1) Figure out how much you can afford
- Calculate your monthly income and debt.
- Check your credit report and FICO score.
- Figure out your down payment.
2) Get pre-approved for a mortgage
3) Determine what you want and need in a home
- Choose a type of mortgage
- Speak to at least five lenders and mortgage brokers.
- Shop for the best interest rates and programs.
- Choose a location (downtown, urban, suburban, rural).
- Choose a type (single family, townhouse, condo, loft).
- Choose a price range
- Choose a size (SF, # Bedrooms, # Bathrooms, etc.)
- Choose an architectural style.
4) Research your target neighborhoods.
- Look online for information on schools, crime rates, traffic and zoning.
- Determine your work commute.
- Scout local amenities, such as parks, shops and restaurants.
5) Work with a buyer's agent who knows the neighborhood.
- Get referrals.
- consider working with an exclusive buyer's agent.
- Interview at least three agents.
- Look for experience and good chemistry.
6) Search for homes in the MLS and For Sale By Owner (FSBO).
- Browse listings online.
- Ask your agent to set up tours of homes that fit your criteria.
- Check local newspapers.
- Pick up flyers and attend open houses.
7) Research each home you want to buy.
- Ask your agent for comps to estimate the property's fair market value.
- Ask the seller's reason for selling.
- Review all property disclosures.
- Find out about liens, easements or other restrictions.
8) Make an offer and negotiate.
- Determine the purchase price.
- Include contingencies, such as financial, inspection or purchase.
- Spell out any special requests and repairs you want included in the sale.
- Determine an earnest amount of money.
- Decide a move-in date.
- Once both parties agree to the terms, sign the Purchase and Sale Agreement.
9) Finalize the deal.
- Get the house appraised.
- Get a professional home inspection
- Consider getting specific inspections for structural engineering, roof and termites.
- Use the appraisal and inspection reports to re-negotiate if necessary.
- Choose a home insurance company.
- Complete the loan process with the lender.
- Do a walk-through inspection prior to closing.
- Set aside cash for the closing costs and down payment.
10) Close the purchase
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- Review the settlement document at least two days before closing to see how funds will be collected and distributed.
- Get a cashier's check for the amount you need to bring to closing.