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Continuing Education

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Lincoln Bell
Lincoln Bell

Before You Buy A House Checklist

Use this home buying checklist as a cheat sheet for your entire home buying process: from gathering your documents to applying for a mortgage and finding your dream home. We explain each stage of the process in detail below.

before you buy a house checklist


FHA loans require 3.5% down, and some types of loans allow you to buy a house with no down payment at all. Government-backed USDA and VA loans let you finance 100% of the home price with no money down.

This checklist below was originally created by HUD, and it does a good job of reminding you to pay attention to the same details for each house you see. As you complete the forms and see more houses, you and your agent should quickly learn what areas and home types are better fits.

Use one for each house you tour, and match it up with any pictures you take. Alternatively, there are several house-shopping apps that allow you to integrate your notes and pics into online files. For every criterion, note if the home feature is a good, average or poor fit for you.

Pay close attention to cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, but also check your gutters, backyard, flowerbeds (if applicable), dryer vents, chimney, and the carpet. If you think the carpet needs a more thorough cleaning, you can also schedule a professional carpet cleaner to come, preferably before you move in.

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At this point in the process, your lender will require the home to be appraised before they agree to release any funds. A home appraisal estimates how much a home is actually worth based on comparable sales in the area, market trends, public records and a comprehensive inspection of the property.

Homeowners insurance covers damage to your home and its surrounding structures as well as stolen or damaged personal property. There are varying levels of coverage, ranging from basic to comprehensive, so be sure to do some research into all available options before deciding which home insurance product is right for you.

The final step to buying a house is, of course, closing on your new home. When that time comes, make sure you review your Closing Disclosure, which will outline the terms, final closing costs and any outstanding charges or fees included in your loan. Your lender will send the disclosure to you at least 3 business days before closing.

Use a licensed pest control company. While there are some obvious signs of termite activity that you might be able to spot yourself (termite nests in trees near the house, blistering or bulging paint, rotten and half-eaten fence posts), the only way to be sure is with a professional inspection.

Keep the layout and measurements of your new home in mind, as this could mean more or less space for your belongings. Be mindful of furniture size, too. Will the new couch fit? Is there enough space for the washer and dryer? Are the bedrooms big enough to fit your current beds? Being mindful of space before moving may help you better decide what to take with you and what you may need to replace.

As we continue to navigate a deadly pandemic and the economic uncertainty left in its wake, silver linings are in short supply. But, for those with the means and inclination to do so, this could be a great time to buy a new house. Not only are interest rates at historic lows, making it cheaper to take out a mortgage, employers' work-from-home policies have also given workers more options for where they may live. As more and more employers plan to make telecommuting permanent after coronavirus-related regulations are lifted, now might be the time to move if you're in a less-than-ideal housing situation and can work from anywhere.

Even if the timing is right, and your target destination has affordable options, buying a house should never be done in haste. There is a lot to consider, not just the financial part of the equation but also the quality of life you're seeking, whether the schools and other amenities meet your needs, and your long-term goals. The following house-hunting checklist will help you prepare for the most important purchase you'll ever make.

Look for any errors or inaccuracies in your report and get them resolved right away. If your credit score is lower than you'd like, it may be worthwhile to put some effort into improving your score first before you apply for financing. Likewise, be sure you pay your bills on time and avoid making other large purchases, such as a car, prior to buying a home, as it could temporarily hurt your credit.

If you're pre-approved for a mortgage, your offer is much more likely to be accepted by the seller. In fact, depending on how competitive the market is or whether a house has multiple offers, your application may not even be considered without pre-approval. The lender will consider your credit report, debt-to-income ratio, employment, assets, and other factors to determine how much they're willing to lend and at what rate.

If you're checking a particular school or district, you may want to start with the National Center for Educational Statistics. Alternatively, you can enter addresses or search the interactive map at, which will give you school ratings. If you are serious about a particular house or neighborhood, don't be shy about contacting the school principals for the schools in the neighborhood. Ask questions about the school staff, teachers, students, and families, and ask for the contact information for parents who have volunteered to speak to prospective parents.

While you can hire someone for this purpose, you may choose to do it yourself. You'll want to visit the state courthouse in the property's district and look for chains of title and deed. Depending on where the property is, you may also be able to search for this information through the corresponding county assessor's website.

While searching for a new house should be exciting and uplifting, it's an all-consuming process that can be tedious at times. The best way to ensure success is to prepare yourself through careful research, smart financial planning, and having the right information at your fingertips. Your home will most likely be the most important purchase you'll ever make, so do it with care and be sure to ask an attorney if you have any legal questions.

Throughout this process, slip-ups may occur when transferring, canceling, or setting up services with a new provider. Plus, paying for services that you thought were canceled can lead to unexpected expenses. To make sure your new house is up and running, give your home a quick inspection.

Realistically, you will have to compromise on at least a couple of needs or wants. If you find a house that has 80-90% of your needs and wants, consider this reasonable! You may have to consider homes that are slightly outside of your desired area, maybe a little smaller than you wanted or maybe dated.

In some markets, houses go under contract very quickly. If this is the case, you may have to go look at home within the first 24-48 hours before it goes under contract. You will also have to consider any time constraints the seller puts in place. They may only allow showings on certain days or times.

Do an address and/or neighborhood search of the house you are interested in before looking. You might find news stories or information about the house or neighborhood that deter you from that location or you might find that it is exactly what you are looking for.

It is advisable to change the locks on the doors since you may not know if there are keys still with a neighbor, etc. Also, consider changing out smoke detector batteries for good measure. Then go introduce yourself to the neighbors and schedule your housewarming party!

A good house-hunting checklist helps you keep track of each home you look at so you can match up the features of the home with your housing needs and wants. However, a great house hunting checklist includes items that could make the difference between getting the home you want or missing out because another buyer was better prepared.

Knowing when major renovations were done on a building is important as is obtaining any permits and paperwork that go with them. You may love the new deck or sunroom that is part of the house but do not want to be surprised by a by-law officer if they say it was not approved or done properly. The cost of tearing down or moving part of the building will mean significant costs to you as the homeowner.

This question is for your real estate agent. Knowing the value of the house you are looking at and other comparable houses in the immediate area should help you determine whether your real estate opportunity is a good deal or not. It is also good to know how long it has been on the market and if there is room for negotiation.

While disclosure should be made before a sale, it never hurts to ask directly. You want to know about any crimes that happened in the home such as a grow op or violence. Did anyone famous live there or has it been affected by a natural disaster? Anything that could affect the integrity of the home is something you want to be disclosed.

Purchasing a house is both a financial and emotional commitment. You are investing a lot of both. It is important to cover all the details before you commit to purchase. Buying a house checklist is going to help ask the questions getting you answers that are not seen in the contract or experienced on your walkthroughs. While you can not spend excessive amounts of time getting details, especially if others are bidding as well, making sure there are no surprises once the deed is in your name is critical. 041b061a72


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