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Buying a house timeline

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 time frame will also hinge on whether you're moving across town or across the country. It's smart to be prepared for any scenario.

Six months out
Narrow your territory. Buyers generally buy town first, neighbourhood second and house third. Location, style and cost are most important. Cancel out the towns and neighbourhoods you don't care for. You can do this on your own or on a one-time area tour with an agent. Eliminate what you don't like.

Know your financial situation. Leave yourself time to correct any problems. Have a down payment ready.

Determine how much house you can afford. While this is for your own use now, it needs to be realistic. Later, your mortgage lender will set hard limits on how much you can borrow.

Think about your budget, and structure your home selection around that. Should you be looking at a townhouse or a single-family dwelling? Some place downtown or out in the suburbs? Are you looking at a new home or a resale?

Interview real estate agents to help you with your search.

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Three months out
Select a mortgage broker or a mortgage lender. They'll run your credit and get preliminary information such as the amount you owe, all liabilities, all assets and current banking information.

Let the broker know how big a down payment you have. If the down payment is the minimal 5 percent or 10 percent, the mortgage will have to be insured. 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 afford.

Get pre-approved -- not just pre-qualified -- for a mortgage. The pre-approval term usually lasts between 60 and 90 days. Collect the required documents and paperwork. You should obtain a pre-approval letter confirming the size of purchase you qualify for.

Make sure you have a local real estate attorney. Don't wait until you find a house to find a lawyer. Most real estate companies have a roster of lawyers or someone in-house.

Six weeks out
If you're doing a corporate relocation, find out exactly what is covered and what you're expected to pay for.

Make a list of everyone who needs to be notified of the move -- friends, relatives, creditors, schools, doctors, dentists, etc. Cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions or change to the new address. Contact your television provider.

Five weeks out
Select a mover. Arrange for a storage facility if you won't be moving directly into a new home from 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.

Two weeks out
Arrange to have utilities and phone service in your old home shut off or transferred if it's a local move. Arrange for insurance on the new dwelling.

One week out
If you're moving out of town, close your safety 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 chequing accounts open until you're able to open new ones in your new location. Change your address on all legal documents, such as your driver's licence.

Arrange a method of payment for the movers.

When you find a house
Make an offer subject to financing and any other conditions with a dateline.

Inspection: the real estate agent will recommend having a home inspection, and it should be a condition of the sale.

Once the negotiations have ended, a conditional sale is in place
The lender will hire an appraiser who will ascertain whether the house is worth what the buyer is paying. Once the appraisal has been supplied to the lender and the final qualifying process is completed, the mortgage broker will confirm the financing approval with a written letter. If the home inspection was satisfactory, the conditions will be removed by the real estate agent to firm up the sale.

Be prepared for closing. Review your paperwork. The down payment, interest, taxes, insurance and legal fees are among the costs you'll probably have to pay. 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 funds are in your account.

Closing day/moving day
If you are transferring and the old house isn't sold yet, make sure a relative and the real estate agent have keys. Give your real estate agent all of your new phone numbers and complete new address.

Take a final walk through the new 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.

Compiled with assistance from Beverly Horbay, a real estate agent with 18 years of experience, currently working with Sutton Group in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
Jasmine Miller is a writer in Toronto.

-- Posted: Sept. 20, 2004
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Home Buyers's Guide
B Y  T H E  N U M B E R S
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  Get a biweekly mortgage payment plan

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