When my fiancé and I started thinking about buying a house, I was thrilled with the idea of putting down roots in our hometown, but also felt a bit of anxiety. This would be our biggest purchase, and as a first-time homebuyer, I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, we got a lot of guidance on the necessary steps to make our homebuying dreams a reality.
Step 1: Decide on nonnegotiable priorities for now (and later)
The first thing we did was write down a small list of things we weren’t willing to compromise on. For me, it was the location. For my fiancé, it was a big backyard.
We also considered future nonnegotiable priorities—things we may not need right now, but will 10 years down the line, like the number of bedrooms and garage parking.
These nonnegotiable things can be anything that you find important and isn’t easily changed.
Step 2: Decide who you’ll work with
You’ll need a few key folks to help you during this process, like a mortgage lender, a realtor, and a home inspector. Asking for references or a simple Google search are great ways to find them. For us, we both had family in the real estate business to turn to. Here’s a breakdown of how each key player will help you on your search:
- Mortgage lenders: These are the money people. They tell you how much you can realistically spend on a house, what your down payment options are, and, most importantly, what you need to get pre-approved for a loan.
- Realtors: They’re the buffer between you and the seller. They take you on house tours and help you negotiate the price. A good realtor can even give insight on what to look for in a house, like an updated roof or a new water heater.
- Home inspector: You’ll want your home inspector on your side. If you can, avoid going with someone the house seller chooses to help prevent any bias. You should also plan to accompany the inspector as they go through the house so they can easily show you what needs fixing. You can negotiate this as part of the sale.
Step 3: Start looking
OK, this is the fun part. You can finally go to realtor.com or Zillow.com and hunt through all the houses. It’s such a rush when you get a notification for a new listing. Message your realtor about any houses you’re interested in touring.
Step 4: Be patient
As it turns out, this is the part of homebuying I struggled with the most. Many people wait between a few weeks and a few months until they find their perfect place. I had to keep reminding myself not to get too attached to one house, as there are always more coming on the market.
Step 5: Make an offer
With the help of your realtor, put in an offer on your potential home sweet home. Your realtor might suggest things like including an offer letter to introduce yourself to the seller, or adding contingent considerations. Contingent means the deal could fall through if it doesn’t meet certain criteria established in the offer (i.e., the sale cannot be completed until the house is inspected by a home inspector of the buyer’s choosing). The important thing here is to expect some back and forth. My fiancé and I really had to listen to our guts, our realtor, and the guidance of our family and friends.
Step 6: Consider post-purchase costs
Before you close on a home, make a plan for post-purchase costs. These can vary from new appliances to furniture, but one thing my fiancé and I prioritized was home protection. We wanted to do what we could to secure our new home. That meant looking into home insurance and a home warranty to safeguard us against any large unexpected costs.
Step 7: Celebrate with a housewarming party!
You did it! After completing all seven steps, you’re officially a homeowner. You made it through paperwork and preparation with patience. If you’re anything like me and my fiancé, you’ll want to celebrate this accomplishment. We’re excited to have our friends and family over to enjoy a backyard cookout, but for you, it could be anything from an all-out bash to simply toasting to your new home together!
Best of luck, fellow homebuyers! Enjoy every second of the experience!