Are you thinking of buying a home, and you aren’t sure exactly where to start? Here is a checklist to help you get ready to make your home dreams come true:
Decide where you want to live! Are you where you want to be? Generally, you will want to plan on staying in your home for at least 5-7 years in order for you investment to pay off, so it’s important to look at homes in an area that will meet your needs over the long term.
Explore the market. Once you know where you will be looking for homes, you can start to explore. Get to know the neighborhoods, the school districts, the local businesses, and community amenities.
Make a list of what you need and want. Create a list of the things in a home that are most important to you. Like the number of bedrooms/bathrooms, home features, commute times, etc. Then make a list of things that you would like to have, but aren’t as important, such as a fireplace, a large back yard, or a pool. It may help you to create a Pinterest board with your favorite home features that you can share with your agent when you’re ready to start looking.
Search for comparable houses in your market. Once you know where you’d like to buy and what type of house you’re looking for, you can start to realistically assess how much it will cost. Use an online search tool like windermere.com to see what’s for sale in your preferred neighborhood(s) and the value of the homes.
Take a good look at your finances. Once you have an idea of what homes cost, you can start figuring out how much money you need for a down payment, monthly mortgage payments, property taxes, etc. Make sure to check your credit score to ensure that everything is in order before applying for a home loan.
Develop your financial plan. Determine how much you need to save for your down payment and create a plan and timeline to achieve this goal. Outstanding debt can drag down your credit score, so make sure that paying down debt is a part of your plan.
Find a real estate agent! Once you’ve met your financial goals, it’s time to find a real estate agent. The best place to start is by asking friends and family for a referral. You can also search on real estate websites, like windermere.com, to find an agent that specializes in the area you are looking to live.
Get pre-approved for your home loan. Your agent should be able to refer you to a mortgage representative who can assist with the financing of your new home. The first step is to get pre-approved so that you know exactly how much home you can afford. Not only does this allow you to refine your home search, but it can also give you a competitive advantage when there are multiple buyers bidding on the same property.
Start shopping! This process involves everything from searching for homes online to visiting open houses on the weekends. But perhaps the most important part of this process is going on a good-old-fashioned home tour with your real estate agent. Looking for homes online lets you search more efficiently, but there’s nothing like seeing the home – and its surroundings – first hand.
The bidding process. The bidding process differs from region to region and season to season, but ultimately you should look to your agent to help you develop a plan based on your priorities and financial abilities. Depending on the market where you’re buying, there could be multiple buyers bidding for the same home, so it’s a good idea to have a well thought out strategy ahead of time.
Offer acceptance & earnest money. Once a seller accepts your offer you are required to put down an earnest money deposit to show that you are committed to purchasing the house. This money is held jointly by the seller and the buyer in a trust or escrow account. The earnest money goes towards your down payment and closing costs upon the closing of the home sale.
Home inspection. Most home sales are pending until a home inspection is completed. This is when a home inspector checks the condition of a home, such as the foundation, roof, windows, insulation, electrical, and heating components. If a home inspection turns up the need for repairs, it can end up being a tool for re-negotiations with the seller.
Home appraisal. This is an all-important step to getting the financing you need for your new home. An appraisal is performed to assess the true value of a home, which in turn, determines how much a lender is willing to give you to buy it. Appraisals protect banks from getting stuck with property that's worth less than they've invested. And it protects you from paying too much for a house simply because it was love at first sight.
Purchase your home insurance. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.
Closing! The closing marks the final step of the home purchase process. This is when the deed to a property is legally transferred from the seller to the buyer who then takes possession of the home. In simple terms, this is when you get the keys to your new home and you can officially move in.
If you have any additional questions about the home buying process, contact a local real estate agent.