Obtain A Pre-Approval
If you will be getting a mortgage, a pre-approval will help make you more comfortable with what a mortgage payment would be like. A good agent will typically have recommendations for credible lenders. Choose a lender based on their proven ability to get the job done correctly first, then consider the costs. Be careful if the lender is associated with the real estate company; it sometimes creates a conflict of interest.
Narrow Down Your Choices
Start cutting down your list to a target group of two or three homes. Then make a second visit to do a “detailed” viewing. This way, you will always be aware of your best alternative if your top pick doesn’t work out.
Once you decide on a specific home, make an offer immediately. Your negotiating position gets dramatically worse if another buyer starts negotiating on the same home before you have a contract signed.
Shop For A Mortgage
Now that you have a contract, you can shop for the best mortgage deal. Remember, focus first on the lenders that you know will get the job done, then make cost comparisons to find the best deal. Use our Mortgage Calculator to help figure out your monthly payments.
Apply For Home Insurance
You will need: the address, county, year built, and type of construction. Type of roof. Type of heat (and any form of alternate heat). Distance from house to fire department. Distance from house to fire hydrant. Type of locks. Type of electrical service. Square footage of home.
Start Looking At Homes
You can usually visit eight or ten houses in a well-planned day with a well-prepared real estate agent. Open houses typically are not the best use of time because they are only a small indication of the inventory of available homes.
Research Purchase Contracts
Don’t wait till the day you need to sign a contract to look at one. Your agent should be reviewing the documents, the processes, and the local customs for negotiations and contingencies with you while you are still searching for a home. You’ll be much more confident when the time comes to “sign on the bottom line.”
If you haven’t already seen comparable sales data by now, this is the time you need to be reviewing it to know how much you should be paying for the home. If the market values are stagnant or dropping, you also need to consider market inventory and absorption rate.
If you and the seller can find common ground, then you can sign a contract and move forward. If you can’t come to an agreement that makes sense for both of you, start looking at other homes and hope for better luck with the next negotiation.
Obtain A Home Inspection
Make sure to have your place checked out for lead, termites, radon, and/or other concerns. See our Home Inspection Checklist for more details.
Set A Closing Date
Pick a day when you, your lawyer*, your Realtor, and the seller’s can meet. This may already be determined by the purchase contract terms. For closing, make sure you: Review closing papers 24 hours before you have to sign them. Do a final walk-through of the home. Go to the closing with home insurance information, house inspection documents, your down payment funds, and your driver’s license.