Just because you’re buying a home for the first time doesn’t mean it has to be confusing and stressful. Stick to our timeline and cruise through the home buying experience without any surprises.
6-12 Months From Move-In Day
Build your wishlist.
Put together a thorough list of your must-have features and conveniences, your nice-to-haves, and your deal-breakers.
- Which neighborhoods have you narrowed it down to?
- Do you want a renovated kitchen as fresh as your recipes?
- Is a backyard with a huge swimming pool a huge win?
Break down your budget (this one’s a biggie).
If you’re ready to start a serious home search you’ll first want to seriously consider how much money you’re willing to spend, and how much you can save for a down payment before you buy.
- Consider how much “bacon” you bring home monthly, how much you’re currently saving, and check your credit score
- Tally up any monthly expenses: your current rent, your car payment, day care costs, student loans, etc.
- Ask a financial pro how much cash you can comfortably put down at closing (there’s actually a good chance you can get away with a down payment smaller than 20%).
Do a preliminary home search.
Before you dive right in and start looking at homes, do a bit of leg work to understand what’s out there and what’s within your budget.
- Do some digging online to narrow down your search to specific neighborhoods, school districts, etc.
- Browse listings to get an idea of the average purchase price and what features come at a cost premium (to calculate exact cost per square foot, divide the home’s price by # of square feet)
- Set up saved searches on property listing websites to get automatic updates on homes you might like
- Visit a few open houses to get a better idea of what you want without the pressure to buy
Hire a real estate agent.
If you decide you want a realtor to help guide you through the steps of buying a home, now’s the time to find one. Tips for finding a great realtor:
- Ask a friend to recommend an agent they trust
- Interview multiple realtors to get a sense of who you’ll work well with and who will have your best interest at heart
- Read online reviews to make sure your front runners have good track records
- See which realtors have represented recent sales in the area you’re interested in — a little inside-the-neighborhood scoop never hurt!
3-6 Months From Move-In Day
Get your financial documents together.
Before you start to consider mortgage or home financing options, we recommend you get all your “docs” in a row so the whole financing process is as seamless as possible. Some documents you might need:
- Proof of income like pay stubs or W-2s
- Tax return copies from recent years
- Recent bank statements showing current balances for all your accounts
Find a mortgage lender and get pre-approved early.
Do some research to find a lender who will help you get the most home for your money. Then, make your whole financing process easier by getting pre-approved early.
- Compare interest rates and cost incentives for multiple lenders
- Once you’ve narrowed lenders down, ask about their pre-approval process (a more thorough review of your financial info now means fewer surprises later)
- Apply for a pre-approval asap so your mortgage will be ready when you are
Start home shopping and touring (officially).
With a mortgage pre-approval in hand and your search narrowed down, it’s time to officially start looking at homes.
- Jump on “coming soon” and exclusive listings so you can tour before other buyers
- When touring, picture yourself in the home — can you see your couch in the living room or your dog in the backyard?
- Pay close attention to the details, and take time to ask questions about the home’s quality
- Test your daily commute to and from the home and feel out the neighborhood during high traffic hours
1-2 Months From Move-In Day
Submit an offer.
Find “the one”? Nice, you’re nearing the finish line. But before you get there, follow these steps to own the offer process.
- See what other, similar homes are selling for in the area
- Work with your realtor to put together a competitive offer
- Typically, it’s best to leave some wiggle room in your budget in case there are other offers on the table and you need to negotiate (or in case you need to make a few updates after move-in)
Get a home appraisal and inspection.
Once your offer has been accepted, getting the home inspected and appraised can confirm the home’s value (to you and your lender) and reveal any red flags before you put pen to paper.
- A home inspection evaluates the condition of the home to uncover any issues with the house, big or small
- Based on similar home sales in the area, a home appraisal provides an expert value estimate that determines if you’re paying the right price
- Appraisal and inspection results can help you negotiate for a lower purchase price or for necessary repairs before you close
Close in on closing day.
You’re almost there, promise. Once you’ve done a final walk-through of the home and contacted your lender to make sure your financing is good to go, you’re ready for closing day.
- To take care of your down payment and closing costs, either wire funds before closing or bring a cashier’s check for the total amount due on the big day
- Don’t forget: You’ll need a valid photo ID too!
- The process will probably take a couple hours — just remember to read all the paperwork carefully, and you’ll close with confidence
Congrats, you’re now a homeowner. All that’s left to do is load up the moving truck, pay for your friends’ help with pizza, and settle in. Buying your first home doesn’t seem so complicated anymore, does it?
This article is meant for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as financial, tax, legal, real estate, insurance, or investment advice. Bungalo always encourages you to reach out to an advisor regarding your own situation.