorough home inspection can help identify any areas of damage or deterioration before the sale is completed. Use the results of the home inspection as a tool to identify issues that need to be repaired before closing – or as a starting place for your own to-do list.
- Get an appraisal
A professional appraisal is required by most lenders prior to issuing a mortgage. This helps ensure that the home is worth what you are paying for it; if the appraised price is significantly lower or higher than what you are paying, the loan may not be approved.
- Close the sale
Prepare for a big pile of paperwork on closing day! Ask your real estate agent in advance what you can expect to pay in closing costs; these fees and costs are not included in your mortgage. Likewise, be sure to transfer utilities to your name at or directly after closing to prevent a break in services.