Twelve Steps: A Guide to Buying a Home

Step One: Determine what’s on your list for your dream home. A location close to schools, work, recreation? What features are important to you, such as a garage, fireplace, roomy back yard, number of bedrooms? Does the home need to be on a bus route, or in a certain school district?

Step Two: Select the right Realtor for your needs. A Realtor costs you nothing, and does most of the actual searching and selecting of homes for you, based on the list you determined. A Realtor can help you negotiate a good price, too.

Step Three: Get pre-approved for financing. It’s a simple step that makes you a very desirable buyer. Sellers know you are ready and able to buy, and that gives you a stronger negotiating position. It’s a buyer’s market these days, but great homes at good prices often attract multiple buyers. It pays to be ready to offer!

Step Four: Decide if you need a real estate lawyer. A lawyer can review all the documents, and can help write contracts and contingencies. Although not every buyer uses one, it may be the right option for you. The fees are very affordable, often in the $300-$500 range.

Step Five: View selected homes. Narrow your choices, and prepare to make an offer. Now is the time to think of possible contingencies, and to use your Realtor’s experience and Comparative Market Analysis of homes similar to your favorite.

Step Six: Sign the purchase contract and write a check for any earnest money deposit. If the seller counters your offer, be prepared to negotiate. Have an idea in mind of what your “bottom line” will be, but remain somewhat flexible. Also, don’t forget that with each counter offer or rejected offer, that previous offer is now null and void.

Step Seven: Come to an agreement, and sign the contract.

Step Eight: Have your lender complete the loan application process, and this should be a snap if you’re already pre-approved.

Step Nine: Determine the closing date.

Step Ten: Arrange inspections of your dream home. A whole home inspection, termites, radon, lead, well and gas line inspection are standard, but inspections for mold and other issues are also possible. If there are negative findings, be prepared to negotiate with the seller for remediation or compensation for the issues. Double check with your own insurance about insuring the new home, it’s another great way to be forewarned of possible issues with the home.

Step Eleven: Make final arrangements for all financing prior to the closing.

Step Twelve: Prepare for your change of address. Forward mail, notify billers, friends and family, and arrange for the transfer of utilities.

Closing: Attend the closing, sign the forms, pay the fees, and receive the keys to your new home. Congratulations!