So you’re ready to buy your first home. Now what? It can be a daunting task to even get yourself over the hump of deciding to become a first-time homebuyer, but making an adequate “to-do list” is necessary to make the process smooth and productive. What you are looking to do is ensure that your first home is in fact your dream home and that the steps you take to get there are the right ones. Before you get the keys though, make sure to hit everything on the checklist below!
Determine now if you’re truly ready to be a homeowner versus a renter
Becoming a homeowner is a lot about timing. Before you delve into your financial health, enlist professional help, and spend what could be months of your life in a search, take a step back and figure out if now is the right time. Questions to ask of yourself and the timing abound.
- Is it a good time to buy?
- Are you in a place in your life and career to plant your roots?
- Are you sure you are ready to take on the responsibilities of homeownership?
- Do the personal financial benefits to owning your own home now outweigh the personal financial comforts of renting?
These are all things to ask of yourself now before you leave the renters world behind.
Prepare to commit
Buying a home means putting down roots, plain and simple. Consider the amount of time, energy, and money that goes into finding and purchasing a home. Transaction costs in purchasing and selling your home can add up too. And there is still a significant amount of your own time that is spent on both ends of the process. If you’re ready to commit to a home, be ready to commit to owning for at least a few years.
Know what you’re looking for
An important piece of committing to home ownership is deciding what that will look like. Ahead of searching for your dream home you will need to figure out where that will be, what your must-haves are, if your daily commute is acceptable, etc. And if you’re planning for a family down the line, don’t forget about the quality of schools in your neighborhood. In order for your search to be as productive as possible you need to know a general area of where you’ll be looking, and what your first home should look like and include.
Get your ducks in a row!
Before you move forward with your house hunt, it is imperative that you get your finances in order. The first place to start will be your credit score. Unless you’re planning to purchase your first home in all cash, you will need a mortgage to get the keys. That being said, ahead of shopping around for a mortgage be sure to shore up your credit. Your credit score will determine your loan and down payment and the golden rule (of home buying) still applies here: the higher your score the lower your payments.
Once your credit is in good shape and any flaws on your report are dealt with you will want to get pre-approved for your mortgage. Smart homebuyers look to get financing lined up before the real house hunt begins. If you know what you are working with financially then you know what you can (and can’t) afford.
Figure out what you can afford
Speaking of what you can afford, you must consider everything that goes into being a homeowner and that means life in your new home. If you only budget for the initial purchase costs you will quickly find that you fall short. Before stepping into your new home, you must figure out what all of your monthly and annual costs will be to know if the home is right for you. Aside from your mortgage payments you should budget maintenance costs, homeowners insurance, property taxes, and utilities. It is an absolute must that you take this into account before your search, as this will save you the trouble of falling in love with something out of your price range.
Get professional help
Once you have set your search parameters you will need a real pro to help bring your dream to life. Finding the right Realtor to assist your efforts undeniably key to the process. Be sure to work with a Realtor that you truly trust. If you take the necessary steps to finding a trustworthy, professional Realtor—namely, taking recommendations, vetting a short list of agents, and doing a background check of their success in your target neighborhood—you will make the house hunting process easier on yourself. The right Realtor will be your resource throughout the home buying process beginning with your initial search all the way through your first (and hopefully last) offer!
Once you are down to “the one” do your homework
You likely wouldn’t buy a car without comparing it to similar vehicles, right? So then why wouldn’t you compare your potential first home to what else is on the market? Your Realtor should be able to provide you with information on “comps” in the area, but it’s prudent to do your own homework and review whether what you are looking to buy is priced properly for the neighborhood so you can go in with the right offer.
View the home (and the neighborhood) at different times of the day
This one says it all—make sure you like your potential home and neighborhood at all times of the day. While this may seem like an otherwise moot point, amateur homebuyers do not take into account what life in there home will be like. Look beyond your first impression, and envision your everyday. Is traffic outside your front door busy in the mornings? Will that affect your commute? Is the street well-lit in the evening or will you need to invest in outdoor lighting for both security and aesthetics? If you plan to work from home during the day, are there any distractions around the property that can ruin your productivity? Before you put the offer in, make sure it’s the home you se
Examine every square inch!
Arguably the most important step you must take before signing on the dotted line is getting a thorough home inspection. Much like reviewing comparable vehicles when buying a new car, you also wouldn’t purchase a car—especially a used one—without checking out what is under the hood. Depending on the state you are buying in, sellers are required to disclose problems with the property; however, unseen structural issues may abound. To make sure you can sleep (safely) at night, hire your own, reputable home inspector. While savings and homeowners insurance are meant to insulate your wallet from future problems, it can only help you best prepare for future costs—or even rethink whether or not this is the house for you.
Now that you’re armed with all the musts for your “to-do” list go forth and start checking off those boxes!
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