Buying a house is a big step and can feel even bigger if you’re a first time home buyer. From saving up for a down payment to making sure your you’ve tested the commute, there are a ton of smaller tasks involved with purchasing a home. If you find yourself overwhelmed thinking about buying your first home, use this first time home buyer check list to guide you through the process.
8 Tips for the First Time Home Buyer
Step 1: Save
No matter what home you choose you will probably have to have some money on hand for a down payment, closing costs, and escrow taxes and fees. If you’re a first time home buyer you might be surprised at how many costs there are in the buying process. Some of these costs depend on the cost of the home, but it’s a good habit to start saving early. This way you are prepared and it may help you qualify to purchase a more expensive home.
Step 2: Improve Credit Score
Your credit score doesn’t jump overnight. So if you are a first time home buyer in the early browsing process, check out your credit score to see if you need to consult a mortgage lender for credit repair. To maintain a high credit score, make sure to pay bills on time, don’t make any large purchases, and don’t cancel any credit cards. The higher the credit score, the lower the interest rate.
Step 3: Get mortgage pre-approval
Shop around for a mortgage lender who understands the needs of the first time home buyer. Then when you’ve established a relationship with a mortgage lender, complete a pre-approval application to see where your limits are for a home loan. To complete the pre-approval, you’ll probably need to provide your employment verification, pay stubs, taxes, W2s and bank statements.
Step 4: Decide what kind of home you want
With this decision comes what you prioritize as a first time home buyer. If being near a great school for your kids is a top priority start looking around the school district for houses you’d like to tour. If being close to work is a top priority, check out homes that are either near your work or near public transit you could take to work. Remember, houses can be remodeled. So choose where you want to live and you can decorate from there.
Step 5: Visit available homes for sale
This can be the fun part! Work with a local real estate agent to discover homes that are newly on the market or just about to go on the market to get ahead of the pack in a competitive seller’s market. Check out websites such as Redfin and Zillow for virtual home tours and to see what’s currently on the market. Take lots of photos while visiting homes so you can remember each one and so you can show friends and family who are helping you make the decision. After a while, home features start blending together, so take a couple photos to save yourself another trip back.
Step 6: Make an offer
After you’ve made a decision on what home you’d like to buy, work with your realtor to make an offer. If your offer is accepted, you are in business. If the seller wants to counter your offer, they will send another offer back and you will send your decision back to the seller. If the seller rejects your offer outright, consider making another higher offer (a good idea to check with your realtor and lending agent first to make sure you aren’t offering more than a property is worth!)
Step 7: Take a final walk through of your new home
Make sure to look closely at your new home for working light switches and sockets. Check that windows fully open and close and that doors open and close with no problem. Finally, make sure to test faucets, drains, and toilets. The last thing you want is to move into a home that had a large problem that you need to fix right away. If buying a resale property, take the time and spend the money to have a professional, independent home inspection done as conditional to buying.
Step 8: Close and move in
You made it to the end! Pack up your boxes of your old place and head over to your new home. Make sure you’ve worked out breaking a lease at a rental before you move into your new home to avoid any extra fees.