Buying your own home is an exciting time but it can also be intimidating for first-time home buyers. The process of finding, offering on and purchasing a home can be long and complicated and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you don’t know what to expect going in. If you’re considering buying your first home, this guide has everything you need to know to prepare for the journey and get the best possible results from your home search. Here are the steps you should expect to take from first starting your search to moving in.
1. Research Neighborhoods and Towns
Before undertaking any search for a home it is important to conduct thorough research on the areas you are considering living. The more you know about homes in the area the better informed your buying decision will be. This includes not only looking at what type of houses are available in your price range but also considerations like taxes and the school system in the town, as these can play a big role in taxes and resale value. You should also consider the type of families you see in the neighborhood, and how long your commute would be if you moved there.
2. Set Your Budget
It is absolutely essential to have a responsible budget when shopping for homes. Not only will taking an honest assessment of your finances help you to be realistic about the type of homes you will be able to get pre-approved for, but it will also reduce the risk of being unable to maintain your house payments once you have purchased your house and have a monthly mortgage. When in doubt it is always better to err on the side of a slightly smaller house you know you can afford.
3. Work on Your Credit
One of the most important parts of getting the loan you need at rates you can afford is managing your credit. The higher your credit score the more money will be made available to you on more favorable terms. You should always be sure you are making all of your monthly account payments, and also do your best to pay off your credit cards so you are using a smaller portion of your available credit.
4. Secure Prequalification
The easiest way to stay on budget when shopping for a home is to know exactly how much you have available to spend. With prequalification, you know exactly how much you are approved to borrow for your home loan so that you can find houses that fit in your budget and will be affordable after you make the purchase, as well.
5. Find Your Ideal Realtor
Your real estate agent serves as a guide throughout the buying process, using their experience to help you make sense of anything you are unfamiliar with and to find the best possible houses at the best possible prices. Many buyers make the mistake of speaking to only one agent then moving forward. You should research realtors just as you do homes and find agents who specialize in the region and price range you’re shopping in, then speak with multiple agents to find your best fit.
6. Visit Potential Homes and Neighborhoods
Your realtor should be able to provide you with a list of potential homes, as well as help you whittle down any list you have made from your own research. When you visit homes you should be looking not only at the condition and layout of the home but also the surrounding homes and neighborhoods to try to get an accurate understanding of the types of homes and families around each potential home.
7. Make an Offer
Once you have found the home you are most interested in you can make an offer. While it is common to offer below the listing price, your realtor is a useful tool to rely on for assessing the ideal offering price. There are several factors that can determine the price you offer including the current market, how long the home has been listed and knowledge of any preexisting bids from other buyers. In more competitive situations you will need to be closer to if not at asking to avoid missing out while houses with long listings may be available at a discount from an eager seller.
8. Negotiate with the Sellers
On some occasions, your initial offer will be accepted or rejected outright, but most often a negotiation period is needed. The seller will often counter your initial offer, at which point you have the option of accepting their counter or making a counteroffer of your own. This continues until a deal is made or one party backs out.
9. Get Inspected and Appraised
There are two important professionals who will examine your home during the sale process, the inspector and the appraiser. An appraiser is responsible for assessing the value of the home and is usually hired by your lender. The inspector is hired by the buyer to look for any concerns in the home that need to be either fixed or accounted for during the sale, such as wiring problems, roof damage or any other potential issues of note.
10. Sign Your Closing Paperwork
Once you’ve agreed to a price and completed all the necessary inspections you can move on to closing, where you will meet with your lawyer to go over the final paperwork before signing off on everything and making the purchase official. Once you complete closing it is officially your home.
11. Move Into Your New Home
While the process to get to owning your own home may be a long one, it will all be worth it when you finally find yourself at your move-in date, putting your possessions into your new home. There is a special level of satisfaction that comes from arranging your furniture and unpacking your boxes and knowing that you own the home you’re doing it in, with the ability to make it fit your exact tastes and needs. Enjoy your special day and take a moment to appreciate how your hard work has paid off!