The Ultimate Checklist for First-Time Home-Buyers

Written by Carly Hallman

The Ultimate Checklist for First-Time Home-Buyers

Buying a home for the first time can be one of the most overwhelming experiences one can go through, with piles of paperwork, tons of choices, and so many things to keep on top of that it can make even the most organized person’s head spin. This first-time home-buyer checklist is here to help you anticipate and plan out the coming months. Stay on top of finances, visits, and your sanity with this ultimate checklist for first-time home-buyers!

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The Ultimate Checklist for First-Time Home-Buyers

Your Blueprint for the Future

Check your credit.

Get a free credit report from the official government site: You’ll need a minimum score of 585, and inaccuracies in your credit report could hurt your score.

Pay down debts.

When you can, try to pay off other loans. This can both help your credit score and help you save money in the long run.

Save up for a down payment.

If you’re not currently paying your maximum mortgage payment amount in rent, save the excess for a down payment.

See how much you can afford per month.

Calculate your debt-to-income ratio using online calculators and make a tight budget. The rule of thumb is that a mortgage should be no more than 30% of your income before taxes.

Create a list of home “needs” and “wants.”

Visualize what you want in a home, and then determine what’s most important to you.

Research neighborhoods and municipalities.

How far will you need to commute? Where are the best school districts and safest areas?

Gauge your maintenance skills (and factor maintenance into your budget).

Are you willing to work on a home and make big fixes, or do you need something in better condition?

Investigate real estate agents.

Do your homework and research the people you’re going to be talking to; get recommendations and then hire a buyer’s agent who’s reliable.

Gather important documents.

Get W-2 forms, pay stubs, proof of income, bank statements, and loan balances from all lenders.

See if you qualify for a special loan.

HUD, FHA, and VA home-buying programs may help you afford a mortgage.

Request quotes and comparison-shop for lenders.

Use websites to get multiple lenders’ quotes at once.

Get pre-approved for a loan.

Review your paperwork with a broker or lender to see how much you’re approved for.

Browse listings and attend open houses.

Check out houses within your budget. See what you like and compare it to your list of priorities.

Adjust your priorities as needed.

Consider your desires, what you can afford, and the realities of what to expect as you look at homes. Based on that, continue to change variables such as your priorities or your credit score as necessary.

Choose and make an offer.

For some, this can be the most difficult part of the process.

Negotiate the price and other factors.

Real estate agents will help handle this part. You might also consider offering to buy furnishings you like that are currently in the house.

Get an inspection.

Don’t get your hopes up too high until the home is inspected for radon, asbestos, toxic mold, and more. If a major problem is found, that will be a factor in your financial negotiations.

Perform your own walk-through, too.

Check for water damage, leaks, bowed windows, foundation cracks, animal droppings, termite evidence, heater noises, and damage done in the home’s history. (And ghosts, naturally.)

Look at the homeowners’ association contract.

A strict or not-strict-enough HOA can be a headache if you don’t know about it ahead of time.

Arrange homeowners’ insurance.

You’ll need proof of insurance before you’ll be able to close.


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