1. Decide to buy.

Although there are many good reasons for you to buy a home, wealth building ranks among the top of the list. We call home ownership the best "accidental investment" most people ever make. But, we believe when it is done right, home ownership becomes an intentional investment that lays the foundation for a life of financial security and personal choice. There are solid financial reasons to support your decision to buy a home, and, among these, equity buildup, value appreciation, and tax benefits stand out

  • Base your decision to buy on facts, not fears.
  • If you are paying rent, you very likely can afford to buy
  • There is never a wrong time to buy the right home.
  • All you need to do in the short run is find a good buy and make sure you have the financial ability to hold it for the long run
  • The lack of a substantial down payment doesn't prevent you from making your first home purchase
  • A less-than-perfect credit score won't necessarily stop you from buying a home
  • The best way to get closer to buying your ultimate dream home is to buy your first home now

Buying a home doesn't have to be complicated – there are many professionals who will help you along the way
 

2. Hire your agent.

The typical real estate transaction involves at least two dozen separate individuals: insurance assessors, mortgage brokers and underwriters, inspectors, appraisers, escrow officers, buyer's agents, seller's agents, bankers, title researchers, and a number of other individuals whose actions and decisions have to be orchestrated in order to perform in harmony and get a home sale closed. It is the responsibility of your real estate agent to expertly coordinate all the professionals involved in your home purchase and to act as the advocate for you and your interests throughout.

Seven main roles of your real estate agent

A Buyer's Real Estate Agent

  • Educates you about your market.
  • Analyzes your wants and needs.
  • Guides you to homes that fit your criteria.
  • Coordinates the work of other needed professionals.
  • Negotiates on your behalf.
  • Checks and double-checks paperwork and deadlines.
  • Solves any problems that may arise.

Eight important questions to ask your agent

Qualifications are important. However, finding a solid, professional agent means getting beyond the resume, and into what makes an agent effective. Use the following questions as your starting point in hiring your licensed, professional real estate agent:

  • Why did you become a real estate agent?
  • Why should I work with you?
  • What do you do better than other real estate agents?
  • What process will you use to help me find the right home for my particular wants and needs?
  • What are the most common things that go wrong in a transaction and how would you handle them?
  • What are some mistakes that you think people make when buying their first home?
  • What other professionals do you suggest we work with and what are their credentials?
  • Can you provide me with references or testimonials from past clients?

3. Secure financing.

While you may find the thought of home ownership thrilling, the thought of taking on a mortgage may be downright chilling. Many first-time buyers start out confused about the process or nervous about making such a large financial commitment.

From start to finish, you will follow a six-step, easy-to-understand process to securing the financing for your first home.

Six steps to Financing a Home

  • Choose a loan officer (or mortgage specialist).
  • Make a loan application and get preapproved.
  • Determine what you want to pay and select a loan option.
  • Submit to the lender an accepted purchase offer contract.
  • Get an appraisal and title commitment.
  • Obtain funding at closing.

4. Find your home.

You may think that shopping for homes starts with jumping in the car and driving all over town. And it's true that hopping in the car to go look is probably the most exciting part of the home-buying process. However, driving around is fun for only so long – if weeks go by without finding what you're looking for, the fun can fade pretty fast. That's why we say that looking for your home begins with carefully assessing your values, wants, and needs, both for the short and long terms.

Questions to ask yourself

  • What do I want my home to be close to?
  • How much space do I need and why?
  • Which is more critical: location or size?
  • Would I be interested in a fixer-upper?
  • How important is home value appreciation?
  • Is neighborhood stability and priority?
  • Would I be interested in a condo?
  • Would I be interested in new home construction?
  • What features and amenities do I want? Which do I really need?

Your lender decides what you can borrow but you decide what you can afford.

Lenders are careful, but they make qualification decisions based on averages and formulas. They won't understand the nuances of your lifestyle and spending patterns quite as well as you do. So, leave a little room for the unexpected – for all the new opportunities your home will give you to spend money, from furnishings, to landscaping, to repairs.

Historically, banks use a ratio called 28/36 to decide how much borrowers could borrow. An approved housing payment couldn't be more than 28 percent of the buyer's gross monthly income, and his or her total debt load, including car payments, student loans, and credit card payments, couldn't be more than 36 percent. (In Canada lenders apply similar formulas to determine how much a buyer can afford. The Gross Debt Service ratio, or GDS, is not to exceed 32 percent of the buyer's gross monthly income, and the Total Debt Service ratio, or TDS, is not to exceed 40 percent of the buyer's total debt load.) As home prices have risen, some lenders have responded by stretching these ratios to as high as 50 percent. No matter how expensive your market though, we urge you to think carefully before stretching your budget quite so much.

Deciding how much you can afford should involve some careful attention to how your financial profile will change in the upcoming years. In the long run, your own peace of mind and security will matter most.

Create Your Home Wish List

Before the home search begins, your real estate agent will want to know as much as possible about the features and amenities you desire. To help your agent better serve you, analyze what you want and what you need in a home’s features and amenities.

Features:

  • Age: Do you prefer historic properties, or newer ones?
  • Style: Do you have a special preference for ranches, bungalows, or another style of construction?
  • Bedrooms: How many?
  • Bathrooms: How many? Are they updated?
  • Living and Dining Areas: A traditional, formal layout, or a more open, contemporary plan?
  • Stories: How many?
  • Square feet: How much space?
  • Ceilings: How high?
  • Kitchen: How big? Recently updated? Open to other living areas?
  • Storage: Big closets, a shed, an extra-large garage?
  • Parking: A garage or carport? Room for how many cars?
  • Extras: Attic or basement?

Amenities:

Search for your DREAM home!!

  • Office
  • Play/exercise room
  • Security system
  • Sprinkler system
  • Workshop/Studio
  • In-law suite
  • Fireplace
  • Pool
  • Hot tub
  • Sidewalk
  • Wooded lot
  • Patio, deck, or porch
  • Laundry room

Location, Location, Location

Where you buy not only affects the home's current and future value, but it also affects your lifestyle. Your agent will be able to conduct a more targeted home search if you outline your preferences in neighborhoods and nearby amenities. Here's a checklist of items you should consider and communicate to your chosen real estate agent.

  • Urban, suburban or rural
  • Commute time
  • School districts
  • Desirable neighborhoods
  • Proximity to the airport
  • Proximity to restaurants and retail
  • Access to major highways and thoroughfares
  • Access to public transportation
  • Health care facilities
  • Parks and recreation
  • Length of time you plan to live in the home (Your agent should be knowledgeable about growth trends and projections that could affect your investment.)

Seven main roles of your real estate agent

A Buyers Real Estate Agent:

  1. Educates you about your market.
  2. Analyzes your wants and needs.
  3. Guides you to homes that fit your criteria.
  4. Coordinates the work of other needed professionals.
  5. Negotiates on your behalf.
  6. Checks and double-checks paperwork and deadlines.
  7. Solves any problems that may arise.