You’ve done the math: You’re in a buyer’s market, your credit score is great, and you’ve calculated that you have enough money saved up for a house. Now comes the tricky part: the actual purchase of a home. There are many moving parts in the home buying process, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but if you take it one step at a time, it’s not nearly as intimidating as it seems at first glance. Here’s a basic overview of what you can expect as you prepare to buy a home.
Step 1: Get pre-qualified.
The first step towards buying a home is determining just how much you can afford to spend. Pre-qualification makes establishing a budget much simpler. If you submit some basic information about your financial status to a lender—such as your income, credit score, debt, and assets—they can provide you with an estimate of the loan amount you may be eligible to borrow.
Step 2: Get pre-approved.
After you are pre-qualified, you can submit some more in-depth documentation of your finances to get pre-approved. Pre-approval confirms how much a lender is willing to let you borrow for a mortgage, which lets a seller know that you are a trustworthy applicant who has proof in hand that you can afford to buy a home up to a certain amount.
Step 3: Get your priorities straight.
Once you have determined the price range of your future home, it’s time to set boundaries on what you are willing to spend that money on. Narrow down what is important to you in a property—such as square footage, rooms, location, yard size, and neighborhood atmosphere—and make a note of what you are and are not willing to compromise on.
Step 4: Find a skilled agent to assist you.
Now that you’ve figured out the price and home features you’re looking for, you’re ready to connect with a real estate agent. Working with an agent not only provides you with valuable input throughout the home buying process; it can also save you a lot of money. A good agent knows how to negotiate on your behalf. An experienced agent can also help connect you with various other professionals whose aid you will need when buying a home, such as mortgage brokers, lawyers, and contractors.
Step 5: Choose the home you want.
Make good use of your agent’s knowledge to find the best house you can afford, and be sure to visit open houses rather than just looking at the pictures shown online. Consider the desired features that you made in Step 3 after every home tour and check to see how well a property meets the standards you set.
Step 6: Determine the home’s market value.
Once you’ve decided on the home you want, ask your agent to prepare a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) for you. A CMA compares the property you are looking to buy with similar properties in the area to determine a fair price and is crucial for ensuring that you don’t overpay for a home. Also, consider if the property has any apparent damage or risk factors that may decrease its value.
Step 7: Make an offer.
Using your CMA as a guide, make the seller a fair offer based on what you and your agent feel that the house is worth. Don’t hesitate to negotiate not only on the home’s price but also on the closing date. If the seller is not willing to make any reasonable compromises to meet your needs, you may wish to reconsider whether you still wish to buy this particular home.
Step 8: Notify your mortgage lender.
Once your offer has been accepted, you’ll need to confirm with your lender that you can still afford to pay for the house. Submit any documentation required by your lender to confirm that your financial status has not changed from when you got pre-approved. Make sure to provide any information requested promptly so that the approval process can move as quickly as possible.
Step 9: Hire an inspector.
While your mortgage lender will require an appraiser to investigate a property for any obvious signs of damage before a home is sold, this appraisal will typically only factor in easily noticeable flaws and may fail to discover several serious problems. Ask your agent to recommend a reliable inspector to take a more detailed look at the house you’re looking to buy and inform you of any factors that may cause you to renegotiate on price or reconsider buying the home altogether.
Step 10: Wait for the home to be appraised.
While you’ve already received information on the status of the property from the inspection conducted in Step 9, your lender will still need their own confirmation that they are not lending you more money than the house is worth. At this point, they will conduct an appraisal to determine the value of the home. If the home is appraised to be worth the loan amount or higher, you are in the clear to buy it. However, if it is worth less, you will not be provided with the full loan amount and need to either pay the difference out of pocket or renegotiate the sale price with the seller.
Step 11: Obtain homeowners insurance.
You are almost ready to close on your home. All that’s left is to open a new homeowners insurance policy. As you shop around, consider the cost of insurance and what is and is not covered under each plan, and whether or not your coverage will factor in the future value of your property adjusted for inflation rather than just the value upon purchase.
Step 12: Check the status of the property.
Either the day before or the morning of closing, it’s a good idea to take one last walk through the home and yard and check that any repairs previously agreed upon have been completed as planned and no new problems have arisen. As long as the property passes this final test, you are all ready to close.
Step 13: Make the home yours.
Show up to closing with enough money to pay for closing costs, grab a pen, and sign any last-minute paperwork required to seal the deal on your home purchase. After a few hours, you will officially be the owner of your new home!
Ready to get started?
If you’re prepared to begin the process of buying a home, let the loan experts at Cross Timbers Mortgage guide you through each step. We’re here to help you find the perfect home loan based on your financial status and personal priorities.