Congratulations on deciding to buy a home! Use this step-by-step guide as a way to prepare yourself for the process.

  • Interview real estate agents

    • What experience do they have? How many homes have they sold in the last year?
    • Can they provide recent references?
    • Will you work with one person, or a team of people?
    • How is the agent being compensated?
    • Do you have to sign a buyer’s agency agreement?
  • Become an expert in your market

    • Read blogs.
    • Watch homes for sale – What do they sell for? How long do they stay on market?
    • Start attending open houses.
    • Research neighborhoods or suburbs you’d like to live in.
  • Review the offer paperwork

    • Be familiar with the offer paperwork and legalese before you find that perfect home.
    • Understand the risk and trade-offs that come with various terms in your offer contract.
  • Use a buyer’s agent for home tours

    • Agents can access any home that is listed for sale, even listings from competing agents.
    • Many listings do not have open houses or require appointments to view. Your agent can make this process easy.

Housing Market Information

Find additional home details, valuations and sales history online.

  • Get pre-approved

    • Speak with at least 2-3 lenders and get pre-approved for a loan.
    • Find out what you can afford to buy, and how much of a down payment you will need.
    • Discuss finance options with your lender.
    • Understand how the loan officer is paid and loan fees that you will be responsible for.
  • Work on your budget

    • Put together a budget based on your projected monthly payment.
    • Don’t forget property taxes, insurance and ongoing maintenance costs for the home.
  • Get a pre-approval letter

    • Ask your lender to prepare a pre-approval letter that your agent can submit with your offer.
    • An offer without a pre-approval letter is unlikely to be taken seriously by a seller.
  • Prepare your cash to close

    • Understand how much cash you will need to close.
    • Ask your lender for a Good Faith Estimate that breaks down all of the transaction costs.
    • Document all money transfers and don’t open any new credit lines until the home is closed.

Further Reading

  • Understand the situation

    • How long has the home been on the market?
    • What is the seller’s motivation?
    • Are you competing against other bidders?
    • Make sure you and your agent have seen the home in person.
  • Prepare your offer strategy

    • What’s a fair price? Ask your agent to analyze recent sold properties in the area.
    • What contingencies should you include in your bid?
    • How will you need to improve your offer to compete against other bidders?
  • Review paperwork and offer strategy

    • Plan to spend about an hour with your agent reviewing the paperwork and strategizing your offer.
    • Understand what you are signing.
    • Evaluate risks and trade-offs for various offer terms.
    • How much do you want this particular house? Remember that there will always be another house to buy if this one doesn’t work out.
  • Be a persistent negotiator

    • Be sure to be persistent in your negotiations. Your agent should keep the negotiations moving along (on paper) until both parties are satisfied.
  • Have earnest money ready

    • Be prepared to write an earnest money check at the time of your offer.
    • This is the seller’s safety net should you default on the offer.
    • Ask your agent what type of contingencies to put in place to protect your earnest money.

  • Pay attention to deadlines

    • Ask your agent to prepare a list of timelines required by the purchase & sale agreement.
    • Schedule a home inspection.
    • Apply for your loan.
    • Shop for home insurance.
    • Review the title report.
  • Review inspection results

    • Review inspection results and be reasonable when negotiating items that come up during inspection.
    • Consider other types of inspections – sewer, mold, lead paint, etc.
  • Homeowners Association (HOA) review

    • Determine if the home is subject to a Homeowners Association.
    • Read through HOA rules, regulations and budgets.
    • Understand if there is litigation, special assessments, rules or rental caps that could affect your ownership of the home.
  • Respond promptly to lender requests

    • Every day you delay documentation to your lender is a potential delay in your closing.
  • Ready to sign

    • Have your down payment ready.
    • Plan to be in town before closing to sign documents. You must be accessible if last-minute signatures or documents are required.