Home Buying Checklist: The Process of Buying Your New Home

Once you’ve made the decision to buy a home, it’s time to start thinking about what comes next.  Every buyer needs a checklist that will guide them through the process of searching for the perfect home, evaluating their choices and making a purchase.

Learn The Lingo

When you set out to buy a new home, you will need to familiarize yourself with various real estate terms, conduct research on the market value of homes in the area in which you intend to shop and learn the art of negotiation.  This information will help as you browse homes, talk with REALTORS® and get further into the buying process.

Get A Free Credit Report

Every 12 months, you are entitled to request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.  You should make this request before you begin looking at homes in order to allow yourself enough time to identify and dispute any inaccuracies in your credit file(s).  When you approach a lender, you will need to make sure that everything is correct and up-to-date.

Get Pre-qualified

Pre-qualification is different than pre-approval in that it gives you a possible price range that you can afford, but does not guarantee you the loan.  Pre-qualification is important because it will help you narrow your search to include only homes that you can afford.  Knowing what you can pay beforehand will save you both time and disappointment in looking at homes that do not fit your budget.

Speak With A REALTOR®

Nobody knows the real estate business like a REALTOR®, so let them help you to find your new home.  Based on your specific requirements, a REALTOR® can locate a home that will suit you at a price that’s within your budget.  When he/she finds one or more possible candidates, you will be invited to tour the home.  At this point, you should take a camera for the purpose of later reviewing each house with visuals instead of relying solely on memory.

Make An Offer

Once you find the perfect home, make an offer that’s less than you are actually willing to pay.  This way, the seller can make a counteroffer that would hopefully still be within your budget.  It’s important to familiarize yourself with the art of negotiation so that can learn how to get the best deal without insulting the seller.  If you have not yet been pre-approved, make sure that your offer is contingent upon your being able to obtain the necessary financing.

Obtain a Loan

Once you and the seller agree on a purchase price, you may be required to provide an earnest money deposit that will secure the home as you obtain a loan (if applicable).  A lender will require a home inspection and appraisal for the property in connection with your loan application.  In most cases, you will know within 24 hours whether or not your application is approved, but the actual closing will not occur until the inspection and appraisal are complete.

Get Moving

Now that the papers are signed and you have the keys to your new home, it’s time to get moving – literally.  Remember to decorate your new home and add all of those special touches that reflect your personality.  After all, a house is only a house until you make it a home.

Buying vs. Renting

When it comes to a home, you have two options: buy or rent. What is right for one person may not be right for another, which is why it’s important to know which is the best option for your individual situation.

Why People Rent

There are a number of reasons why someone may either choose or be forced to rent, including sporadic or unpredictable income, a high debt-to-income ratio, a bankruptcy or foreclosure within the last six months, unpaid collection accounts or judgments, frequent relocating for employment or the inability to save enough money for a required down payment on the purchase of a home.

Maintenance Matters

As a homeowner, you will be responsible for any maintenance or repair issues that arise. This is a big consideration when choosing whether to rent or buy. When you rent, the property owner is responsible for repairs and it may not always be obvious that these issues can be very costly.

How To Know When It’s Time To Buy

If you have steady income with a good employment history, can provide a down payment of at least 5-10 percent of the purchase price and are current with all debts, it may be time to consider buying a home instead of renting. In some cases, the cost of rent may even exceed that of a typical mortgage payment.

When deciding to buy, job stability is a big factor. If your job does not require frequent relocation and you plan to live in the home for at least 5-10 years, you may want to consider making the purchase. If you need to relocate after that, you may have enough equity from the sale to use as a down payment on another home.

Home Buyer’s Checklist

If you can answer yes to the following questions, you may be ready for home ownership. Your REALTOR® can help you to find the perfect home based on your individual needs.

Have you been steadily employed for at least one year, but preferably two years?

Do you plan to live in the home long enough to build equity?

Can you provide a down payment and still have enough money left to pay for closing costs, utilities and home furnishings?

Are you current on all debts, including auto loans, credit cards, etc.?

In addition to any current debts that you may have, can you afford a monthly mortgage payment which will likely include property taxes and insurance?

Do you have the time to devote to shopping for a home and comparing interest rates from various lenders?

Have you checked your credit reports for inaccuracies and disputed anything that needs correction with each of the three major credit reporting agencies?

The decision to buy or rent is a very personal one that can only be determined after a careful evaluation of your situation. A Realtor can show you the perfect home and a lender can tell you whether or not you can afford it, but it’s up to you.