Ultimate Home Buying Checklist for First-Time Buyers 

 December 12, 2020

By Scott Teesdale  

minutes read time

Are you a first-time home buyer and not sure where to start? Take it from us, the process is a bit overwhelming and we’ve helped thousands of buyers navigate the complicated and costly maze of buying a home. We’ve created this thorough home buyer checklist for first-time buyers. Be sure to read it thoroughly and bookmark it, as we continually update it with new content. Don’t forget to signup for our email newsletter!

Avoid the common mistakes of homebuying by making a “todo” checklist as you search for your dream home. When you have a strong idea of what to look for and a plan in place, you increase the chances of finding a home that fits your needs and budget and you avoid encountering some potentially serious problems.

As you go through homes, make sure your buying checklist is completed and you’ve marked all the essentials off. A house is one of life’s biggest investments so have fun with it and make sure all your bases are covered.

🎓 Get educated and create a plan

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.” Similarly, with home buying, it’s okay that you may not stick to your original plan, but preparing that plan is indispensable. For most of us, house buying is likely the largest financial commitment of our lives.

  • For starters, be an informed buyer. This includes everything from reading top-selling home buying books to signing up for our free newsletter, where we provide weekly updates and suggestions on the home buying and selling experience. It also provides a helpful to-do list and information about mortgages and finances to give you a better grasp of buying a home for the first time.
  • Even though your home buying timeline may change as you progress through the process, it’s good to have one in mind to keep you on track.
  • Determine your needs and wants. This will also be helpful in the section below when you determine your budget. The less you bucket into the “need” category, the easier it may be to find your dream home.
  • Still have questions not yet covered in our research above? Check out our Home Buyer Frequently Asked Questions to see our answers to the most popular questions we receive. And just in case there are any terms you don’t understand, you can always consult our Home Buyers Glossary of real estate terminology and definitions. This will help ensure you can communicate clearly with your broker and other professionals.

👨🏽‍💻 Know what you’re looking for

One does not simply wake up and decide to buy a property.

One does not simply buy a home meme

There are many decisions involved in this process. One of the first ones a first-time home buyer will make is what type of home they will want.

  • The most common that is best suited for larger families is a detached, single-family home.
  • A bit smaller but equally suitable for families is what’s called a townhome. These types of homes usually cost more because they are larger so if you are looking for something cheaper and/or smaller, consider buying a condominium. But keep in mind, that both townhomes and condos have Homeowners’ Associations (HOA) that come with a monthly fee.
  • If you are trying to avoid monthly fees and still want a lot of space, there are two options you can avail yourself of. The first, and much more common, is purchasing a fixer-upper home. These homes tend to be larger but need a lot of care and attention. Another option is to purchase a foreclosed home, but this is fraught with issues so be careful!
  • Lastly, for those with much larger budgets, extra time, and a spark of creativity, consider whether you want to buy or build a new home. For those that choose to build their own home, we have provided a handful of helpful building tips as well as how to find a contractor.

💵 Get your financial house in order

Now that you understand the market landscape and are up to speed on what you are looking for, it’s time to get your financial picture in order. This includes determining your family budget as well as reviewing a handful of money-saving tips. Don’t underestimate this part of the journey-you will need to know your numbers very well in order to communicate with your lender.

👩🏽‍💼 Mortgages

How much mortgage can you afford? In otherwords, how large of a home can you buy? The answer to this depends not only on your finances but also your credit, home down payment, and a number of other factors that banks and lenders review as part of the mortgage process.

Millennials – mortgages can be confusing. Make sure to read through our millennial mortgage guide so you have a better idea of what you’re getting into.

🚶🏽‍♀️ Taking your first steps

Congratulations! You’ve done most of the “boring” work-educated yourself on the market, figured out what type of home you want, and aligned your finances. It’s now time to take your first step towards buying your dream home!

👬 Pre-purchase plans

If you decided to hire an agent, you will work with them on finding your dream home. They will set you up on your online portal so you can receive email alerts when a new home gets listed. They will also help you calculate and set the correct value on the homes you are seeing.

🖨 Making that offer

With all the hard work completed, you will hopefully find a house you love. Speak with your agent to determine the home’s fair market value and, if necessary, discuss a negotiation strategy. At this point, you will write an offer on the home. This is a huge step… 🎉congrats! Your real estate agent should help advise you on what the offer would look like in terms of amount and verbiage. Many times in a competitive market, it’s not unheard of for homebuyers to write a personalized letter to the seller to get their attention. Another important step in making an offer is understanding how real estate contracts work. 

Now that your research is complete and your offer is in, what do you do now? Pray child, pray. 🍀🙏🏽

💼 One step closer

You’re one step closer to securing your dream home. One of three things is about to happen:

  • Your offer gets accepted
  • Your offer gets rejected
  • The home seller counter bids

If the first happens, congrats! Move to the next section. If your offer gets rejected, we’re very sorry. Don’t be discouraged, keep looking!

What’s likely more common than a flat-out rejection is that the home seller will solicit counter offers. This means it’s time to negotiate your price for the home. In a seller’s market, it’s likely the seller asked many buyers to submit their counter offers.

🎉 Offer accepted!

This is probably the most exciting, and scariest, part of your home buying experience. YOUR OFFER WAS ACCEPTED!!! 🙌🏽 🙌🏽

It’s time to start making arrangements for securing your new home. Start with reviewing the type of home inspections available to you. For example, if you haven’t already, you should do a personal inspection of the home. You should also hire a professional inspection expert to also review the house and provide you a full report.

  • Do a final walk through of the house to ensure nothing is wrong and that all repairs have been completed if you made this part of your negotiations. If you did have repairs made, check those areas specifically for the correct fixes.

🏡 Closing on your dream home

  • Secure final loan approval and commitment from the lending institution. If you have done your “up-front” work, this should be one of your easiest steps.
  • Prior to closing, you and your agent will have the opportunity to do a final walkthrough of the home. This is the final chance to raise any red flags or questions you have about the home.
  • Home warranties can be crucial any time you purchase a home because they can cover a lot of unforeseen issues that may arise, including issues with your HVAC systems, water heater, and more.
  • Make all final preparations for closing with your lawyer. You can read our article to find out which states require attorneys for real estate closings.
  • Make moving plans. If you plan to use a moving company, make comparisons and reserve time now.
  • Final closing and settlement. You just have to wait for the escrow to close and you should be good to go!

📝 Post-purchase plans

  • Compare and secure homeowners insurance. Since homeowners insurance is a long term expense, getting the best deal here brings savings that continue.
  • Move to your new home and begin enjoying it–you deserve it!

What an exciting journey! We hope you enjoy this American privilege to search for and buy a home. Maintain a good perspective through each step and always remember to get the best home for yourself (not the “biggest” or “coolest”, but the best for you).

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I use data and technology to help Millennials navigate the ins-and-outs of buying or selling a home in today's market. From appraisals to mortgages to zoning, I cover it all with the goal to teach others. Connect with me on social via the icons above.