The Ultimate Guide to First-Time Homebuyers

Congratulations! You want to start looking for your first home. So where do you start? Did you know it takes about a year to purchase a home - from preparation to getting the keys?

Before you get too overwhelmed, check out this step-by-step guide to help you throughout the entire home buying process.

12 Months

  • Check your credit score: Ensure that you are financially where you need to be in order to buy a home. Not only that, but you may encounter some errors on your credit report that may negatively affect your mortgage’s interest rates, that should get sorted beforehand. 

  • How much can you afford?: There are plenty of high quality mortgage calculators to help guide you towards what you can afford for a home. Keep in mind though, that you won’t know exactly what you can afford until you’re pre-approved.

  • Down payment: The more you put down, the better your rate and monthly payment will be on your mortgage - without a doubt. Now is the best time to start budgeting for a down payment, to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.

9 Months

  • Must haves: Start prioritizing your needs from your wants when it comes to your house. Is it the commute? The yard? The floorplan? Determine what are your “must-haves” in a house and then start researching.

  • Neighborhoods: You probably have a good idea of what you can afford in a house at this point, so now is a good time to start researching neighborhoods and even open houses in your ideal neighborhoods. Then you can determine what you will most likely be getting for a house in each of your target neighborhoods. 

  • Prepare for moving costs: It’s important to keep in mind when you’re purchasing a home that there is a lot more that goes into the cost than just the down payment and your mortgage. There will be closing costs that you may need to cover such as the home inspection, title search, property survey and more. Plus you may need new furniture, updating supplies such as paint and flooring, and moving trucks. Now is a great time to start preparing for this.

6 Months

  • Collect the paperwork: A lot of information is needed when you’re applying for a home loan, so make sure you have all your paperwork in order when the lender ask for it. The information they’ll need includes your W-2 forms, tax returns, pay stubs, credit card and banking statements, the addresses of your residences for the past seven years, among others.

  • Lenders and realtors: Start researching different lenders to find the best rate and to get pre-approved for your first home. Once you’re pre-approved, you can find a realtor to help you find your home. 

3 Months

  • Pre-Approval: At this point you should have found a lender and have gotten pre-approved for a mortgage amount.

  • Start shopping!: Time for the fun part. Now that you know how much you can afford and have found a realtor, now is the time to start shopping for your new home. 

Last 2 Months

  • Make an offer: Did you find your dream home? Get ready to make an offer they can’t refuse! In all reality, this may be a stressful time - hoping your offer wins out. Thankfully you’ll have a realtor to help negotiate on your behalf. 

  • Home Inspection: After your offer has been expected, one of the first things you need to do is have the home inspected. This is essential, as if the inspector finds an issue with the home, this can delay your move in. 

  • Review your docs: Now that you are in the final stretch, ensure that all your documents are perfect for the lender to sign off on, your down payment is ready to go, and everything is set!

  • Do a final walk-through: Make sure that the seller has provided everything agreed upon at the final walk-through of the home. This could include anything from home repairs, a special type of furniture or even new flooring or windows. Make sure it’s all there. 

  • Get insured and bring a cashier’s check: Upon closing you need to provide proof that your home is insured as well as a cashier’s check for any cash needed at closing. Be sure to get the exact amount needed in order to get the cashier’s check at your bank. 

Then, all that’s left is to get your keys and move on in!