10 Steps to Buy A Home.
Step 1 - New Home Needs.
Congratulations on your decision to purchase a new home! Your first step toward buying your new home will be to analyze your needs. Your real estate agent can assist in analyzing your needs so that you will be able to get a clear picture of exactly what you want your new home to look like and how it should function for you and your family.
First, you should write down why you are looking for a new home. For example, are you currently renting and would like to have a home where you can begin building equity? Maybe you recently married and have outgrown your current residence. Or, maybe you have just gotten a promotion, which requires you to move to a new city. These factors will all have a bearing on how you approach your home search.
Second, establish a time frame that you would like to stay within for buying your home. Depending on your reasons for wanting a new home and the current state of the market in the area you are looking to buy, you should be able to come up with a rough guideline, which you can finalize at a later time.
Last, you most likely have a mental picture of what you would like your house to look like and what features it should have. It's very important to write these ideas down to avoid any ambiguity later in your home search. You should make at least two lists: one should be a list describing your dream home and the other should list the features of the home that are an absolute must have in order to buy it. In a perfect world, your new home would fulfill both lists 100 percent. It is more likely that you will end up blending the two lists into a schedule of prioritized items as you progress through the buying process. This is a natural and evolutionary process as you get clearer about what you want and what is available.
Step 2 - Get Pre-Approved or Pre-Qualify for a Loan.
Now that you have your list of features you want in your new home, you are ready to start looking! Well, not just yet. You are going to need to know in what price range to look. There are two ways to go about this. You can get prequalified or preapproved for a mortgage.
Either way, you will need to contact a mortgage company. There are some key differences between prequalification and preapproval for a loan that you need to be aware of. Loan prequalification is a simple process. It takes into account very basic information regarding your financial status and gives you an amount for which you may qualify. This can be done strictly on a verbal level or electronically over the Internet. The prequalified amount is based solely on the information you provide. In most markets, prequalified buyers usually hold little clout compared to preapproved buyers due to the fact that the information given during the prequalification process is not thoroughly investigated and therefore may be unreliable. Where a preapproved buyer is actually approved for a loan of a certain amount, a prequalified buyer is only told that they might be approved for a certain amount.
Pre-approval is a much more involved process. The lender will take all pertinent information regarding your finances and perform an extensive check on your current financial status. This will ultimately give you the exact amount that you will be eligible for (depending on what type of loan you decide to go with). Being preapproved lets the seller know that you have gone through an extensive financial background check and there should be no unexpected obstacles to buying the home. You can see how being preapproved would be more attractive to a seller than just being prequalified.
Step 3 - Learn the Neighborhood.
Now that you have your list of needs and wants and you know how much you can afford to spend, it's time to look at some houses! Not just yet. Step back for a moment and consider the larger picture. People don't just buy a house; they buy the neighborhood the house is in. Think about that...if you found the perfect house but it was in a neighborhood that wasn't to your liking, would you make an offer on it? Most likely the answer would be, "No."
So, you will need to make another list of what type of neighborhood you want to live in. You will most likely want to consider things like how living in the neighborhood will affect your drive time to and from work, what amenities are offered (swimming pool, tennis courts, park, etc.), and, if you have children who are attending school or soon will be, what school district you will be in and how close the schools are. You may even want to make two lists just as you did with your home criteria.
Your real estate agent can help you consolidate the information from your list of needs and wants for your home, your preapproval, and your list of needs and wants for the neighborhood. From this, you can incorporate this information into a broad search profile, which will then be narrowed down to specific areas dictated by the market in which you will be looking. Your agent's experience in local markets will be an invaluable resource during this step.