"This investment shouldn’t be entered into without someone who knows the market, the neighborhood, local trends, specific values, and how to navigate the process," says George Lawton, licensed real estate agent with RE/MAX Over the Mountain in Birmingham, AL. "A Realtor who is your advocate and is looking out for your needs can simplify this process and make it enjoyable. But don’t just hire your neighbor’s mom who does this part time for Christmas money. Interview a few that are recommended by friends and family and see who you feel most comfortable with. You may be working together for months, and you want it to be a good relationship."
From this chronological, step-by-step explanation of the home-buying process, you will learn everything you should be thinking about and doing at each point of the process. Sure, the process may still be difficult, stressful and draining at times, but at least you’ll know what to expect and understand what’s happening at every point along the way. You don’t have to rent forever if you don’t want to. (For resources on deciding if you’re ready to be a homeowner, see To Rent or Buy? The Financial Issues and To Rent or Buy? There’s More to It Than Money.)
Your inspector will provide a detailed report of everything in the home that could be repaired. Some of the items may not be a big deal, but some may be expensive or important repairs, such as the need for a new roof or HVAC system. You and your Realtor can request that the seller make some repairs, and the seller will have a few days to let you know whether they are willing to make the changes or reduce the price of the house. If the inspection uncovers major problems, such as termites or an unstable foundation, it can be your way out of a sales contract.

Once a seller accepts your offer, the closing process will begin. Keep things running smoothly by knowing what to expect when closing on a house. The average closing process takes 41 days, which gives you plenty of time to tackle closing items.(5) A real estate agent will schedule the remaining steps, from home inspection to final walkthrough, and keep you informed about any road blocks.


As you’re comparing quotes, ask whether any of the lenders would allow you to buy discount points, which means you’d prepay interest up front to secure a lower interest rate on your loan. How long you plan to stay in the home and whether you have money on-hand to purchase the points are two key factors in determining whether buying points makes sense. You can use this calculator to decide whether it makes sense to buy points.


Beyond pride of ownership, it's important to realize another benefit. First, real estate moves in cycles, sometimes up, sometimes down, yet over the years, real estate has consistently appreciated. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight tracks the movements of single-family home values across the country. Its House Price Index breaks down the changes by region and metropolitan area. Many people view their home investment as a hedge against inflation.
It’s more fun to look at homes than it is to talk about your finances with a lender. So that’s what a lot of first-time home buyers do: They visit properties before finding out how much they are able to borrow. Then, they are disappointed when they discover they were looking in the wrong price range (either too high or too low) or when they find the right home, but aren’t able to make a serious offer.
Having bad credit is not an uncommon problem for Americans, and it should not discourage you from the home buying process. Saving up for a larger down payment of 20 percent or more will be required with anyone with a credit score below 580, to help demonstrate that you will be able to manage a mortgage. Those with a credit score above 580 can qualify for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, with a down payment requirement of 3.5 percent. Home buyers can also consider taking out a private loan, but should be prepared to pay high fees and interest rates. Finally, taking out a conventional loan is still possible if you are able to demonstrate financial stability, and that you will be able to manage mortgage payments.

Once you’re ready to start home buying, it’s offer time. Here’s where you’ll thank yourself for working with a real estate agent. They’ll help you determine the right offer to make for a particular house, including things that go beyond the dollar amount. For instance, offering an accelerated closing date or to buy and lease back to the buyer if they can’t move right away may be a smart move in some situations. When you make an offer on a house, the seller may accept it or counter-offer, and then your agent will help you decide how and if to negotiate. Once you arrive at a deal everyone likes, you’re considered under contract to buy the house.
This is the day you get your house keys—but first, you have some serious paperwork to do. You’ll set an appointment for closing on your house, and you’ll need to bring your driver’s license, a cashier’s check for your down payment and closing costs (which range from 2 to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price) — and a lot of patience. You will sign and initial dozens of papers.
Ask your real estate agent for information on crime rates and the quality of schools around your prospective neighborhoods. Calculate your new commute times to see if they seem manageable. Visit the neighborhood at different times and days to check for traffic conditions, noise levels, and if people are comfortable being outdoors. Only choose a neighborhood that you and your family feel good about.
VA and USDA loans: Certain veterans, active members of the military, and qualifying residents of designated rural areas can qualify for a 0% down-payment housing loan -- mortgage-insurance free as well -- from the Veterans Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In this case, first-time home-buyers could walk into a $300,000 house for just the closing costs, plus the suggested six-month buffer.

If you're like most first-time home buyers, you've probably listened to friends', family's and coworkers' advice, many of whom are encouraging you to buy a home. However, you may still wonder if buying a home is the right thing to do. Relax. Having reservations is normal. The more you know about why you should buy a home, the less scary the entire process will appear to you. Here are eight good reasons why you should buy a home.


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Moving and other expenses: Moving expenses can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on how much you’re moving and how far away your new home is from your current place. To help with budgeting, you can call moving companies in your area for quotes ahead of time. If you plan to make updates to your home—like repainting, installing blinds, or buying new furniture—you’ll need cash for that too!
If you want the smallest mortgage payment possible, opt for a 30-year fixed mortgage. But if you can afford larger monthly payments, you can get a lower interest rate with a 20-year or 15-year fixed loan. Use our calculator to determine whether a 15-year or 30-year fixed mortgage is a better fit for you. Or you may prefer an adjustable-rate mortgage, which is riskier but guarantees a low interest rate for the first few years of your mortgage.

Once negotiations have finalized, the contract has been signed and you’ve provided a small amount of cash as a deposit or earnest money, you’ll have a few days to conduct your due diligence on the property. That includes the home inspection, which will tell you if there are any issues with the property that could affect the amount you’re willing to pay or if there’s anything that should be repaired before you move in.
Paranoid buys are sometimes difficult to work with. They may not believe the price is an accurate assessment of the house's market value. They'll submit low-ball offers and then show frustration when they are consistently rejected. Paranoid buyers don't trust real-estate agents, and may even try to buy their home without an agent, which is generally an unwise choice.

Once the offer has been approved, the buyer will need to secure the mortgage. This is done by complete the mortgage application. If a person has not been pre-approved or pre-qualified, it will likely take longer to complete this process. Ideally, a buyer should "shop around" for the best rates and terms. Most buyers choose fixed rates rather than adjustable rates.


The home buying process can take anywhere from one month to a few years, depending on the unique experience and expectations of the home buyer. On average, a home buyer can spend one to two months searching listings, several weeks to negotiate and close a deal, and then make the first mortgage payment several weeks after that. With these variations in mind, a home buyer can realistically expect for the home buying process to take roughly three months.
Despite the District of Columbia having the fifth-highest cost of living out of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., the nation's capital is the 25th best affordable place to live. The District’s median blended annual household income – the median total income for households (rather than individuals) that rent or own a home in the area – is more than $95,000. This makes the blended annual cost of living – factoring in mortgage payments, rent, utilities and taxes – of slightly more than $25,000 comparatively affordable.
What to do instead: Ask your real estate agent to help you track down neighborhood crime stats and school ratings. Measure the drive from the neighborhood to your job to gauge commuting time and proximity to public transportation. Visit the neighborhood at different times to get a sense of traffic, neighbor interactions and the overall vibe to see if it’s an area that appeals to you.
Approach the process as assembling a team of people who will help you achieve homeownership. With each person, you want to feel confident that the professional will work in your best interests. Heyer recommends not just speaking with multiple professionals regarding your mortgage and home inspection, but also interviewing several agents at the start.
Next, decide which mortgage makes the most sense for you. There are plenty of different options to consider. Although Gilmour advises choosing one of the most common two: a fixed-rate mortgage, in which your interest rate remains steady for the duration of the loan, or an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), in which your rate fluctuates to reflect market changes.

Your agent can provide detailed information on almost any property currently listed for sale. This includes Coldwell Banker listings as well as all other real estate broker listings on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Your agent can also provide information on homes that you see advertised for sale in the newspaper or online, such as properties that are advertised “For Sale by Owner.” Your Coldwell Banker agent is the only resource you’ll need.
Buying a house across the street from a high school didn’t seem like such a bad idea when you saw how nicely renovated it was. But when you don’t have kids and Friday night football games are keeping you up later than you would like, you realize you should have made a pros-and-cons list regarding the location. Don’t let a charming interior override a location you dislike or a lot that will give you flooding problems. “If you don’t like your lot, don’t buy the house, because you cannot change that,” says Kim Wirtz, a Realtor for Century 21 Affiliated in Lockport, Illinois.

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Once you start seeing homes you like, call your agent and ask them to start scheduling viewings. And another, and another. Visit as many homes and open houses as you can. You can use the Trulia app to find open houses scheduled near you. The more comparing and contrasting you can do, the more knowledge you have about the market and your options. Ask your agent for advice about how to buy a house that really fits your needs.
Moving and other expenses: Moving expenses can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on how much you’re moving and how far away your new home is from your current place. To help with budgeting, you can call moving companies in your area for quotes ahead of time. If you plan to make updates to your home—like repainting, installing blinds, or buying new furniture—you’ll need cash for that too!
A lender or broker will assess your credit score and the amount you can qualify for on a loan. He or she will also discuss your assets (savings, 401(k), etc.) and debt, as well as any local programs that might be available for down payment assistance. That's where your homework on first-time homebuyer programs can help. If you think you qualify, look for a lender that handles the program you hope to get.
The winning bid isn’t always about price – the seller wants to feel confident about the entire transaction at the end of the day. If your bid includes your preapproval letter as opposed to a competing buyer’s prequalification, or you’re willing to let the seller take a little more time to move out, your offer might be the package the seller chooses.
3) Save for upfront costs. Ideally, you would be able to put down 20% of your home's purchase price to avoid having to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance). If you can't put down 20%, mortgage companies will usually offer you a smaller "piggy back loan" to help bridge the gap but those loans have higher interest rates. You may also need between 2% to 5% of the purchase price for closing costs plus whatever you want to spend on moving, furnishings and renovations.
As a first-time home buyer, you probably don’t have a ton of money saved up for the down payment and closing costs. But don’t make the error of assuming that you have to delay homeownership while saving for a huge down payment. There are plenty of low-down-payment loan programs out there, including state programs that offer down payment assistance and competitive mortgage rates for first-time home buyers.
How to avoid this mistake: Talk to a mortgage professional about getting pre-qualified or even pre-approved for a home loan before you start to seriously shop for a place. The pre-qualification or pre-approval process involves a review of your income and expenses, and it can make your bid more competitive because you’ll be able to show sellers that you can back up your offer. (See what a pre-approval is and why it matters.)

Buying a home is one of the largest purchases you'll likely make, and it's important to make sure your financial house is in order. Start by reviewing your bank accounts and billing statements to get a handle on how much money you're making and spending each month. If you're planning to buy a house with someone else (like your spouse), review their finances as well, and then ask yourself some questions:

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