The Complete and Only First-Time Homebuyer Checklist You’ll Ever Need

You’ve found the house of your dreams and you’re ready to grab the keys and get on with living!

If only it were that easy.

Unfortunately, making a home purchase requires A LOT of steps. HOWEVER, we know how overwhelming the home-buying process can get, so we’ve made it easy for you! 

Our first-time homebuyer checklist is exactly what you need to guide you through your new home purchase. From knowing what you can afford to sign on the dotted line, we’ll help you every step of the way.

And we’re here for sellers, too! As a home seller, understanding the home buying process can ease your mind when it may seem like things are moving too slow. 

So, have no fear, you’ve got a local real estate agent here! Let’s take a closer look at the home buying process and work together toward a successful closing.

1. Know What You Can Afford

Shopping for a home can be an exciting adventure, but if you start without a realistic idea of what you can afford, that fun adventure could turn into a grave disappointment.

Take the time to think about your income now and in the future. Is your job secure? Is there potential for a raise shortly? Also, list your current and anticipated debts. These are things like credit cards, auto payments, and deferred student loans. If you haven’t already, consider making a budget

A simple way to get an idea of how much house you can afford is by using a mortgage calculator. Many banks and mortgage lenders offer these online for free. You’ll need to consider factors such as home insurance, taxes, and closing costs as well. Doing this initial leg work can save you some time and frustration down the road.

2. Get Pre-Approved

Ultimately, even if you’ve made a budget and done some figuring as to what you can afford — unless you have the cash to buy your home outright — you’ll need to get a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender.

To be “pre-approved” means that a lender has reviewed your credit, income, assets, and other documentation to determine how much of a mortgage you qualify for. They will take into account things such as any funds you have available for a down payment, the strength of your credit history, the length of time you’ve been on your current job, and whether you have other obligations not reflected on your credit, such as loans or child support.

Once they’ve thoroughly reviewed your initial loan documentation and completed their calculations, they will provide you with a letter that specifies your price point. From there, you can begin to shop for a home.

3. Begin Your Home Search

Let the excitement begin! You may already have a home in mind and are ready to make an offer, but, often this isn’t the case. Many first-time homebuyers seek the help of a qualified real estate agent who knows the ins and outs of homebuying.

The fastest and easiest way to begin your home search is online. Your realtor can filter some options for you based on the criteria you provide and keep an eye on new listings, or you can manage this endeavor yourself. It’s up to you! 

When you find a home you’re interested in, take a drive through the neighborhood. Explore. Call or have your realtor call the seller or seller’s agent to make an appointment to view the home. 

It also helps to do some extra research on the home you are interested in buying, like checking public records for taxes and liens or even calling the utility company to find out what typical monthly expenses look like.

4. Make An Offer

Now that you’ve found an affordable home that you love, it’s time to make an offer. To prepare a successful offer you’ll want to determine whether the asking price is in line with market value.

From there, consider other factors such as who your seller is (i.e., are they in a rush and need to sell fast?) and what contingencies you have before contract & closing, such as inspections and home upgrades.

Make an offer you’re proud of and don’t delay submitting it! Also, be ready for rejection and a seller’s counteroffer. This is a common occurrence in the homebuying process.

5. Sign A Contract

After you and the seller have wrapped up negotiations and agreed to a final price, you’ll need to sign a contract.

Real estate contracts are broken into sections: price, deposits, & closing costs, important dates/timing, contingencies, riders, considerations, and finally, signatures. Unless you’re well-versed in real estate and legal jargon, it’s best to complete a contract with an agent, attorney, or a professional who is familiar with real estate proceedings. 

6. Submit Mortgage Loan Documents

So, you and the seller have set a closing date and signed the contract. Now, for the next several days, there’s a lot of work to be done. One of the most important parts of completing a real estate transaction is coordinating with your mortgage lender.

This involves constant communication through phone calls, emails, even texts. Acknowledging and signing disclosures, retrieving personal documents and submitting them to be reviewed, and writing letters of explanation for certain financial events are all a part of the process. 

It can be quite overwhelming.

The best thing you can do is breathe and understand that you’re making one of the biggest purchases in your lifetime, so all of the extra work is necessary and worth it to protect you and others involved.

7. Request Appraisal & Inspections

While you’re working with your mortgage lender, realtor, title agent/attorney, you’ll also be knocking out new home inspections. 

The appraisal and inspections are typically requested by the lender or the real estate agent at the beginning of a transaction. Some inspections that may be ordered include pest, wood-destroying organisms, roof, & septic.

8. Communicate!

As a first-time homebuyer, you may feel a bit nervous, not quite knowing what is going on all of the time. There are many people involved and many moving parts.

Be sure to stay in touch with your agent and respond to any calls, emails, and texts you receive regarding your transaction. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

9. Clear to Close

When it’s all said and done there are three words that are music to everyone’s ears: CLEAR TO CLOSE!

This signifies that you’ve made it through all inspections, all of the grueling paperwork, all of the documents, signing, email correspondence, and are ready to head to the closing table. Congratulations!

10. Breathe

You’ve made it through and have scheduled a time to sign your final closing documents and load up the moving truck. One thing to remember, throughout it all, is just to breathe. It’ll be worth it in the end.

You Are Now a First-Time Homebuyer!

Phew! Quite a process, right? That’s why, as a first-time homebuyer, it’s important to find the best real estate agent to have by your side. Realtors play a major role in real estate transactions as the key communicator between all parties such as lenders, title agents, attorneys, and appraisers. 

If you’re looking to buy in the Cincinnati Metro area, look no further. Our team of real estate professionals is here to serve you! Contact us today!

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