Congratulations! You’ve decided to buy a house, one of the largest purchases you will make. Whether you’re looking to get out of the rental market, expanding your family or downsizing, home buying can be a stressful experience without a proper checklist.
There’s much more to buying a house than what’s shown on your favorite house hunting show. While the home search can be exciting, you can keep organized and sane by using this handy home buying checklist. You’ll also find useful resources and tools from Savings Institute Bank & Trust to help guide you through the house hunting process and into your new home.
First, determine your budget
Before heading to your favorite real estate website, prepare yourself and estimate your budget. This amount can be calculated by comparing the amount of money you (and others in your household) earn after taxes to your average monthly expenses and debt. Use our free home affordability calculator to get an estimate of how much you can spend on your new home.
Then, get pre-approved for a mortgage
According to Realtor.com, starting the house hunting process before getting pre-approved may indicate to sellers you aren’t ready to buy. Full pre-approval can eliminate risk when it comes to making an offer and will speed up the time it take to get into your new home. If you're serious about buying a home, then let us help you check this off your list.
As a mortgage lender, Savings Institute will tell you how much we're able to lend you based on your credit score, income, debt situation and other factors. Then, we'll give you a commitment letter listing your mortgage qualifications. This letter will give you added leverage because the seller will see you're ready to buy. Contact a local mortgage consultant to answer any questions you may have and to start the pre-approval process.
Once you know the maximum amount you can spend on a monthly mortgage payment, you can get to the fun part: exploring options within your budget and figuring out what it is you want and need in your new new.
Next, decide your ideal monthly mortgage payment
Using both your budget and your estimated loan payment, you have can now hunt for houses by calculating and comparing monthly mortgage payments. Use our mortgage calculator to compare monthly payments on your desired properties.
Think about what you need in a home
Remember that wants versus needs are going to be consistently weighed during the house hunting process. Think about how long you plan on living in this home. Are you looking for a starter house, a home to pass on to children, a smaller home in preparation for retirement or is this a second home? Your answer could have a big impact on your budget, the type of home you consider and the type and length of your mortgage loan term.
Research local neighborhood home values
You’ve heard it before from countless guides, but for most buyers, location is everything. When it comes to the price of a property, this rings true. The features of your property are certainly important, but keep in mind most can be changed, while the location cannot.
Take into consideration your children and their age, jobs you and your spouse hold, nearby family and amenities. You'll want to research the nearest grocery stores, shopping centers and restaurants — anything that fits the lifestyle you'd like to maintain or strive for.
School districts have a major affect property values, especially in Connecticut or Rhode Island. Even if you don’t have school-age children or children at all, there are real estate benefits to living in a reputable school district. According to real estate gurus, good school districts preserve home value, therefore you can expect interest from buyers if you decide to sell.
Once you've narrowed your house hunting down to a neighborhood or several, you're ready to consider the features of the home.
Think about your home style and construction preferences
Everyone has preferences when it comes to the style and construction of a house. It’s important to keep an open mind and explore all options, because each style has its own costs. Modern homes with clean lines, simple proportions and an open floor plan will generally come at a higher cost than a traditional home that could use some upgrades and TLC.
Then, decide how many bedrooms you need. If you're a growing family, go for more space than what you’ll use immediately or open your mind to a property with room for expansion. Consider how much outdoor space you’ll need, too. If you have pets, a yard may be a high priority.
Make sure you weigh the costs of a newly renovated home versus a home that needs repairs. New windows, floors and a roof will come at a higher cost than changing the color of the kitchen cabinets or putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls. For some, making a property their own and budgeting for future renovations works better than purchasing new construction. And, if you have a lower monthly mortgage payment, then budgeting for those renovations may improve your financial health in the long run.
Discuss your wants and needs with a licensed real estate agent
Once you start working with a licensed real estate agent, discuss your wants, needs and concerns. If you have followed this home-buying checklist, then your budget, neighborhood, amenities and desired style or structure should already be laid out so your real estate agent knows what you're looking for
Real estate listings can be found online, on social media and on mobile apps, so you can do the initial search yourself. But keep in mind that your agent gets listings before they hit the popular home buying sites, and that some key information about homes may only be available to agents.
Tour homes with these questions in mind
A good realtor will guide you through the process but consider the history of the property when formulating your questions. Ask as many questions as you need to gather as much information as possible. Consider when the property was built, the materials used, any renovations made and whether licensed professionals made them. Homes.com has a PDF checklist you can print and bring along. Answers to these types of questions could lead to costs you will need to factor into your budget, including immediate fixes and those for the future. Knowing these answers will help you determine what you can truly afford. Below is a partial list of questions you might consider as you begin our house-hunting experience.
- Is this in your ideal neighborhood?
- What are the nearby schools?
- How close is the property from family or friends?
- How close is the property to work?
- Is the style of the property something you like?
- Are there enough bedrooms?
- Are there enough bathrooms?
- Is the property pet-friendly?
- Does the property have the outdoor space that suits your lifestyle?
- Does the property have the privacy you need?
- What work needs to be done? New roof, new windows?
- Does the property have the heating and cooling that you want (e.g. central air)?
- Are the plumbing and electrical systems up-to-date?
- How energy-efficient is the property?
- Does the property have sufficient parking or garage space?
- What is the repair history on the property?
- Does the house have the curb appeal you are looking for?
House hunting is both exciting and stressful, but our mortgage consultants at Savings Institute Bank & Trust are here to help you every step of the way.