I don't think I need to say it, but buying a house requires a lot of time and effort. Fear not for lots of people do it without pulling out all of their hair during the process. Below are 10 steps that can help make the home buying process manageable and help you make the best decisions possible.
Step 1: Start Your Research Early
As soon as you can, start reading Web sites, newspapers (if that's something you still read), and magazines that have real estate listings. Make a note of particular homes you are interested in and see how long they stay on the market. Also, note any changes in asking prices. This will give you a good sense of the housing trends in the specific areas you're looking to move to.
Step 2: Determine How Much House You Can Afford
Lenders generally recommend that people look for homes that cost no more than three to five times their annual household income if the home buyers plan to make a 20% down payment and have an average amount of other debt.
But you should make this decision based on your own financial situation. There are many Afordability Calculators online to help you figure this out.
Step 3: Get Prequalified for credit for Your Mortgage
Before you start looking for a home, you will need to know how much you can actually spend. The best way to do that is to get prequalified for a mortgage. To get prequalified, you just need to provide some financial information to your mortgage banker, such as your income and the amount of savings and investments you have. Your lender will review this information and tell you how much they can lend you. This will tell you the price range of the homes you should be looking at.
Step 4: Find the Right Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents are important partners when you’re buying a home. Real estate agents can provide you with helpful information on homes and neighborhoods that isn’t easily accessible to the public. Their knowledge of the home buying process, negotiating skills, and familiarity with the area you want to live in can be extremely valuable. And best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything to use an agent – they’re compensated from the commission paid by the seller of the house.
Step 5: Shop for Your Home and Make an Offer
Start touring homes in your price range. It might be helpful to take notes on all the homes you visit and like enough to consider putting an offer on. You will see a lot of houses! It can be hard to remember everything about them, so you might want to take pictures or video to help you remember each home.
Take as much time as you need to find the right home. Then work with your real estate agent to negotiate a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes in the same neighborhood.
Step 6: Get a Home Inspection
Typically, purchase offers are contingent on a home inspection of the property to check for signs of structural damage or things that may need fixing. This contingency protects you by giving you a chance to renegotiate your offer or withdraw it without penalty if the inspection reveals significant material damage.
Step 7: Work with a Mortgage Banker to Select Your Loan
Lenders have a wide range of competitively priced loan programs. Every home buyer has their own priorities when choosing a mortgage. Some are interested in keeping their monthly payments as low as possible. Others are interested in making sure that their monthly payments never increase. And still others pick a loan based on the knowledge they will be moving again in just a few years.
Step 8: Have the Home Appraised
Lenders will arrange for an appraiser to provide an independent estimate of the value of the house you are buying. The appraiser is a member of a third party company and is not directly associated with the lender. The appraisal will let all the parties involved know that you are paying a fair price for the home.
Step 9: Coordinate the Paperwork
As you can imagine, there is a lot of paperwork involved in buying a house. Your lender will arrange for a title company to handle all of the paperwork and make sure that the seller is the rightful owner of the house you are buying.
Step 10: Close the Sale
At closing, you will sign all of the paperwork required to complete the purchase, including your loan documents. At this point, you'r ready to move in!