The home buyer’s checklist: A thorough guide for first-time and future home buyers
The decision to buy your first home may likely be one of the biggest decisions you’ll make next to marriage and starting a family.
The process of buying a home would be daunting to anyone but for someone who hasn’t gone through the process before it can feel even more overwhelming trying to figure out what you should do once you’ve decided you’re ready to be a homeowner.
Buying a home has many nuances often overlooked by someone who hasn’t yet gone through the process before.
It’s often surprising to both Adrian and I when we meet with first-time home buyers and they’re blown away by all of the moving parts that go into purchasing a home.
From credit checks and securing a lender to carefully reviewing transaction documents and disclosures, without a checklist to reference it can feel overwhelming.
So, we’ve decided to compile a checklist for you, and any other would-be homeowners, to use a guide to ensuring every aspect of the home buying process has been covered.
Let’s get started...
✔️ Know your credit score
Before day dreaming about stepping foot into your new home, you’ll need to be sure that you’re financially in a good place to do so.
That starts with knowing your credit score.
These days, finding out your credit score is pretty easy. You can sign up to online websites and apps like Credit Karma, Experian, or WalletHub to get a quick, free snapshot of how strong your credit score is.
Knowing your credit score will play a big part in determining how likely you will be able to secure a loan from a lender. It’ll also help you to be able to take the necessary steps to aid in mending low credit scores before taking out a large loan.
✔️ Shop around for a lender
Securing a mortgage starts with finding possible lenders that’ll help you to secure your mortgage.
Mortgage lenders come in all shapes and sizes. You can go to the large banks or private companies to find a suitable lender. Even within one bank, there can be a range of loan officer qualifications.
Our advice before settling on a lender is to shop around our list of preferred lenders. We get no benefit from you using our lender, other than working with someone who we know will be able to close your transaction. San Francisco and Silicon Valley are fast paced markets that move much more quickly than most national banks are able to unless they have strong local lenders pushing the process on the ground.
If you have a strong credit score, you’ll find you have a bit more bargaining power when it comes time to secure a lender.
While the rate you’re getting is definitely important, it’s also important that you find a trusted lender that’ll be able to close on time within our tight timelines. And one that will offer you resources, online tools, and even the potential for securing a low down payment option should you need it.
✔️ Get pre-approved for a mortgage
Now that you have a lender who checks off all of your boxes, you can skip ahead to getting pre-approved for a mortgage.
Time after time we’ve seen clients fall in love with homes before getting pre-approved for a mortgage first. The problem with this is that these same clients will often fall in love homes that aren’t within their budget.
By getting pre-approved for a mortgage before shopping around for homes you’ll know how much home you can afford.
Besides the potential heartbreak, some sellers and REALTORS® won’t even open the door for you if you haven’t been pre-approved for a mortgage.
✔️ Find a REALTOR®
While many first-time home buyers would think they need a REALTOR® first before any of the other steps we’ve already laid out, finding a REALTOR® should come after you have your financial ducks are in a row.
Once you know you can actually afford to be a homeowner, you can start to find yourself a trusted REALTOR® to work with.
Whomever you decide to select as your agent, they should not only have a proven track record of working tirelessly with their clients but they should also be an all-around industry expert. Many of our clients end up working with us based on our industry knowledge and experience.
Before finding my passion as a REALTOR®, I worked as a litigation lawyer. This gave me the negotiating skills to help you negotiate the best deal possible on your home. . I also come from a family of real estate investors and developers. So you can say real estate is in my DNA.
The other half of team Kelly and Adrian is of course, Adrian, whose background as an MBA and experience working with Fortune 500 companies makes for an analytical-thinker who’s always working to help home buyers understand lenders, HOAs, and best strategies to get a great return on your real estate investment..
Your REALTOR® should not only know real estate but bring value additional to the table.
✔️ Work with your REALTOR® to find suitable homes
Your REALTOR® is there to not only guide you through the buying process but to be a viable resource, providing you a healthy list of active listings on the market.
Once you and your agent have found listings that fit your budget and appear to be a good fit, the best way to know for sure is to start attending open houses and private showings.
Ask questions, test fixtures, and inspect the home and neighborhood thoroughly to figure out if this is going to be the right home for you.
Once you’ve gotten a feel of what you do and don’t like, it may help to draw up a list of non-negotiables. This’ll help your REALTOR® to fine-tune and target their search for your dream home.
✔️ Complete a home inspection
Home inspections are crucial in determining whether or not a home you’ve viewed is worth submitting an offer for.
What often looks great on the surface, could hold some scary truths underneath all of that nice paint and updated fixtures.
The home inspection process allows for hopeful buyers to find out more about the home’s structural make-up and to potentially provide a snapshot of any future home improvements which will inevitably need to be completed.
Often in a competitive market, like today’s, Sellers will include a home inspection in the disclosure package. This is a great start! But don’t be afraid to do your homework too. Call the inspectors and have all your questions answered.
✔️ Make an offer
Often the most stressful part of buying a home is finally finding one that you’d like to put an offer in on.
We live in such a hot real estate market that the luxury of hemming and hawing on a listing simply no longer exists. If you’re truly interested in a home, it’s best to make an offer as quickly as possible - assuming you’re willing to.
This is when your REALTOR® really makes a difference. A good agent works closely with you and the seller’s agent to determine the most effective offer strategy and to negotiate the terms and the offer itself so that you can get the most bang for your buck.
Buying a home can be an extensive process if you’re not fully equipped with the foresight to know everything that goes into it.
By using this checklist, you’ll know to;
✔️ Find out your credit score, fixing it where possible so that you can get a better loan
✔️ Shop around for a lender who will work with you, not against you
✔️ Get pre-approved for a mortgage before falling for a home that you can’t afford
✔️ Work with a REALTOR® who brings more to the table than just their real estate license
✔️ Find listings that you like and draw up a list of non-negotiables so that your REALTOR® can find the best home for you
✔️ Complete a home inspection to learn more about any future home improvements to the home
✔️ Submit an offer, the sooner the better