Whether you’re purchasing your 1st or 3rd home, congratulations! Buying a house is a huge undertaking, so it never hurts to brush up on the path to homeownership. We will break these steps down in much greater detail when we get together, but this is a great general guide on what to keep in mind on the road to the closing table.
Steps to Securing Your First Home
1. Save for Your Down Payment
It’s quite rare for people to purchase a home in its entirety upfront, which is why most people finance their purchases through mortgages. To qualify for most (but not all) mortgages, you’ll need to contribute a down payment. There’s still a common myth that you need to come-up with 20% of the total sale price for your down payment. The reality is – whether it’s your first home or you’ve purchased one before – you most likely don’t need a 20% down payment. The average down payment is between 7-16%. If you are a first-time buyer, understand that there are programs allowing qualified buyers to purchase a home with a down payment as low as 3.5%. There are even options like VA loans and USDA loans with no down payment requirements for qualified applicants. Don’t let down payment myths keep you from hitting your homeownership goals.
2. Know Your Credit Score
Part of assessing your finances during this process includes knowing your credit score. Your credit score also plays a role in how much money you’ll need to put down as well as your mortgage payments and loan interest rate. A higher credit score lets lenders know you’re not a risky borrower thus allowing you more flexibility with financing your home. If you want to increase your credit score before you start looking for a home, start now by paying off any debts and ensuring all your bills are paid on time and in full (whenever possible). A consistent improvement in these areas will increase your credit score.
3. Find a Real Estate Agent
Even for seasoned homeowners, trying to navigate the home buying process alone is daunting. There are so many moving parts, potential pitfalls, and questions to ask that things can easily fall through the cracks and make the process stressful and discouraging. Contact a local professional — like anyone on the wonderful Dochen REALTORS® team — to seamlessly guide you through this exciting process.
4. Get Pre-Approved
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will help you stand out as a serious buyer and add weight to the offers you put on homes. The pre-approval process is primarily gathering a lot of information like proof of income, proof of employment, bank statements, debts — essentially all the documents and information that paint your entire financial portrait. If everything looks good, you’ll be preapproved for a mortgage!
5. Find a Home
Arguably the most fun part of the process is actually searching for the place that will become your home. Chat with your real estate agent about your budget, desired neighborhoods, home size, and other criteria before you start looking. Filtering out options that don’t meet your needs and requirements beforehand will make the search process easier. For more specific wants and needs, make a few lists like:
- Deal breakers
- Desired, but not necessary
- Not picky about
6. Make an Offer
Once you’ve found a house that feels right for you and fits your criteria, it’s time to make an offer. Your agent will be a key player during this part of the process because negotiating the price can be tricky and quite a delicate procedure. They will also be instrumental in parsing through the contract, so you don’t have to worry about brushing up on real estate law or jargon.
7. Have a Home Inspection
After you’ve made an offer but before the sale is finalized, you’ll need to have the home inspected. During the inspection, a professional inspector will assess the physical structure and systems inside and outside the home. They will detail their findings and assessment in a report and flag any potential issues the buyer should be aware of. A standard report covers: the HVAC system; interior plumbing system; electrical system; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; and the foundation, basement, and structural components.
8. Get a Home Appraisal
After the inspection is complete and you have a solid understanding of the home’s condition, you’ll also need to have the home appraised. An appraisal is an assessment of how much the home is worth. A certified appraiser will determine the home’s value based on market trends, local sale data, an in-person analysis of the property itself, and their own personal expertise. Mortgage lenders require appraisals to mitigate the risk of the loan, so this step is mandatory unless you’re buying a home in cash.
9. Close the Sale
Once all of that is complete and your loan is approved, you can set a date to finalize and sign all the paperwork. The hard part is over; you did it!
10. Move In
Congrats! You’re a homeowner. Now it’s time to make the space your own by painting, decorating, furnishing, and settling in.