Real Estate Survival Guide: Buyer's Checklist

Refer to this 10-step checklist to get you through the homebuying process.
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Homeowners with Sold Sign

Homeowners with Sold Sign

1. Figure out how much house you can afford.

  • Calculate your monthly income and debt.
  • Check your credit report and FICO score.
  • Use FrontDoor's mortgage calculator.
  • Figure out your down payment.

2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage.

  • Choose a type of mortgage.
  • Speak to at least five lenders and mortgage brokers.
  • Shop for the best interest rates and programs.

3. Determine what you want and need in a home.

  • Choose a location (downtown, urban, suburban, rural).
  • Choose a type (single family, townhouse, condo, loft).
  • Choose a price range.
  • Choose a size.
  • Choose an architectural style.

4. Research your target neighborhoods.

  • Look online for information on schools, crime rate, traffic and zoning.
  • Determine your work commute.
  • Scout local amenities, such as parks, shops and restaurants.

5. Work with a buyer's agent who knows the neighborhood.

  • Get referrals.
  • Consider working with an exclusive buyer's agent.
  • Interview at least three agents.
  • Look for experience and good chemistry.

6. Search for homes in the MLS and For Sale By Owner (FSBO).

  • Browse listings online, including FrontDoor.com.
  • Ask your agent to set up tours of homes that fit your criteria.
  • Check local newspapers.
  • Pick up flyers and attend open houses.

7. Research each home you want to buy.

  • Ask your agent for comps to estimate the property's fair market value.
  • Ask the seller's reason for selling.
  • Review all property disclosures.
  • Find out about liens, easements or other restrictions.

8. Make an offer and negotiate.

  • Determine the purchase price.
  • Include contingencies, such as financial, inspection or purchase.
  • Spell out any special requests and repairs you want included in the sale.
  • Determine an earnest money amount.
  • Define a move-in date.
  • Once both parties agree to the terms, sign the Purchase and Sale Agreement.

9. Finalize the deal.

  • Get the house appraised.
  • Get a professional home inspection.
  • Consider getting specific inspections for structural engineering, roof and termites.
  • Use the appraisal and inspection reports to re-negotiate if necessary.
  • Choose a home insurance company.
  • Complete the loan process with the lender.
  • Do a walk-through inspection prior to closing.
  • Set aside cash for the closing costs and down payment.

10. Close the purchase.

  • Review the settlement document at least 2 days before closing to see how funds will be collected and distributed.
  • Get a cashier's check for the amount you need to bring to closing, including the down payment and closing costs.
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