The First-Time Home Buyer Guide

Every home buying journey is unique. There can be ups, downs and surprises along the way, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer. But even though there isn’t one set path to reach the finish line, that doesn’t mean there aren’t common steps most home buyers take along the way. In the First-Time Home Buyer Guide, we’ll walk through these common steps, hear from experts, and provide a few How-Tos so you can hit the ground running.

1. Make Sure You’re Ready to Buy a Home
2. Get Approved for Your Mortgage
3. Find the Right Real Estate Agent for You
4. Search for Your Perfect Home
5. Make Your Offer
6. Prepare for Your Closing
7. Close on Your New Home

Step 1. Make Sure You're Ready to Buy a Home

Chances are, you know exactly how much money you make every month, how much you have saved, and how much your monthly bills are. The key to knowing if you’re ready to buy a home is figuring out how all these numbers fit together and if you have what you need to buy a home you really want.

Make sure your credit score is mortgage ready.

You’ll likely need to obtain a mortgage to buy a home, and you won’t qualify for the best mortgage rates with a low credit score. If your score is too low, you might not qualify for a mortgage at all. The difference of a few points can add up to a lot of interest and fees, so it’s important to ensure your credit is healthy before you consider buying a home. You can dive into the details of how credit scores affect the type of mortgage you can get.

Q: What kind of credit score do you need to buy a home?

A: The minimum credit score needed to purchase a home is 580. However, if your credit score is below 620, additional compensating factors may be needed to get approved for a loan.  Those include things like a large amount of assets, a high amount of income, and a low amount of debt.

– Julian Savaya, Senior Purchase Banker, Quicken Loans

How to:

Check your credit score.

You can get your free credit report here. You’ll also be able to see what a mortgage lender takes into consideration when they review your application. This includes your payment history, places of employment and accounts in your name.

Improve your credit score.

The surest way to build your credit is to make timely payments on all of your accounts – rent, car loan, cell phone, credit cards, etc. When it comes to your credit cards, it’s also important to maintain a low credit utilization ratio, which is the measure of how much you owe on your cards compared to their spending limits. Here are a few ways to improve your credit utilization and boost your credit score:

  • Increase your credit limit. If you have a credit card with a limit of $5,000 and you charge $2,000 per month, your credit utilization ratio is 40 percent. If you raise your limit to $10,000 and spend the same amount, your ratio drops to 20 percent. That’s good news for your credit score.
  • Pay your balance twice per month. This will prevent your charges from building up and consistently keep your credit utilization ratio down.
  • Spread your spending among a few cards. You might think it’s a good idea to shut down cards as you pay them off. Not so fast. Some credit scoring models penalize you for exceeding 30% utilization on any one card, so it’s a good idea to have a few cards to spread out your overall credit balance.  

Determine how much you can put towards a down payment.

A down payment is the amount of money you pay up front to buy a home. The bigger the down payment you make, the less your monthly mortgage payment and interest fees will be. Most conventional loans that offer the best rates require that you put down 20 percent of a home’s sale price, but don’t be discouraged if you come up short. You have plenty of options to put down less and comfortably manage your monthly mortgage payments.

Q: How much do you need to put down on a house?

A: There are certain circumstances that would allow for 0 percent down, but more than likely you’d be looking at anywhere from 3 percent to 5 percent down at a minimum. It depends on if you currently own properties and how strong your credit is. For the typical home buyer with strong income, healthy credit and low monthly debt, you should expect to need at least 3 percent down.  

– Tom Katrivesis, Purchase Banker, Quicken Loans

How to:

Figure out how much house you can afford.

Use a Home Affordability Calculator to get down to the nitty gritty. This will take into account your down payment, credit, income and overall debt. The calculator will also factor in the area you’re planning on looking for homes. Within a few seconds you’ll get an idea of the maximum home price you can afford and what your monthly payment could be.

Know that you’re in a solid financial position to buy a home.

After you examine your credit score and figure out how much you can put towards a down payment, you should take a look at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). To figure out your ratio, divide your total recurring monthly debt by your gross monthly income. Mortgage lenders generally look for a DTI of less than 43 percent when giving out loans. Getting below that figure will help establish that you’re ready to manage monthly mortgage payments and pay down all your debts.

Step 2.  Get a Mortgage Approval

After you feel confident that you’re financially ready to buy a home, the next step is getting a mortgage lender’s stamp of approval. That’s essentially what an approval letter is. A lender will analyze your financial situation and give you a dollar amount in the form of an approval letter that represents how much you can afford to spend on a home.

Choosing the right lender is crucial.

In fact, it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make when you buy a home because it’s the start of a long-term financial relationship. You want to work with a trustworthy company who is willing to help you through the mortgage application process and work with you over time – not a company who might sell your loan to another lender.

Q: Should I find a lender to get approved or find a real estate agent first?

A: You should get approved before looking for and committing to a real estate agent for several reasons.  First, you don’t want to waste time looking for homes if you’re not approved to purchase one, and you may need to come up with a game plan for how to get approved.  Additionally, knowing how much you’re approved for will allow you to do more research and educate yourself on what areas you want to look in based on your approval amount. Lastly, some real estate agents only work in certain cities and each city has homes at different price ranges. So the amount you get approved for will help determine the agent you will get connected with. 

– Julian Savaya, Senior Purchase Banker, Quicken Loans

How to:

Choose a mortgage lender.

There are many factors to consider beyond rates and fees. Get a sense for what it will be like to work with a lender by doing some research.

  • Look at the time a lender takes to close a loan. Some companies take longer than others and can create stressful situations when you’re trying to meet crucial funding deadlines.  
  • Seek out client satisfaction ratings and awards for customer service. This will help you gauge what your mortgage experience will be like in the short-term and long-term.  
  • Find out how the lender communicates. It’s important that you’re able to get answers quickly and conveniently. Look for companies that respond to customers within 24 hours and that offer the option to do business online.

Q: Why should I be approved before making an offer on a house?

A: It’s very important to be approved prior to putting an offer in on a house. It gives you an idea of what you can work with before you fall in love with any homes and shows the seller you are well-qualified, which gives you additional buying power. This also prevents a potential let-down for all parties involved, because if you get an offer accepted and it turns out you can’t get approved, both you and the seller will have lost valuable time. Luckily, at Quicken Loans we can approve you in minutes!

– Erin Monfette, Purchase Banker, Quicken Loans.

Getting approved first makes buying a home way easier.

Knowing what you can afford will help you avoid wasting time looking at homes outside of your price range. More importantly, your approval letter will let a seller know you’re a serious buyer when you make an offer. Most sellers will be more willing to negotiate when they see you’re approved.

Q: Do you have to be approved before making an offer on a house?

A: You don’t have to get an approval, but in a competitive market, it is important to show the seller of a home that you’re well-qualified. If there are several offers on a home, the seller may not look at offers that don’t have an approval letter. Plus, you don’t want to put an offer in on a home thinking you will be approved later. If you can’t get approved for some reason, you prevented the seller from receiving additional offers on their home, since they would have removed it from the market. 

– Julian Savaya, Senior Purchase Banker

How to:

Get approved.

You’ll need to provide proof of income and assets, employment verification and personal information like your Social Security number so your lender can run a credit check. Approval can take under an hour and up to a month, depending on your circumstances and the mortgage company you work with. With Rocket Mortgage, you can get approved online in minutes!

Step 3. Find the Right Real Estate Agent for You

The importance of a real estate agent can’t be stressed enough for first-time home buyers. As you navigate the remaining steps of the home buying process, your agent will be there to answer questions, give expert advice and look out for your best financial interests. And the best part? There’s no cost to you.

The benefits of working with an agent are many.

From translating market data to helping you navigate paperwork, an experienced agent is invaluable. After all, you don’t need to be a home buying expert if you hire an agent who already is one. Your agent can advise you on comparable homes in your area and reveal opportunities you might otherwise miss. When it’s time to tour homes, your agent will schedule showings and be by your side to answer questions. And once you’re ready to make an offer, you’ll have an advocate to represent you, negotiate, and give you the best chance to get the home that’s right for you.  

Q: What makes a great agent?

A: Generally speaking, a great agent is someone who listens to your needs and is willing to educate you – not just lead you through the purchase process. A great agent for your specific situation is one who’s highly qualified to meet your needs. Look for an agent who is available according to your schedule, knowledgeable about your local market and has experience helping similar home buyers.

– Doug Gartley, Associate Broker, Rocket Homes

How to:

Work with a real estate agent.

It’s important to make your expectations clear. A great agent will put your needs first so long as you explain exactly what your needs are. Share how you want to communicate and how often. If you have a time frame for when you expect to find your new home, share it and work together to come up with a game plan. Most importantly, be as detailed as possible when describing your desired home. A great agent should know how to find the kind of homes you have in mind when they have clear details of what you want.

Find the right agent for your needs.

First and foremost, it’s a good idea to get an agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and holds the designations of Certified Residential Specialist and an Accredited Buyer’s Representative, so you know you’re working with a professional home buyer’s agent. Beyond that, look for an agent who has experience buying the type of home you’re looking for, knows your area inside and out and can work around your schedule.

Q: Where should I look for my agent? (RH)

A: Many people discover their agent through advertisements or recommendations from family or friends. That can work out great, but it’s important to do some research and make sure an agent is the best fit for your situation. At Rocket Homes, we do all that research, so our clients don’t have to. We work with a nationwide network of highly-rated, prescreened agents, and we specialize in matching home buyers and sellers with the right agent for their unique needs. We love taking the stress out of finding an agent and giving our clients peace of mind that they’ll have a great experience.

– Beth Kirton, Senior Real Estate Coordinator, Rocket Homes

How to:

Decide if an agent is a good fit.

It’s best to work with an agent who is actively engaged in your area and who has experience finding homes in your price range. Ask the questions below during your first conversation with an agent to make sure they’re the right fit for your unique situation.

Which neighborhoods do you primarily work? This will let you know if an agent is already an expert in the area you’re considering. If their coverage area is elsewhere, they may not have the same connections and immediate insights to help you start touring homes quickly.

How many buyers did you represent locally in the last year? The more experience an agent has helping home buyers just like you, the better suited they’ll be to give timely advice and reveal favorable buying opportunities.

What are your hours? What happens when you’re not available? It’s always a good idea to make sure your agent will be on a similar schedule to yours.  

What services do you offer beyond negotiations and paperwork? Make a list of what an agent will do for you beyond the minimum requirements. If you interview several agents, this can help you choose the winner.

What advice can you offer that’s unique to my situation? Listen carefully to how an agent answers this question. Their answer will demonstrate how well they grasp your situation and how well they communicate useful information.

Make sure you feel comfortable and confident after your first conversation. For more on what to look for in your agent, check out these four "must haves for a great real estate agent."  

Step 4.  Search for Your Dream Home

With your approval letter in hand and your agent on your side, you’re ready to get serious about finding your new home. If you’re like most home shoppers, you’ll be spending much of your time looking at homes online and in-person. The goal of searching for homes online should be to narrow down the homes you have to visit. You can do this by screening homes in your price range and picking out the ones that match your needs. Once you start touring homes with your agent you’ll create your short list of contenders.

Set your standards.

Even in a seller’s market there are a lot of homes and possibilities to consider. The best way to make your online search manageable is to make a list of needs, nice-to-haves and no-ways. This will help you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for before you try to find it.

Q: What are red flags to look for when I search for homes online? (RH)

A: No photos are a big red flag. If there are photos of only the surrounding area, there is usually something wrong with either the listing or the house. Listings that change status frequently are another red flag, usually an agent is trying to game the system and push the listing upward in the pile. Listings that are live on the MLS but are not available to show are a big red flag, and an MLS violation.

– Beth Kirton, Senior Real Estate Coordinator, Rocket Homes

How to:

If you organize your thoughts under categories like size, location and home features, you can filter your online home search to and match up your wish list with what you see in home listings.

Size

How much space do you need to accommodate everyone who will be living with you? Are you looking for a huge backyard or a smaller property that’s easier to manage? Come up with a realistic square footage range that suits your lifestyle. Having extra space is nice, but for your first home you need to decide exactly how much room is necessary.

Location

Where do you drive the most? Figure out your ideal proximity from work, family and friends, and your most frequent destinations. What else do you want to be nearby? Parks? Schools? Restaurants? Even if these surrounding factors aren’t on your “needs” list, they can affect a home’s resale value and are worth considering.

Home Features

Do you have your mind set on a certain number of bedrooms and bathrooms? Determine what you need to accommodate your living situation and what you’re flexible on. You can also fill out your list of “nice-to-haves” with home features. The type of flooring, appliances and amenities a home offers can serve as a tie-breaker between two homes that are neck-and-neck.

Save time as you search online

Most online home search sites allow you to save your searches. Take advantage of this so you won’t have to keep readjusting the settings. You can also save time by signing up for auto-notifications that alert you when new listings pop up. This will do some of the work for you and help you get a jump on some of your home buying competition.  

There’s an emotional and practical side to touring homes.

You’ll probably have a gut reaction the first time you walk set foot in a home, check out a room or stroll through a neighborhood. That’s a good thing. Buying a home is a huge decision, and making the right decision involves trusting your gut. After all, the place where you live should feel like home. Just make sure to take a step back after that first wave of emotions settles down. Do a second walkthrough with a critical eye.  

Q: How much should I lean on my agent’s opinion when looking at a home? (RH)

A: An agent shouldn’t push you to buy or pass on a home. It’s okay to ask your agent what they like about a home and pick their brain for the unique qualities that stand out. For the most part, though, your agent should be a source of answers and as objective as possible. I recommend asking the agent if they have any concerns about potential flaws, or about the price of the home. Then use that information as part of your decision-making process – not the deciding factor.

– Beth Kirton, Senior Real Estate Coordinator

How to:

Size up a home during a showing

Grab your trusty tape measure so you can determine how the furniture you own will fit in. Then get ready to decide whether a home is a contender or pretender.  

  • Pay close attention to storage space, and space in general.  Take a few moments to stand still and concentrate on what you hear so you can gauge the noise level of sounds from outside.  
  • Check out the street and neighborhood. Is there ample parking for visitors? Are the other houses well-maintained?
  • Take as much time as you need to observe

Eventually you’ll want to open and close doors and windows, run faucets, switch lights on and off – basically check every nook and cranny. But save the scrutinizing for the second round or home inspection. During the first walkthrough, you just want to determine if the home is a real possibility. For more on how to tour homes like a pro, check out these 8 tips to take the stress out of your home search.

Step 5. Make Your Offer

You found a home that checks all the boxes. You’re ready. You’re more than ready. Now what? Should you risk making an offer below the asking price? Should you go above the asking price if you end up competing with other buyers? It isn’t always a simple equation. That’s why it’s a good thing you have an experienced agent to help you do the math and structure the best possible offer.

There’s a lot to consider before arriving at your final number.

Really though, it boils down to how much how much the market says you should spend and how much you’re willing to spend. Those two numbers will help you find a sweet spot for your first offer. At the very least, the goal is to give yourself a chance if there are competing offers. That means the most important rule of thumb is to avoid making a low-ball offer that offends the seller.

Q: When should I make an offer that is below the asking price?

A: Consult with your real estate agent and review a comparative market analysis. This will help you get a solid estimate of what a home should sell for. Then you’ll know when a home is overpriced and if you should make an offer that is closer to the home’s market value. If a home has been on the market for more than a week to 10 days without receiving any offers, that’s also a sign that a seller may need to consider asking for less.

– Doug Gartley, Associate Broker, Rocket Homes

How to:

Zero in on the amount you should offer.

Your agent should do a Comparative Market Analysis that will reveal how much similar homes have been selling for in that neighborhood. From there, you’ll need to look at the circumstances of the home for sale and the seller to guide your offer amount.

Are you in a buyer’s market or seller’s market? This will let you know how much competition you may have and give you an idea of how close to the asking price you need to get. You may also need to go over the asking price if homes are flying off the market.

What’s the seller’s mortgage balance? Most homeowners want to sell for more than they owe, so they probably won’t be willing to drop down below their mortgage balance. If they don’t owe much, they may not be motivated to sell as quickly and can wait out the market to get their asking price. Check out how to search property records for all kinds of useful information.

What are square-foot cost averages? Small homes are generally priced higher per square foot than larger homes, so you can’t take the average cost and multiply it by the square footage to get an estimate. But you can still see if costs are rising or declining and use that info to your advantage.  

Set your offer up for success, then leave the negotiating to your agent.

Experienced agents know all the ins and outs of offer negotiations. Plus, they have plenty of motivation to get you into your new home. Their income and their reputation depend on getting their clients what they want, so rest assured that they’ll have your best interests in mind.

Q: What are contingencies, and should I include them in my offer? (RH)

A: Contingencies are clauses that can be included in a purchase agreement, intended to allow the buyer to get out of the purchase during a disclosure period. In most cases, you’ll want to make an offer contingent on the following:
  • Financing – Makes the sale contingent on you, the buyer, securing an acceptable loan
  • Appraisal – If a home is appraised lower than the agreed-upon price, you can get out of the contract without taking a hit to your pocketbook
  • Inspection – Gives you the right to cancel a contract or negotiate repairs based on the findings of a professional home inspector
  • Title and Attorney Review – Confirms the seller has legal title and that title is properly conveyed
  • Homeowners Association and Power of Attorney Review – Discloses documents from any governing association that may include restrictions that may not be acceptable for a buyer (such as a limit on how many pets a homeowner can have) – Doug Gartley, Associate Broker, Rocket Homes

How to:

Avoid sabotaging your offer

You may want to share your story and emotional connection to a seller’s home by including a letter with your offer. A letter can be a great way to connect with a seller – just consult with your agent first. There are Fair Housing Laws that guard against discrimination when selling a home, which means you might not want to include a photo or personal story that puts sellers in a tough spot. If you’re sure the home in question is going to get multiple offers fast, you should also resist the urge to ask for help with the closing costs unless you absolutely need it. Even asking a seller for a few concessions can slide your offer to the bottom of the pile.

Beef up your offer to put it over the top.

There are several ways you can sweeten an offer, such as letting the seller choose the closing date. Many sellers aren’t ready to move out right away and appreciate the opportunity to build in some extra time. Another option is to offer earnest money – a deposit that shows you’re serious about buying the home. Put down at least one percent of the price of the home, or more if you can swing it. This will pair nicely with an approval letter to show you have the funds to move forward.

Learn about more ways to get your offer accepted in a competitive market.

Step 6.  Prepare for Your Closing

Pop the bubbly! Your offer was accepted, the home you’ve been waiting for is yours. Time to invite over your closest family and friends over for a modest house warming. Well, not quite yet. You don’t own the home until after you close, so there are still several things you need to do before you rattle the keys and move in.

Schedule a home inspection as soon as you can.

You aren’t legally required to have a home inspected, but you absolutely should. The purpose of an inspection is to let you know the true condition of a home. Unless you work in construction or are an inspector yourself, chances are you won’t be able to properly evaluate a home from top to bottom. There are many structural, electrical and other critical elements that you need to check out, otherwise you’ll be spend a lot more on home than the sale price.

If repairs are needed, some can be handled by the seller before closing. Other repairs may be extensive and cause for renegotiating or backing out of a purchase.

Q: What do home inspectors look at during an inspection?

A: Expect that a home inspector's report will include an evaluation of the condition of the heating system, central air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems, roof, attic, visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors, the foundation, and visible structure. Home inspections are like physical checkups. If evidence of problems is found, the inspector will refer you to the appropriate specialist for further evaluation.

– Jerry Lootens, ASHI Certified Inspector

How to:

Choose an inspector

There’s no way to guarantee the quality of an inspector but you can do some research and ask some questions to choose a good one.

  • Look at sample reports. You can usually find these online. A report should clearly explain issues with a home, their significance and how to fix them.
  • Read the reviews. See what previous clients had to say and if you speak to an inspector, ask for references.  
  • Start with inspectors in professional organizations. This will let you know that an inspector received proper training. You should also find out where they received their licensing to ensure they’re legit.  
  • Make sure an inspector is capable of evaluating all the features of the home in question. Compare the features of your home with what an inspector will cover in their report.  

Take action if the inspector reveals serious problems with a home.

First, know that no home is perfect. The main purpose of an inspection isn’t to give you a list of repairs for you to turn over to the seller to take care of. Your inspector will likely turn up a cracked tile or a leaky pipe at the very least. These small, low-cost repairs are typically issues to handle yourself, especially since a seller is on their way out and may not be as concerned with making quality repairs as you will be.

Major defects are a different matter. Problems like mold, termites, electrical defects and severe structural deficiencies require costly, lengthy repairs. These are the things you should ask a seller to address. Get input from your real estate agent to see if asking for a seller’s concession in the form of a closing credit is the way to go about it. It’s a way of getting the funds to handle a repair rather than depending on a potentially disinterested seller to take care of it.

Run through the rest of your pre-closing checklist.

Your agent will work with you to make sure everything is handled following your offer being accepted. Still, it’s a good idea to have a general idea of what to expect – and what is expected of you – prior to your closing date. The primary orders of business after getting an inspection are securing your mortgage, handling the appraisal and getting homeowner’s insurance.

Q: What’s involved with securing mortgage?

A: After the offer is accepted, you’re onto phase two. At Quicken Loans, we’ll help you review your application and e-sign your documents from the comfort of your couch. You’ll also provide a good faith deposit to secure the financing and order the appraisal. That will jump start the underwriting process to help you close as soon as possible.

– Holly Mitchell, President’s Club Purchase Banker

How to:

Take care of the appraisal.

An appraisal is an independent estimate of a property’s value, ordered by a lender to make sure the home you’re buying is actually worth the money included in your home loan. The good news is you don’t have to arrange for it – your lender will. You will, however, need to confirm with your lender that the appraisal has been ordered and cover the cost. Appraisal fees are typically $400-$800, depending on the size and location of the property.

Set up your homeowner’s insurance.

In addition to requiring an appraisal, your lender will most likely also require you to have homeowner’s insurance. Lenders expect a standard policy to cover rebuilding a structure from the ground up and, in most cases, you’ll be asked to provide proof that you’ve prepaid one year of coverage. You probably won’t need to buy it from any particular company, so it’s wise to shop around and compare coverage, prices and customer reviews. Be sure to handle this a few weeks out from your closing date and schedule the policy to take effect on that day.

Many home buyers get a little uneasy during the closing period because their new home feels so close yet so far, but with a little patience, you can overcome some of the most common.

Step 7. Close on Your New Home

The hardest parts are over. You found your perfect home, you got your inspection and you squared things away with your lender and insurance company. You’re almost to the finish line – your official closing day. This is the day you’ll sign all the paperwork, finalize your purchase and officially become a homeowner.

Schedule your closing near the end of the month – but not the last day of the month.

If anything goes wrong and the closing isn’t completed that day, you’ll likely be met with increased costs at the start of the next month. This is because prepaid interest due at closing accumulates throughout the month. So, it’s a good idea to give yourself a little breathing room for a final walkthrough and to avoid any possible delays that might push your closing into the following month.

Q: Who handles the Title Insurance and closing costs?

A: The responsibility for title and closing costs is negotiated as part of the transaction, so it will depend on what you worked out with the seller. In many cases the buyer and seller will split the fees.

– Doug Gartley

How to:

Do a final walkthrough.

A buyer’s contract usually permits a final walkthrough 24 hours before your closing. Give yourself at least a half-hour to give the home a careful look. You can bring your inspector back with you – usually for a fraction of the cost of the original inspection – and make sure any repairs you requested were made properly. If you do your walkthrough without a professional, use a similar approach as when you toured the home for the first time. Turn everything on and off, test out the electrical outlets, run the faucets and flush the toilets. Ensure the property hasn’t been damaged and that nothing has been removed.

If you do find a few issues, proceed with caution. You may not want to jeopardize getting into the home you really want due to a minor issue that sets you back a few hundred dollars. If you discover something that wasn’t repaired properly or has deteriorated and will cost a few thousand dollars, talk it over with your agent and decide if the seller needs to make amends.

What to expect and what to bring on the big day.

Closings generally take place at the office of either one of the real estate agents involved in the deal or of the mortgage company. There will be a final distribution of funds – the real estate agents will receive their commissions, the seller will receive a check for proceeds they earned from the sale, and you’ll provide a check to cover all the closing costs.

Q: How long does closing typically take?

A: Closings typically last about an hour. Most of your time will be spent signing paperwork, including mortgage documents, legal disclosures, tax records and more. The length of time the appointment takes will vary. Some transactions can get complex, and there may be lawyers and multiple sellers involved. If the buyer and seller are in full agreement on all the terms of the sale and the necessary funds are ready to go, a closing can go by pretty quickly.

– Nicole Baker, Purchase Banker, Quicken Loans

How to:

Make sure you walk out of your closing as a homeowner!

You’ll want to double check with your agent to make sure you have absolutely everything you’ll need. Here are the standard must-haves:

  • Photo ID
  • Proof of homeowner’s insurance
  • Your mortgage documents
  • Deed of trust
  • Compliance forms and disclosure
  • Bill of sale
  • Occupancy agreement
  • A check with your down payment
  • Your personal checkbook to handle smaller fees

You’ll need to read and sign many, many, many documents. It may feel like you’re reading and signing documents for days. Eventually the pile of documents will run out, and once you sign the last dotted line you’re officially a homeowner! Your sale contract will note the agreed upon day when you can move in – sometimes it’s even the same day as the closing.

After weeks or months of planning, searching and eventually closing, the last step is celebrating. Of course, there’s still that whole moving-in thing ahead of you. Fortunately we have plenty of moving tips and tricks to help you with that too. For at least a day, though, be sure to bask in the glow of owning your first home!