The steps to buying a house, especially if you are doing it for the very first time, can feel a little bit confusing and overwhelming. We totally get this and have even been there before ourselves.
This is why we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to buying a house. This way, you know exactly what you should be working on and about how long it should take you.
So take a deep breath and relax because we’re going to show you how to get a head start on the home buying process, as well as maintain your sanity along the way.
7 Steps to Buying a House
1. Do your research.
The very first step when buying a home is simply doing your research. The amount of research you need to do really depends on the kind of move you are going to make.
Are you moving to a completely new city for a job or to be closer to family? Then you will need to spend more time looking into the best neighborhoods in the area as well as crime rates, school reports, and local amenities. If you are simply downsizing or scaling up in your same city, then you won’t need to spend as much time doing this type of research.
However, you will still need to look into the type of home that you want to buy, the loans and grants available for your financial situation, as well as who you would like to work with to purchase your home.
2. Finalize your budget and get financing pre-approval.
This is one of the most important steps to buying a house. Ideally, your savings for your down payment should be as large as they can possibly be. This is because they typically need to be about 20% of the total purchase price for the home.
So, the size of your savings can help you understand the price range and kinds of homes you can think about making an offer on.
After you size up your deposit, you’ll need to begin working with mortgage lenders to obtain mortgage pre-approval. This means that you can show these companies your credit scores, income potential, debt history, and savings and they will tell you just how much money they would be willing to lend you to buy a house.
It’s a good idea to approach several different lenders about mortgage rates, as your credit reports might have different impacts with different companies. It’s also possible to secure better interest rates the more you shop around, thus significantly lowering your mortgage payments.
3. Find an agent.
After you know how much money you can spend on your new home, you need to enlist the help of a professional who can help you find it. Finding a real estate agent who is a good fit for you is absolutely essential.
It’s important to find someone who has the same communication style as you so that nothing gets lost in the shuffle. It’s also important to pick an agent that is not only very familiar with the area you intend to move to, but also your price bracket. This way, you can be sure you are finding the best homes at the very best price.
4. Find a house.
After you have a budget under your belt and an agent on your team, it’s time to start looking for your new place to call home. There are so many ways to locate quality listings these days, especially digitally, so don’t be afraid to take full advantage of all of them.
Be vocal with your agent about what’s working and what’s not, so that they can curate more quality listings for you to view. You should also take initiative and use online real estate platforms to seek out homes that you would like to partner with your agent to investigate further.
Your agent can only really help you find the perfect home if you really help yourself!
5. Make an offer.
Once you’ve located a home you adore, it’s finally time to make an offer! Work with your agent to put together a competitive offer with a negotiable price and the correct contingencies. These contingencies could be things like final financing approval coming through or the results of the home inspections, which is the all-important next step.
Depending on how competitive the market is (and just how badly you want the house!) you might consider putting in an offer with an escalation clause.
6. Complete a home inspection.
While the offer is pending it’s important to complete a through home inspection with a qualified home inspector. The typical home inspection looks for things like damage from mold, a cracked foundation, drainage problems, etc. Because these are things that can be very costly to repair, it’s very important for potential homebuyers to be aware of them before closing day on their new house.
This way, they can decide whether or not this home is still a good fit for them. For example, if there is a mold infestation in the basement, if you worded your offer letter correctly, you would have the options of A) asking the seller to fix it before you buy the home B) asking the seller to drop the price of the home and sell it as is, or C) walk away from the deal.
If the seller agrees to fix any of the problems, they must do so by the predetermined closing date.
7. Get your mortgage loan.
Once the home you want to buy passes inspection, it’s time to get your final approval for your mortgage loan. For home loans, this typically means purchasing mortgage insurance, having your lender double-check everything from your original application, and ensuring that your home can sustain the loan.
This can take a few days to few weeks depending on the results of your lender’s final checks.
Bonus: Closing Day!
The final step to buying a house is attending the closing day proceedings. This is where you look and officially sign the contract of sale and settle any outstanding closing costs. The bank releases any earnest money deposited into escrow and you wire your down payment to the seller.
When you leave the closing ceremonies, you should have the title to your home, as well as the keys.
Congratulations, you did it! You bought a home.