Buying a home—whether your first or your fifth—can be exciting. This simple checklist can make the process simpler and more successful.
Before you begin your search
1. Get organized.
Prepare for your mortgage preapproval process by tracking down the following:
- Any income documentation – W2s, tax returns, paystubs and proof of alimony or rental income
- Proof of assets – bank statements, retirement account statements, etc.
- Other legal documents – driver’s license, lease agreement, current mortgage
- Letters of explanation for any recent credit inquiries or unusually large deposits
2. Think about your budget.
Before findingout how much you’re qualified to borrow, consider how much you’re comfortable borrowing. Many homebuyers use the 30% rule—keeping monthly housing payments (including insurance and taxes) under 30% of their monthly gross income.
3. Get help.
An experienced loan officer is a wealth of knowledge. Talk to them early and ask questions so you feel confident moving forward. They can help you:
- Review your financial situation and goals.
- Evaluate loan options that suit your budget.
- Determine which mortgages you might qualify for.
Finding the perfect home
1. Find a real estate agent.
You’ll want to work with an agent you feel comfortable with, but also one who has experience in your area and a reputation for good negotiation skills. Ask for recommendations from your friends and coworkers. Check online reviews. Briefly interview them to see if they fit with your needs.
2. Shop for a home and negotiate the purchase price.
It’s a good idea to look at a number of homes in your price range. That way, when you find the one you want, you’ll have something to compare it to. Take lots of notes (and pictures) during your walk-through. Walk the neighborhood and talk to neighbors. Ask your realtor about comparable sales in the area—good knowledge when you’re ready to negotiate a price. And stay in touch with your loan officer as you start to narrow your options.
3. Get a home inspection.
Once you’ve made an offer, schedule a home inspection as soon as possible. Think about, in advance, what potential issues you’ll be willing to live with and what issues could be deal breakers.
The financing process
1. Apply for your loan.
Has your offer been accepted? Timeto apply for that loan. Here’s when all your pre-work will pay off. Work with your loan officer to apply. You’ll receive a Loan Estimate, which outlines all of your loan terms. Review this carefully, making any changes. You application is complete once you submit an Intent to Proceed form, along with signed paperwork and fees.
This may be the hardest part of the process for you. You’ve done all the hard work getting your loan application ready. Now it’s your lender’s turn. Your mortgage team begins processing your application and getting an appraisal.
3. Respond quickly.
Your loan processor prepares your file for the next step and may contact you if further documentation is needed—like additional proof of income. If you receive such a request, you’ll have 24 to 48 hours to send it over. Once they have everything they need, your completed loan file will go to Underwriting for review and final decision.
4. Prepare for closing.
At least three days prior to your closing date, you’ll be able to review your Initial Closing Disclosure. Look it over carefully as it contains your mortgage’s current terms and fees. It will also tell you how much cash you’ll need to bring to closing and in what form—typically a cashier’s or certified check.
5. Close on your home.
Congratulations! It’s the big day. If your mortgage terms and conditions changed at all after review of your Initial Closing Disclosure, you will receive a revised Disclosure. Then it’s time to sign on the dotted line.