Guide to the Home Buying Process

Whether you’re a first-time or experienced buyer, the process of purchasing a home is equal parts exciting and complex. Although there are several steps involved in the process, if you know what to expect before going into it, you’ll have a much smoother experience. To help prepare you for the home buying journey, here are the key steps involved in the process.

Preliminary Research

Start by searching the web and looking at newspapers for real estate listings in your area. Keep an eye on homes you are interested in and see how long they stay on the market. Also, be sure to note any changes in asking prices. This step will help you get a better sense of the housing trends in your area. Remember: Research is not only crucial at the beginning of your home buying journey; it is also important to do at various stages throughout the process.

Determine How Much You Can Afford

Before you start looking for a home, it is important to determine how much you can actually spend. You can get a broad estimate by using our Mortgage Payment Calculator. For a more precise number, we recommend getting pre-approved for a mortgage. To get pre-approved, your lender will ask you to provide some financial information, such as your income, debts, assets and liabilities. The lender will review these items, along with your credit score, to determine how much they can lend you. Doing so will not only help you determine what you can afford, it will also help you present a stronger offer when you find the home you want to buy.

Find a Top Real Estate Agent 

A real estate agent can provide you with helpful information about the best homes in your market, including details that aren’t easily accessible to the public. When you are choosing a real estate agent, make sure you feel confident in their knowledge of the home buying process and their communication and negotiating skills. Ask around for recommendations or look up reviews on realtors in your area to find the best fit. Worried about the cost of an agent? Don’t be. Real estate agents are compensated by the seller of the house.

Begin Shopping for Homes

Utilize sites such as Zillow and to find hundreds of homes for sale in your area. Sites like these also allow you to narrow your search by price range, neighborhood, and qualities of the home. You can even subscribe for weekly updates on new listings that meet your specified criteria. When you’re ready to see some homes in person, your real estate agent can facilitate the viewings. Use this handy Home Comparison Checklist to take notes and compare the homes you visit to help you make the best decision.

Make an Offer

Once you’ve found a home that meets all your needs, the next step is to make an offer. Your real estate agent will help you determine an offer price and will manage all the necessary paperwork. Before you close the deal, you will need to get the home inspected by a reputable home inspector. The inspector will check for signs of structural damage to ensure your dream house is in good condition. If you receive a home inspection that suggest some repairs, you can often negotiate with the seller to do the repairs prior to finalizing the deal.

Complete formal mortgage application

When you have found your preferred home and completed the inspection, the next step is to complete the formal mortgage application with the lender. When completing your application, you will be asked to provide a wealth of information and documents such as recent bank statements, previous two years tax returns, and employment details (to name a few). Use this Mortgage Application Checklist to get a jump start on gathering all the documents you may be asked to provide. If your mortgage application is approved, your lender will arrange for a home appraisal. The appraisal is used to determine whether the home’s contract price is appropriate given the home’s condition, location, and features.

Coordinate the Paperwork & Close the Sale

Once all the above steps have been completed, your lender will arrange for a title company to handle all the paperwork to make sure the closing process goes smoothly. At closing, you will sign all the paperwork required to buy the home and provide a check to cover the closing costs. Learn more about closing costs, here. As soon as the paperwork is signed and the check is delivered to the seller, you’ll be set to move into your new home!

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