Be it a build or an older home, the first step to home buying beyond determining if you can afford the mortgage is where you want to live. Every space has its unique problems and unique benefits. For example, gated communities are highly secure but also very particular about any changes to the property. Know where you want to shop before you even start hunting. Note that there are several online sources for discerning a community's crime rating, school rankings etc.
Second, consider what the home's condition should be to fit your lifestyle. Fixer-ups are great for the handyperson. However, these can actually end up costing more than a house in new or good condition if you have to hire contractors to make the changes / repairs and keep everything in code.
As you go to shop, remember that Fair Housing requires that you should be able to see any property you wish. Know your rights as a potential buyer / borrower, realizing that not all agents and banks are trustworthy. Also, learn about various home buying programs that could lower your monthly mortgage as this will help you look at homes in the right price range for your budget. First time homeowners have great mortgage rate opportunities available often as low as 5% with reasonable down payments.
While shopping for homes, keep your wish list in hand. When one finally jumps out as the perfect choice, the next step is making an offer. Most people price their homes above what they're willing to accept in this stage, and you can include any foreseen changes you'll have to make to the property in explaining your bid. Even then, having a home inspection done is vital. Anything that comes up in this inspection can be used as reason to retract your bid, especially large ticket repairs.
Optimistically lets say this goes smoothly and the bid's accepted. You'll need to get homeowners insurance. Most people go to whomever covers their car as insurers will "bundle" home and auto into special rates, especially for long time customers. Nonetheless, it might be worth a call to two other companies to compare coverage and costs dollar for dollar.
Sometimes the closing date for your home will come. KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SIGNING. If you're not sure what something means, ask. There will be tons of paperwork here, and it's a long-term commitment so if you have an attorney with what you work regularly it's worth the cost to get his or her assistance on this step.
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