A step-by-step guide for the excited but inexperienced homebuyer
Purchasing a home is a process. Not the type of process that is simple, easy, and effortless. Instead, it is the type of process that holds weight. In the way that lets you know that you need to be prepared to be mentally, emotionally, and possibly financially drained. It sounds very daunting, but know that in the end, it is totally worth it. Really. It just requires you to have your ducks in a row so that you can be as prepared as possible. You’re already off to a good start by reading this article, so pat yourself on the back! Now let’s dig into the steps you need for buying a home in the current homebuying climate.
Your first step in the home buying process is to get prequalified. Of course, you can use tools like Zillow and Trulia to look at houses, but you won’t know for certain how much you will be able to afford. Additionally, a lot of realtors won’t show you homes if you’re not prequalified. They don’t want to risk showing you a home that you absolutely love only later to find out that you can’t get approved for it because of your income or credit. When getting prequalified, the lender gets information on your income, credit, and other factors to determine how much of a mortgage you would be able to afford. Getting pre-approved gives you and your realtor the insight to know exactly what homes you should be looking for without setting yourself up for disappointment.
Once you’re prequalified, you’re also in a position to apply for grants and homebuying assistance programs. The majority of those programs require you to already have a prequalification letter to even apply. Qualifying for a grant will give you extra buying power.
Finding the right realtor
Of course, this article is a quick and generic overview of the home buying timeline. There are so many twists and turns that cannot all be included because every situation and experience is different. What is most important is that you find a realtor that will explain everything to you as you go along in the process. The process can be stressful, but having the right realtor will make it significantly less stressful. Try to find a realtor based off of recommendations from people you trust. You probably have family, friends, or coworkers that have recently purchased a home. Find out who they used and if they would use them again. You will know right away if they love or loathe their realtor.
Looking for a house to buy is similar to shopping for an outfit for a specific event. You probably already have in mind what you would like to wear, but finding it will be a challenge. Prior to shopping for said outfit, you’ve probably seen it lots of times online or in a store. Now that you want to buy it, you cannot find it anywhere. You’re going to multiple stores and can’t seem to find it at any of them. Or maybe you find a store that has it, try it on, and it looks terrible on you. Fortunately, in your search, you came across some other outfits that fit you well. Before you know it, you’re at the event in something completely different than what you planned.
House shopping is the exact same way! You may think you know exactly what you want in a house, but until you start looking you won’t realize the characteristics of a home that you can and cannot live without. Also, you may find a home that has everything that you want, but for some reason, you’re unable to put it under contract. That can be very disappointing. Yet, if you keep your mind and eyes open you will find another home that you absolutely love and fits all of your needs. Have your realtor make an offer and get it under contract. Now is when things get real.
What the eyes don’t see
Getting an inspection is absolutely vital during the process. However, it is a step a lot of homebuyers skip. Some get so caught up in how much they love the house that they try to cut corners to secure the deal. For others, they may not have the money to come out of pocket to pay the costs for the inspection. That is a big no-no! Just because a house has great curb appeal doesn’t mean there are not some major issues hiding behind the walls. Get an inspection!
Your realtor may make a recommendation for an inspector, but feel free to do research and find your own. You want an inspector that is going to be very thorough. We’re talking pull out his coveralls so that he can go in the crawl space and walk on the roof kind of thorough. You want everything looked at and checked off before you close the deal on this house. Once the inspection is complete, the inspector will give you a summary but should provide you with a full report. The turnaround on that report should be short. Lastly, make sure you also get a termite inspection! Your home inspector may include that service also, but if not, hire someone to do it. It will be more money out of your pocket, but not having it done is not worth the risk.
Time to close
Closing on your home is where everything you’ve done over the past few weeks, or months, finally comes together. The house hunting, the inspections, the saving, the frustration…all of it for this moment. It is going to feel like you’re signing a thousand papers on that day. However, in the end, you will be a homeowner! The feeling is surreal and definitely one to cherish.