10 Things to Consider Before Buying Your First Home

The Process
There’s work to do before you even start looking at houses with a realtor. ©David Sacks/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Buying a house is not like buying groceries -- or even a car. It can be a complicated process involving a lot of paperwork that often makes little sense. Here are some of the general steps (specifics vary by state) that you will need to take as you prepare to sign on the dotted line.

Before you look:

  • Save your money. You'll need it for a down payment, a home inspection, closing costs, some repairs or upgrades to your new home and monthly mortgage payments.
  • Get prequalified for a loan to learn how much house you can afford. This keeps you from looking at houses that are out of your price range and also lets sellers know you're serious and can afford their home.

Once you're under contract:

  • Apply for a loan. Just because you're preapproved for a specific amount doesn't mean you're approved for a loan. Your lender can help you understand the loan process, including the documents you'll have to provide and the loan costs involved.
  • Have the house inspected. A professional inspector can uncover problems that you may not find otherwise.
  • Gather your funds for closing. You may have to have certified funds (a bank check -- not a personal one) for the down payment and closing costs.

Buying a home can be a stressful undertaking. The best plan is to work with a real estate agent who understands the market in your area and will help you find the affordable home of your dreams.