Recently I bought my first house (see below) and learned a lot about the home buying process. So here are my 10 steps to buying a home. (WARNING: This is by no means expert advice on what to do when buying a house; just my experience.)
1. FIND HOUSE
This can take a lot longer than you expect, especially if you are picky like me. It took me nine months to find this cute and charming Craftsman style house in my price range. My poor real estate agent took me to house after house until I found just the right one. And when I did, I just knew it. There is a feeling you get when you find that house that is perfect for you.
2. MAKE OFFER
This is where things get a little harder. You have to determine how much the house is worth to you and have the current owners of the house agree with you. Come to find out it is very rare to have your offer accepted on the first try. I placed offers on two other houses before getting this one. If you don’t have your offer accepted the first time, then try, try, try again.
3. WAIT IMPATIENTLY
This is the nerve racking part. Waiting for the seller to respond to your offer. Depending on the situation it could be hours or it could be days. Either way, there is nothing you can do, but be patient and wait.
4. HAVE AN INSPECTION
Now that your offer has been accepted, it is time to get the ball rolling. The first thing is to have an inspection. I highly suggest to be present at your inspection. The inspector will show you things about the house that you might not have noticed otherwise. Also ask lots of questions. If you don’t know something, ask! This step will tell you the most about the house you are buying.
5. FILL OUT LOAN APPLICATION
Now comes the paperwork. I also suggest meeting with a bank before you begin looking for a house. (This should really be first step.) Meeting with the bank first will tell you how much you can spend on a house and what your monthly payments will be. Also having a pre-approval letter from your bank will make your offer stronger.
Filling out the loan application can be intimidating, but your bank’s mortgage lender will be able to walk you through the process and tell you what documentation is needed for the application. Again, ask lots of questions and really try to understand the process. The more you know the better.
6. HAVE AN APPRAISAL
The bank will take care of having the appraisal done. This just tells you if the house is worth as much as you think. If it comes back higher than your offer, great, you got a good deal. If it comes back lower, then you can work with your real estate agent to possibly renegotiate the offer. (It is good to have an appraisal contingency in your offer in case this happens.)
7. LOAN APPLICATION ACCEPTED
Time to celebrate! You are almost there. This means the bank has agreed to loan you the money needed to buy the house.
8. SCHEDULE EVERYBODY
By this point, you are fairly certain that the house is yours and all you are waiting on is the closing date. This is the best time to schedule everything from movers to painters to carpet cleaners. Depending on how much time you have to move, it can be stressful to get everything done. I only had a week and in that time, I had the house painted and the carpets cleaned. I also hired movers to move the bigger pieces of furniture.
9. CLOSE ON THE PROPERTY
This is the most exciting part of the home buying experience. This is the day where you become a home owner! The closing only takes a few hours, but you will sign more papers than an author at a book signing. The lawyer should be able to answer any questions about what you are signing and the process of closing.
10. MOVE IN
Now that you own your new house, it is time to move everything in. But first things first, make sure to paint and have the carpets cleaned (or whatever else you want to do) before you move your stuff in. It is much easier to do these things without furniture in the way. Thankfully, I had my wonderful mom who came and stayed with me the week I was moving, so I did not have to take a lot of time off from work. She was able to meet the painters and carpet cleaners at the house and get them what they needed. (They all loved her since she brought them snacks.) She also worked to clean the new house and my old townhouse plus she moved a lot of the little stuff into the house.
All I can say is that I could not have done it without her or my dad or all the other people that helped me out along the way. And even though the house buying process has been a huge learning experience, the adventure has just begun…