A Step-by-Step Guide to Buying Your First Home
Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life! To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first-time buyer’s guide will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.
Do you already know where you want to buy? If you want a condo, townhome, or single-family home? Which features do you like and dislike? What’s available on the market now? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to start researching. In addition to looking for homes that interest you, also take note of any changes in asking prices. This could give you valuable insight into housing trends in specific neighborhoods and help you when the time comes to make an offer.
Notice we said to decide on your budget—not determine how much the mortgage company will give you. In many cases, a mortgage company will pre-approve you for more than you’re comfortable spending, which is why you need to determine the monthly payment you feel comfortable with before talking to a lender. This likely includes doing a full household budget and taking into consideration what changes other than a mortgage payment will occur once you move into your new home. If you’ve lived in an apartment or with roommates, you may overlook new expenses like garbage, water, or HOA fees that could easily blow your budget.
If you require loan financing, meeting with a lender or mortgage broker to determine how much you can afford is an extremely important step you'll need to take prior to starting your home search. This will save time in your home search, and improve your negotiating position with the seller.
Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage is an increasingly popular practice among buyers who don’t want to worry about going through the approval process until after they’ve found the home they want. It is a verbal exchange in which the lender tells you in advance approximately how much money you are able to borrow, based on the information you provide the lender about your debt and income.
The pre-approval process goes a step further than pre-qualifying. Most lenders require you to furnish documents (tax returns, check stubs, etc.) to pre-approve your loan. A pre-approval is an actual commitment to lend you money, provided that, when you are ready to buy, you still meet all the qualifying conditions that were met at the time of conditional approval.
Not only will a Prospect agent help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but our agents also have a wealth of knowledge of the Austin real estate market.
This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). Decide which neighborhoods you want to live in and whether you want a new or existing home. Consider requirements –such as the number of bedrooms or price range, and preferences – such as whether you would prefer a 1- or 2-story home. Your real estate agent will set up a property search to show you homes that will fit your needs. From there, you will communicate with your agent about which properties you’d like to tour!
Make sure to take time to explore the neighborhood and keep an eye on traffic at certain times of the day, the parking situation, and how close it is to necessities like schools and grocery stores.
When you find the right home, your agent will provide a comparative market analysis (CMA) and will review market conditions with you to decide whether to present an aggressive or competitive offer. Your agent will explain all documentation and negotiate terms that are in your best interest. The process may go back and forth a few times between you and the seller.
With an "Executed Contract," you start the negotiated Option Period, usually 7- 14 days. Final details are handled and you’ll have an inspection performed to ensure the property is perfect for you. Your agent will negotiate contract details such as repairs or a price reduction to complete repairs. During this time, you’ll need to arrange insurance for your new home. The title company will also provide a Commitment for Title Insurance for you to review.
Now is the time to go back to the mortgage lender who pre-approved or pre-qualified you and choose your mortgage. You will be presented with various options based on your unique financial situation, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, 15-year, 30-year, or special programs such as VA loans or FHA loans. Work with your mortgage lender to select the option you feel the most comfortable with.
Your lender will have your new home appraised so they have their independent value of it. The appraisal is to ensure that all parties involved are paying a fair price for the house.
You made it to closing day! Your closing will occur at the title company. If you’re making a down payment, the title company will provide instructions on how to submit that payment. You will also need to bring your photo ID! Possession of your home will occur when your lender releases funds to the seller.
You are now a homeowner!
Start your home search today with a Prospect Real Estate agent by your side.