How to buy a Home - Checklist

 Buying a home can be an exciting and sometimes stressful time.   A little planning can be very helpful in reducing stress and keeping surprises from popping up in the last minute.
The following checklist outlines the essential elements of home purchasing process.  Please also check out the article “12 Mistakes Buyers Make”



1 Determine what size house you want

When determining the size house a family needs, most people have a good idea of what they need to satisfy their family situation.  The major contributing factors are:

  • The number of adults/families living in the house
  • The age and number of children
  • Short-term long-term visitor
  • Home office and Home workshop

From this information it is possible to determine the minimum size needed. as a starting point and can be modified up or down based on other family goals or based on financial consideration.

2 How much house can you afford

In many cases this question gets answered by the mortgage lender based on their evaluation of your financial situation. Dozens of factors go into this determination including your income, assets, credit history, job history and type and location of property considered.  Try out a mortgage calculator available here to just get a ballpark figure to start with. It is a good idea to pre-qualify yourself for a certain mortgage amount as this will give you more clout when making an offer for a property.

But there are other consideration than the allowed mortgage that go into the price range you are considering.   You need to weigh what your personal goals are and how much of a mortgage you are comfortable with.  You might consider getting the biggest mortgage possible to meet your personal goals or you might instead choose to  look for a smaller property and a less desireable location to reduce the burden of a large mortgage.  Those are all the thoughts and considerations that go into this decision and the conclusions are unique for everybody.

3 Prepareing Yourself

Before you go out and look at houses, make a list of all things that are important to you and use it when evaluating houses for sale. This includes things about the house itself but extends to the neighborhood, community and general area. Include all features that are must-haves and others that are ‘nice to have’.  Include elements such as crime rate, services, shopping, schools, traffic and taxes. Finally consider public transportation and highway access and distance to work.

Once you start looking at homes, you will find that it is difficult to remember details about each house after you have seen it. It is just too easy to be sidetracked by the bouquet of flowers on the table or the new large-screen TV when you walk through.  So it is helpful to make a little list of thing you will be checking in each house so you later can compare. Thing such as floor plan, closet space, appliance age and condition, condition of walls, ceilings and floor coverings, window styles and age, roof condition, gutters, fences, neighborhood etc..

4 Looking at Homes

Now the moment has arrived when you are actually prepared to see houses.   The best place to start is online as it lets you do unlimited research from the comfort of your home without any pressure.   Once you have determined one or more properties, just contact the agent and arrange to sees them.  
Make sure you spend some time driving around the neighborhood before you see the house.  It will give you a much better appreciation for the property.  Use your walk-through checklist either in your mind or your hands.  Try to find the essence of the house and try not to be influenced too much by fresh paint, cut flowers or the smell of cookies. Look at the essence of the house like the floorplan, thesize of the rooms, the condition of the windows and floors, the backyard etc..

5 Making an Offer

Having found the perfect home and having done all the research to make sure it matches your gosld, you need to make an offer for the property.  In the Boston area, competition for homes can be high, so it is important to make a strong offer that has a good chance of being selected by the seller.  There are a number of things you can do to improve your offer, including:

  • Offer more than purchase price

  • Fast home Inspection

  • Make offer not contingent on financing

  • Writing a personal letter to the seller

A good real estate agent will be able to help you determine what strategy would be best for your property.

6 Getting a Home Inspection

A home inspection by an independent inspector is an important part of purchasing a house.  It will tell you the condition of the home and point out possible costly repairs.  This is particularly important in the Boston area where many homes are older and constructed of wood. There are many possible areas of damage, such as termites, moisture, dry-rot or electrical problems. These issues are often easily fixed and not necessarily a problem when you purchase a new home as long as they are detected when you buy the home and appropriate price adjustments can be negotiated.

Using a competent Home Inspector before closing is therefore essential. There are many professional home inspectors in the Boston area and you need to do your research. Real Estate agents generally offer you a list of inspectors which can be OK, but you may want to pass on tha,t as those home inspectors' loyalties may be divided between you and the the agent.

7 Geting a Mortgage

Once you have signed a purchase and sales agreement  and you don’t intend to pay cash for the property, you will need to obtain the necessary funds with a mortgage from a lender.  There are many different ways you can find a mortgage such as online, from a local banks or via a mortgage broker.  It is  a good idea to shop around for the best deal.  

Each lender uses dozens of criterias to determine the rate of a mortgage, including income, assets, credit history and much more.  Lenders want to make sure that the loan is well-covered by the home’s actual value so they will require a home appraisal.

There are many factors that control mortgage rates and there are a number of options you have in controlling it like a larger down payment, a shorter mortgage duration (15 years instead of 30 years)  and possible up-front payments.  For more details how mortgage rates can be influenced, click here.

8 The Closing

The closing is the process where all documents are signed and funds are officially transferred. Most people hire an attorney to help with the closing of the property.  He or she knows all the local legal requirements and forms to be signed and will help negotiate your purchase contract, determine the funds needed and help you through the closing process.

Generally the closing takes place at the office of the lender or lender’s agent and in some cases at the office of the buyer’s or seller’s lawyers.  You will be notified of the time and location of the closing and what documents and funds you should bring.  Most closings involve simply the signing of dozens of documents and are mostly routine since all the documents have been prepared and agreed on ahead of time.

It is important that the real estate agent performs a final walk-through of the property with you to determine if the property is in the condition expected and all personal items have been removed.

9 Moving In

All the contracts are signed, all the fees are paid and hard works has finally paid off and you you are finally ready to take possession of your new home.   But wait, there are only a few more things that need to be done before you and your family can move in.

  • Change the locks to the exterior doors
  • Clean the house from top to bottom
  • Paint the interior of house if you can
  • Get some closet organizers
  • Have the heating and AC serviced
  • Put some window treatment on the first floor

That’s it. Congratulations to your new home!