Purchasing Your Next Home Made Easy
12 Months Out
Check your credit score.Get a copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com. The three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are each required to give you a free credit report once a year. A Federal Trade Commission study found one in four Americans identified errors on their credit report, and 5% had errors that could lead to higher rates on loans. Avoid last-minute bombshells by checking your score long before you're ready to make an offer. And work diligently to correct any mistakes.
How Much House Can You Afford?
Lenders are happy to lend you as much as your debt load allows. But will that amount make you house poor? Ask yourself, how much house do I really want to afford?
Renovator Really of Texas can help you with the numbers at no cost or obligation.
9 Months Out
Prioritize what you most want in your new home. What's most important in your new home? Proximity to work? A big backyard? An open floor plan? Being on a quiet street? You'll make a much better decision on what home to buy if you focus on your priorities. If it's a joint decision, now is the time to work out any differences to avoid frustration and wasted time. Perhaps most important: Know what trade-offs you're willing to make.
Research neighborhoods and start visiting open houses. But now's when the fun begins, too. Use property listing sites, such as realtor.com, to find out about neighborhoods, public transport, and cost of living.
Start visiting open houses to get an idea of what kind of homes are in your price range and what neighborhoods appeal the most. Seeing potential homes will also keep you motivated to continue reducing your debts and saving for your down payment.
Budget for miscellaneous homebuying expenses. Buying a home has some miscellaneous upfront costs. A home inspection, title search, propery survey, and home insurance are examples. Costs vary by locale, but expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars. If you don't have the cash, start saving now.
Start a home maintenance account. Speaking of saving, start the good habit now of putting a little aside each month to fund maintenance, repairs, and home emergencies. It's bad enough to have to call a plumber. It's worse if you're paying credit card interest on that plumbing bill.
6 Months Out
Collect your loan paperwork. Banks are very particular when it comes to mortgage loans. They demand a lot of paperwork. What they'll want from you includes:
W-2 forms -- or business tax return forms if you're self-employed -- for the last two to three years
Personal tax returns for the past two to three years
Your most recent pay stubs
Credit card and all loan statements
Your bank statements
Addresses for the past five to seven years
Brokerage account statements for the most recent two to four months
Most recent retirement account statements, such as 401(k)
If you start collecting these documents now, it'll lessen the stress when it's time to get your loan. Bonus: Looking closely at your loan documents each month will also help you stay focused on saving for your down payment and keeping your debt-to-income ratio low.
3 Months Out
Get pre-approved for your loan. At this point, if you've been following this timeline, your credit score, paperwork, and down payment should be on track. You've done your research on lenders and buyers' agents. Now it’s time to start working with them. First you'll need to get pre-approved for a mortgage.
Make an appointment with your lender or mortgage broker and bring all your paperwork. He'll run a credit check on you and tell you how much of a loan you're approved for. It often makes sense to borrow less than the maximum the lender allows so you can live comfortably. Draft a budget that accounts for mortgage payments, insurance, maintenance, and everything else you have going on in your life.
Start shopping for your new home. One you're pre-approved, the buyer's agent you've chosen will be able to target homes that meet your priorities in your price range. This way you won't be wasting time looking at homes you can't afford.
2 Months Out
Make an offer on a home.It usually takes at least four to six weeks to close on a home. So if you have a firm move-out date, allow enough time to deal with any hiccups that can delay closing.
Get a home inspection. One of the first things you'll want to do after an offer is accepted is have a home inspector look at the property. If the home inspector finds something that needs repair, that's a common example of something that can delay closing.
In the Last Month
Triple-check that all your financial documents are in order and review all lending documents before closing. You're in the home stretch! If you've been keeping your documents up to date, and your down payment is in reserve, these final steps are the easiest. Reviewing the mortgage documents is probably the most difficult. Your agent can help guide you through them.
Get insurance for your new home. Don't forget to secure insurance before closing. You'll need to bring proof of insurance to closing.
Do a final walk-through. Do a final walk-through of your new home, usually a day or two before closing, to make sure the home is in the shape you and the seller have agreed upon.
Get a cashier's check or bank wire for cash needed at closing. Make sure you get an exact amount of cash needed for closing. You'll get that number a few days before closing so you can secure a cashier's check or arrange to have the money wired. Regular checks aren't accepted.