Congratulation on your decision. It's a big decision. Buying a home requires a serious amount of money and time. The journey isn't always easy, but when you get the keys to your new home, that, can be one of the most rewarding things.
The key to getting there? Knowing the home-buying journey. Knowing what tools are at your disposal. And most importantly? Creating relationships with experts who can help you get the job done.
Develop Criteria & Budget
You should identify your list of “musts” and “wants.” This list is an inventory of priorities for your search. What shoudl you conside? Price, housing type, neighborhood, and school district — just to name a few.
If you’re planning to buy a home with a partner. You want to be on the same page while buying a house. If you’re not, you’ll be less able to give agents or lenders the information they need to help you. And you risk wasting time viewing homes you can’t afford — or don’t even want in the first place.
Find a Great Agent
Your relationship with your real estate agent is the foundation of the home-buying process. He or she is the first expert you’ll meet on your journey, and the one you’ll rely on most. That’s why it’s important to interview agents and find the agent who’s right for your specific needs.
Choose a Lender
Once you’ve found your agent (AKA, your new best friend), ask him or her to recommend at least three mortgage lenders that meet your financial needs. This is another big step, as you’ll be working with your lender closely throughout the home-buying process. You’ll consider the percentage of your income you want to spend on your new house, and you’ll provide the lender with paperwork showing proof of income, employment status, and other important financials. If all goes well you’ll be pre-approved for a loan at a certain amount. Once you’ve decided on a lender (or mortgage broker), you’ll work with your loan agent to determine which mortgage is right for you.
Visit Homes, and Look Around
Your agent will provide listings you may like based on your criteria (price range, ZIP codes, features), and will also help you determine the quality of listings you find online. Then comes the fun part: stepping in the houses, which give you the unique opportunity to evaluate properties in a way you can’t online.
Make an Offer
Once you find the home you want to buy, you’ll work with your agent to craft an offer that not only specifies the price you’re willing to pay but also the proposed settlement date and contingencies — other conditions that must be agreed upon by both parties, such as giving you the ability to do a home inspection and request repairs.
Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
Making an offer can feel like an emotional precipice, almost like asking someone out on a date. Do they like me? Am I good enough? Will they say yes? It’s stressful! Some home sellers simply accept the best offer they receive, but many sellers make a counteroffer. If that happens, it’s up to you to decide whether you want your agent to negotiate with the seller or walk away. This is an area where your agent can provide real value by using their expert negotiating skills to haggle on your behalf and nab you the best deal.
Get a home inspection
If your offer is accepted, then you’ll sign a contract. Most sales contracts include a home inspection contingency, which means you’ll hire a licensed or certified home inspector to inspect the home for needed repairs, and then ask the seller to have those repairs made. This mitigates your risk of buying a house that has major issues lurking beneath the surface, like mold or cracks in the foundation. (No one wants that.)
When you offer to buy a home, your lender will need to have the home appraised to make sure the property value is enough to cover the mortgage. If the home appraises close to the agreed-upon purchase price, you’re one step closer to settlement — but a low appraisal can add a wrinkle. Not one you can’t deal with.
Close the Deal
The last stage of the home-buying process is settlement, or closing. This is when you sign the final ownership and insurance paperwork and make this whole thing official.