Checklist for First-Time Homebuyers

What you need to know when buying your first home.
Nate Palmer
Nate Palmer Relationship Manager 4 min read
Buying your first home can be both exciting and daunting, especially in competitive markets. But with a bit of prep work and research, the process can go smoothly. Here's an overview of to the important first few steps to home ownership.

1. Assemble your team

Find a real estate broker who specializes in your specific area or neighborhood of interest

Vet and line up a banker or mortgage broker, real estate lawyer and a home inspector

2. Gather important documents

Be ready for a credit check by your lender. Be ready to speak to any delinquencies, late payments or other potentially negative items.

Assemble paperwork including tax returns, W-2 forms from the past two years, current pay stubs, bank statements from the past several months, current asset statements, and other relevant financial documents.

Start mortgage pre-qualification/pre-approval* process. This is key in competitive markets.

3. Make a budget

Learn about the down payment and closing costs associated with various property types. Closing costs for co-ops, for instance, are generally lower than those for townhouses or condos.

Set aside cash to cover maintenance costs and mortgage payments for one to two years after purchase

Budget for moving costs, renovations, taxes and everyday expenses

4. Review mortgage options

Weigh the pros and cons of different mortgage products. A 30-year fixed mortgage may not be ideal if you're only planning to stay for six years.

Get pre-qualified/pre-approved* for a mortgage with terms that make sense for you

5. Start house hunting

Prioritize your must-haves and research neighborhoods around your target location.

Search and catalog online listings in a spreadsheet.

Visit open houses and schedule private showings.

6. Submit your offer and prepare for closing

Submit a pre-approval letter with your offer.

Discuss the closing process with your real estate broker, which may vary greatly by neighborhood or region.

Track deadlines for any purchase contingencies or co-op board packages.

Arrange, complete and review the home inspection report and other disclosures

Putting this level of preparation into your homebuying journey will help you to take advantage of more opportunities and — hopefully — get you closer to your dream home.

*Each mortgage lender's loan program and qualification/approval requirements may vary.

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