10 Steps to Buying a Home

Take a more detailed look at each stage of the homebuying process to fully understand what to expect.

Couple moves into new home.

If you’re buying a home for the first time, the whole process might seem like a marathon—but it doesn’t have to be. 

Here are the 10 main stages of homebuying, designed to help first-time homebuyers like you confidently get across the finish line and settled into your home.

1. Understand How Much House You Can Afford
Buying a house is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in life, so it’s smart to familiarize yourself with your overall price range by doing a preliminary search of listings. Next, take a close look at your finances, including determining your debt-to-income ratio, so you can start laying the groundwork for your homebuying budget.

2. Know (and Improve) Your Credit Score
Your credit score is one of the crucial factors that determine your mortgage rate. The higher your score, the lower the interest rate on your mortgage. UW Credit Union members can check their credit scores anytime for free in Web Branch. Members and non-members also can get a free copy of their credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every 12 months by visiting https://www.annualcreditreport.com. Paying bills on time, as well as keeping low loan and credit card account balances, can help improve your score.

3. Meet with a Mortgage Lender, Get Pre-Approved
Now that your financial picture is coming into focus, you’ll want to explore mortgages. You can start by comparing different fixed and adjustable rate options, and then meeting with a trustworthy lender to ask questions and decide on which mortgage is the best fit for you. Next, consider applying for pre-approval, so you’ll have a conditional commitment for the mortgage amount and rate. It’ll also show that you’re a qualified buyer once you’re ready to make an offer.

4. Decide Whether to Use an Agent
These days, it’s possible to use online resources and tools to “go solo” and purchase a home without an agent. However, choosing a buyer’s agent can help streamline your search for a home, especially at times when the market is hot. And, if you’re working with an agent, they’ll help you negotiate with the seller for the best price.

5. Start Shopping, Make an Offer
Here’s the real fun part of your homebuying journey: looking at homes that meet your needs and fit your budget. You can look at listings online for starters, narrow your choices, and then check out your top picks in person. And when you’ve landed on the perfect choice, you’ll make your offer. Depending on market conditions, you’ll need to decide whether your offer should be right at the asking price, or if it should be above or below it. Your offer probably will include earnest money, along with contingencies such as your home inspection, timing and other factors.

6. Secure Your Mortgage
After your offer is accepted by the sellers, you’ll need to talk to your lender about getting your mortgage approved by the closing date. At UW Credit Union, your mortgage loan officer will guide you through the final steps to ensure the process is streamlined and stress-free.

7. Get a Home Inspection
Getting a home inspection is a smart move. Most home purchase offers include a home inspection contingency, which will help identify structural problems that could cost the buyer extra money to fix. Examples include cracks in the foundation, HVAC system issues, leaking roofs, termites or flooding problems.  Depending on the home or its location, you may need to test for biotoxins, radon, asbestos or mold.  Based on the results of the inspection and extra tests, you may need to negotiate with the seller to address the issue or settle on adjusting the offer to take into account repair costs.

8. Final Prep Before Closing
You’re in the home stretch! Before you close on your home, do a final walk-through of your new home to ensure everything’s in order since the inspection took place. Be sure to review all the paperwork before you close, so you can clarify questions in advance if needed. Remember to ensure that all the funds required at closing are transferred into the right account.  It’s also wise to contact utility, cable/internet and related companies about your move-in date, so you can hit the ground running once you move in.

9. Close on Your Home
Be sure to bring a valid government photo ID and remember to bring a cashier’s or certified check to cover any down payment or closing costs you owe. You’ll spend about an hour with the sellers, the title or escrow agent, and possibly an attorney, signing many documents before they hand over the keys to your new home.

10. Move In!
Congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of your very own home. Your purchase contract will specify when you can move in, either on the closing day, or at some point after closing. If you haven’t already done so, remember to provide your change of address to the post office, federal and state tax agencies, the Social Security Administration, your employer, insurance company, banks, credit card companies and other financial agencies, and subscription services.

Give yourself a pat on the back—all that time, research, planning and saving has paid off. Let the happy days of homeownership begin!

Get a Customized Quote

At UW Credit Union, first-time homebuyers get up to $1,000 off closing costs.* Get started by exploring loan options, then get a customized estimate with our rate quote tool. When you’re ready, start your application to get pre-approved.

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