How to Buy a Home – The Basics

  1. Choose a Realtor to work with who specializes in your area and has a good experience record and a good reputation.
  2. Get loan pre-approval from a good lender. Check with your Realtor for recommendations.
  3. If you need to sell a home first, put it on the market and wait until it has an offer (and all contingencies are removed) before making an offer on another home. However, if you have the resources to make a down payment without selling your current house (and you can qualify to carry both of them), this rule does not apply.
  4. Have your Realtor keep you posted whenever new listings come up that meet your criteria. When you find the one you want, move quickly to make an offer, and accompany it with an earnest money deposit. If a date is set to hear offers, then your Realtor will advise you on the best strategy to be competitive with your offer.
  5. Once the offer is accepted, the escrow process begins. See steps 6 – 11 for the escrow process.
  6. You will contact your lender, who will order an appraisal and start the paperwork for the formal loan approval.
  7. You will approve the inspections and disclosures on the property. Sometimes these are already done by the listing agent, but you may have an inspection contingency and need to order more reports for your loan approval. If you have been in a multiple-offer situation and saw all the reports and disclosures up front, you may not require any further inspections. If this is the case, you may skip this step.
  8. If you are removing an inspection contingency, you may be negotiating a repair allowance or asking for specific repairs to be completed. If you purchased the property “as is”: the inspections will confirm if you still want to proceed with the sale.
  9. After all contingencies are removed, your lender will order the loan documents to be drawn up and sent to the title company. At this point, you should also arrange for insurance for the property and let the title company know the name and phone number of the insurance agent so the information can be conveyed to the lender and the first year’s premium can be added to your closing settlement sheet.
  10. Then, you will go to the title company, where you will sign all of your loan papers and escrow instructions, plus any other necessary documents.
  11. After that, you will bring a cashier’s check for the remainder of your down payment, plus closing costs, to the title company, one day before the transaction records with the County.
  12. Prior to the day of recordation (“Close of Escrow”), you may do a final walk-through of the property with your Realtor to ensure that everything is still in the same condition as when you initially saw it. You’ll also need to make sure that any agreed-upon repairs have been completed. The seller may meet you there and show you how to run the various systems of your new home.
  13. Once you are certain of the exact day you take over title to the property, you will need to order the utilities on in your name from the local service providers.
  14. Close of escrow! The property is officially yours, and your Realtor will give you the keys. You may now move into your new home!