14 Steps to Homeownership

It’s critically important to find a good loan officer as early as possible. Try to find one through a good referral. If you decide to use an online lender, research the lender carefully.

Once you know how much home you can afford, your agent can provide the most recent data on neighborhoods and sales trends, as well as help you find and screen homes for sale.

When you see the properties you like, make note of them and get more details on those homes. Be sure to schedule a tour of only 4-6 homes at a time. If you see more than that in your first session, they start blending together. Pick your favorites, and when you’re ready to move forward, use our checklist and comparison chart to help evaluate which homes have the best value for your money.

Depending on whether it’s a seller’s or buyer’s market, adjust your negotiation style. In a seller’s market, the demand is larger than the supply so be very competitive and submit your best offer. In a buyer’s market, there are more homes for sale than shoppers, so look for deals. Your agent will be familiar with surrounding neighborhoods and can help negotiate accordingly.

The contract is a legal agreement which documents the terms of the sale. Both the buyer and seller have obligations, deadlines, and penalties for missing these obligations. This is why you need a great team between you and your real estate agent, loan officer, inspector, and title company.

It’s in your best interest to ensure that the property is structurally sound and in good general condition. Hire a professional home inspector to check the exterior, interior, structure, roofing, electric setup, heating, plumbing, and insulation of your new house. Special inspections such as stucco, foundation, moisture, and insects may be needed depending on the property you’re purchasing. Your agent can recommend vendors they work with frequently to help you get a shortlist of qualified resources.

Usually, closing is held at a title company - the firm that guarantees you’re purchasing the home free and clear of any debt or encumbrance. The closing is often a one-hour process, where after confirming that all your funds have arrived and all conditions for closing and transfer of title have been met, you’re given the keys to your new home.

Getting conditionally approved for your mortgage before you shop for homes will put you in a better negotiating position than if you only have a pre-qualification letter. We are one of the few lenders that will fully review your file and give you a conditional approval before you’ve signed a purchase contract.

Review neighborhoods carefully, pick the type of property you want - single family homes, town houses, or condos - and screen for amenities such as beds, baths, and garages. Your agent can help you filter by area, quality, value of construction, price, and lot value to help you find the best options for your price point.

Your agent should provide information on the neighborhood, give you a comparable analysis of recently sold homes, and help provide guidance on pricing.

Depending on the market, finalizing the sale terms and conditions of sale typically takes between 24 to 72 hours. Items include price, financing, amounts, inspection periods, closing dates, known repairs, and non-realty items. Expect your agent to guide you through the process and protect your interests.

The real estate contract will typically contain lots of dates, which include the contract timeline. There may be deadlines set for inspections, earnest money deposits, applying for financing, appraisals, qualifying for your loan, and closing. While your agent will guide you through this process, you’re ultimately the one who’s responsible for meeting those deadlines.

Items provided with the loan application are verified to prepare the loan for financing. Your lender will review all documentation submitted with your application, verify employment, analyze credit history, and consider any other conditions necessary to clear the loan for closing.