Buying a house
This timeline is simply a memory
aid for the things you'll need to do when buying a new home. Your
sequence may differ greatly, although you'll probably need to do
most of the same things.
You may find your dream home in a week, or it
may take months. Your timeframe will also hinge on whether you're
moving across town or across the country. It's smart to be prepared
for any scenario.
6 months out
- Narrow your territory. Buyers generally buy town
first, neighborhood second, house third. Cancel out the towns
and neighborhoods you don't care for. You can do this on your
own or with a one-time area tour with an agent. You're eliminating
what you don't want.
- Know your financial situation. Get a credit
check. Leave yourself time to correct any problems.
- Determine how
much house you can afford. This is just for your own use.
The mortgage lender will also make this determination at a later
- Think about your budget and structure your home
selection around that. Should you be looking at a town house or
a single-family, someplace in the suburbs or a little farther
- Interview real estate agents to help you with your
4 months out
- Select a mortgage broker or a mortgage
lender. They'll run your credit and get preliminary information
such as bank statements and retirement and investment account
- Talk with your bank or mortgage company.
Double-check your buying
power. You don't want to waste time looking at homes you can't
How much house can you afford?
- Get pre-approved
for a mortgage. Make an application. Collect the required documents
and paperwork. Have a mortgage just waiting for the address of
the property you want to buy.
- Ask the right questions when applying for a mortgage.
- Your lender should give you a copy of a Housing
and Urban Development publication called "Buying your Home:
Settlement Costs and Helpful Information." It explains all
the fees and expenses you should know about.
- Make sure you have a local real estate attorney.
Don't wait until you find a house to find an attorney.
- Look into the potential tax
breaks available to you as a home buyer.
6 weeks out
- If you're doing a corporate relocation, find out
exactly what is covered and what you're expected to do.
- Make a list of everyone who needs to be notified
of the move -- friends, relatives, creditors, schools, doctors
5 weeks out
- Select a mover. Arrange for a storage facility
if you won't be moving into a new home right away after you leave
your current home.
- Contact insurance companies to make sure your belongings
are covered during the move. If not, find out what the mover covers.
Their basic insurance probably insures items by the pound, which
isn't good enough. See what other insurance they offer.
- Have an appraisal of expensive items you want shipped
by the mover.
2 weeks out
- Arrange to have utilities and phone service
in your old home shut off, or transferred if it's a local move.
Remember, movers need light so have the power cut off the day
after you move.
1 week out
- Close your safe-deposit box. Important papers,
jewelry and the like should be kept with you during the move.
- You may want to close savings accounts, but keep
checking accounts open until you're able to open new ones in your
- Get a cashier's check for the movers.
When you find a house
Closing day/moving day
- Make an offer.
- Title search -- The buyer or the lender should
initiate a title search. You want to be sure there are no liens
or encumbrances on the property.
- Inspection -- The real estate agent will recommend
having a home inspection.
- Hire an appraiser. This will ascertain
whether the house is worth what the buyer is paying.
- Get homeowners insurance. Proof of insurance will
be faxed to the closing agent.
- Consider a home
warranty. It either comes with the listing or it can be purchased.
- Be prepared for closing. Review your paperwork
and the Department of Housing and Urban Development publication
"Buying your Home: Settlement Costs and Helpful Information."
The down payment, interest, taxes and insurance are among the
costs you'll probably have to pay.
- Cash to close -- Figure out where you'll get the
money for closing costs. Do you have to sell stocks? If you're
borrowing from a relative, make sure the check is in your account
long enough to clear.
- Get a cashier's check for closing
- Carefully review the bill of lading.
- If the old house isn't sold yet, make sure a relative
and the real estate agent have keys.
- Final walk through of the house. This is usually
done the day of the closing or the day before.
- Make sure you have all the payments you'll need
to take possession of the house.
With assistance from Lori
Dahl, Burgdorff Realtors, Parsippany, N.J.,
and Jim Bradley, president of American Residential Lending, Atlanta.
-- Updated: July 21, 2008