The Complete Home Buying Checklist

Buying your own home is an exciting adventure. It’s easy to rush into it, caught up in the emotions of it all. But you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t keep a clear head. Rushing into buying a property could also put you at risk for financial loss and disappointment.

Does that mean that buying a home should be stressful? No, it doesn’t have to be. It’s not nearly as complicated as you might imagine when you have the right advice. Simply follow the 10 steps on our complete home-buying checklist. Soon, you’ll be the proud owner of your own home. 

1. Determine What You Can Afford

The first step on your home-buying checklist is to determine what you can realistically afford. Unless you’re about to receive a dramatic pay raise, base your calculations on your current income and expenses.

Calculate what you spend on all of your living expenses per month, minus what you pay for your current rent. Determine which expenses you can reduce or eliminate. Unless it’s a cash sale, you’ll probably need a home loan. How much can you afford to spend on home loan repayments?

Check Your Credit Report

You can obtain your credit report from any licensed credit bureau. It will give you a good indication of what your affordability level is. All your credit accounts, loans, and other financial responsibilities will be listed there. The report will also show any legal steps taken against you for debt or filing for bankruptcy.

2. Get Pre-Approved

The next step on your home-buying checklist is to get pre-approved for a home loan, should you need one.

It’s always better to get a mortgage pre-approval before finding your dream home. This helps to speed things along when the seller sees that you are already approved by a major bank or lender, for a home loan or mortgage. 

3. Define Your Home-Buying Criteria

Everyone has unique home-buying criteria. What are yours? If you don’t yet know, this is the time to sit and think about it. Consider your lifestyle, family size, and upcoming plans, then make two lists: one for now, and one for the foreseeable future.

What Are Your ‘Must-Haves’?

Your must-haves are the features that you cannot do without. They are necessary for your continued way of life. Examples are the number of bedrooms your family size requires, the garage or parking space for all your vehicles, and the proximity to schools for your children.

You may have must-haves on your list that are wants and not needs. For example, a certain architectural style or waterfront view could be a ‘must-have’ for you. 

Consider Your Future Needs

The ‘future needs’ section of your home-buying checklist is a little different. This covers those features that, although not necessary right now, could become important down the line.

Perhaps you’re planning to start a family or grow it. When you do, you may decide to add some pets to your household. That will require extra bedrooms (or the space to build them) and roomy outdoor spaces. 

4. Hire A Real Estate Agent

Next up on the home-buying checklist is to hire a real estate buyer’s agent. They can be a great help when looking for a property. They understand the ebb and flow of the property market and its pricing. They will know how and where to start looking for a property that meets your needs. 

5. Go House Hunting

At last, it’s time to go house hunting. But before you do, there’s some more work to be done on your home-buying checklist. Make a shortlist of houses on the market that seem to meet your needs and set up appointments to view them. Properties for sale usually have an ‘open house’ set for a specific day. 

Attend Open Houses

Open houses are usually presided over by the homeowner’s agent, however, owners sometimes host them by themselves. Even when using an agent, property owners may choose to be present, too. This is a good thing, as it allows you to get answers to your questions directly from the source.

Also sometimes referred to as a viewing or a ‘walkthrough’, you will be able to walk through the property and take note of all its features. Don’t be shy – test windows and door handles, check closet space, and assess dimensions with your furnishings in mind. Don’t forget to take along a measuring tape!

Document Your Thoughts

Document your thoughts about the property as you go, or as soon as you get home, while they are still fresh in your mind. Did you have any concerns about the property? Ask the owner about repairs. Often, homeowners are happy to address small issues if they know they’re dealbreakers for you.

If you’re undecided about a property you’ve viewed, that’s okay. It’s better to go and view it again to help you come to a decision. We recommend viewing a property at different times of the day, during daylight hours. This will show you how much natural light makes its way indoors in different rooms.

Criteria To Consider

Remember those lists you made earlier, of your ‘must-haves’ and future needs? It’s time to put that home-buying checklist to use. Have it handy during the walk-through of the property. 

Here are some extra criteria to make a note of while doing a property viewing. Take a notepad and pen with you, so you can jot down notes on the go.

  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms, or space to add on another room or two. 
  • Square footage of the property and size of outdoor spaces
  • Neighborhood safety and availability of neighborhood security patrols 
  • Road infrastructure and nearby traffic patterns
  • General atmosphere and outdoor noise levels
  • Availability and quality of nearby schools and childcare facilities
  • Proximity to your workplace, your children’s current schools, and preferred grocery stores and malls

6. Hire A Real Estate Lawyer If Needed

A real estate lawyer is a licensed professional tasked with handling the legalities related to real estate transactions. They will advise you of your rights as a buyer, help you to prepare and review documents, and even assist with the offer-to-purchase process. 

7. Make An Offer

Make an offer to purchase the property of your choice. Remember that an offer is just that – an offer. It only becomes a legally binding contract once both parties have signed.

Consult Your Buyer’s Agent or Real Estate Lawyer

Before making an offer, consult your agent or lawyer if you are using one. They may be able to get the asking price down, making any fees they charge worth it. They’ll advise you on all the necessary paperwork and fees involved once you commit to buying.

Most importantly, they’ll advise you of contingencies to include in the contract. This helps extricate you from the deal if unexpected events require you to do so. Of course, the seller’s agent will try to avoid this at all costs. This is why we recommend you use a real estate lawyer at this stage. 

Negotiate Terms

Negotiate the terms of the sale. Narrow down what is included with the property, and what is not. Discuss whether or not the owner is prepared to make certain repairs or home improvements, on the condition of a confirmed sale. Also, get any contingency plans (see above) nailed down.

8. Home Inspection

Any property for sale should meet certain criteria, and this necessitates a home inspection. However, it is not mandatory in the US, and some homeowners may refuse. This could be seen as a red flag, as they may have something they wish to hide.

Most owners, however, are happy to agree as they know that it instills confidence in the potential buyer that it’s a good property to buy. Some sellers get a pre-listing inspection done, and this is a good sign of transparency about any property flaws.

Schedule An Inspection

If the property seller has not gone the pre-listing inspection route, you can ask them to have one done. Be aware that this will be at your own cost. Generally, the buyer pays for the cost of a home inspection once their offer to purchase is accepted. The average cost is $300 to $500. 

Review Findings

The home inspector looks at the foundation, exterior shell (the building ‘envelope’), roof, ventilation, plumbing, sewage system, and electrical wiring. They also check the basic safety features of the property.

If the seller initiated the home inspection at their cost, they must provide you with a copy of the report and its findings. If you asked for and paid for the inspection, you must furnish the seller with a copy.

9. Secure Financing With A Mortgage/Loan 

Next on your new home-buying checklist is the financing for your home purchase. Typically, this involves applying for a mortgage. This is a loan that a bank or mortgage lender gives you to finance the purchase of a property, with the property as collateral.

Not all home loans are mortgages. You can apply for a personal loan from a bank or lending company to use toward a home purchase. There are different types of mortgages and loans available in the US, with different repayment and interest rates. Do your research to find the ideal fit for your needs. 

Documents You’ll Need

You’ll need to submit certain documents. These include your income statements/pay slips, bank account statements, tax returns, and statements showing any other income outside your official job.

You’ll also need to provide your social security number, proof that you’re employed, and that you have faithfully paid rent (or a home loan) in the past 12 months. You’ll also have to provide your credit report or give permission for the lender to access it.

Undergo Appraisal

Your application for a mortgage or home loan will now undergo an appraisal. An appraiser will conduct a value analysis of the property in question. They inspect the property and assess if the amount you want to lend aligns with the property’s worth. 

There’s a good reason for this. If you take out a mortgage and default on the loan, the lender will foreclose the property and sell it to recoup their loss. If they determine the amount matches the property’s worth, and you meet the mortgage or loan requirements, you will likely be approved.

10. Close The Deal And Finalize The Paperwork

It’s time to close the deal. Review the closing documents, and check that nothing has been left out. Once you’ve signed a contract, it’s legally binding, so be sure to iron out any last-minute details before you sign anything.

Conduct Final Walkthrough

Do a final walkthrough, and if you’re happy with what you’re buying, and the terms of your mortgage or loan agreement, go ahead and sign.

If you have not yet signed a contract with the seller, and have not yet agreed to any loan or mortgage repayments, you can still walk away. And if by this time you still have lingering doubts, it might be best to do so. Buying a home is a big step. Never do it if you are at all unsure of your decision.

Secure Homeowners Insurance

Your last step on your home ownership checklist is to ensure homeowners insurance

It’s not required by state or federal law, but lenders typically require it before approving mortgages. This is a good thing to have. It covers you in the event of damage to your property caused by extreme weather, acts of vandalism, and arson.

11. Collect Keys

Once you’ve signed the contract with the seller, your lender, and the insurer, it’s time to finalize the handover process. After the financing has been arranged and they’ve been paid, all that’s left on your new home-buying checklist is to fetch the keys to your new home.

The Bottom Line

When buying a home, it’s crucial to ensure you’ve followed all the steps on the home-buying checklist above. When you carefully consider your needs and assess your options, you’re likely to have a positive home-buying experience. And it helps to have expert help!

At Hudson Condos, we believe buying a home should never be stressful. That’s why we have dedicated ourselves to helping buyers search for the perfect condo. So whether it’s a waterfront view, proximity to green spaces, or just a cozy condo you’re after, contact us today.