Understanding the Home Buying Process

Home buyers frequently make major financial sacrifices in order to become homeowners, including forgoing entertainment expenses, clothing purchases and luxury items so as to save for a down payment.

An effective buyer’s agent can help prospective homebuyers take an objective view and avoid getting too wrapped up in superficial details.

Buying a Home

Home buying can be an emotionally charged experience. People desire a place of their own, where they can express themselves creatively with decor choices or simply a place to feel secure and permanent. In order to be successful as a homebuyer, it’s crucial that you understand the process and partner with an agent knowledgeable of your local market – this agent will help set your price range, identify appropriate mortgage loans and walk you through inspection and closing processes smoothly.

First-time homebuyers may qualify for government programs designed to assist with down payments and closing costs, according to SmartAsset. These loans may be offered both conventionally as well as by Federal Housing Administration lenders; for instance New York City provides its Homebuyer Assistance Program which offers forgivable loans of up to $100,000 towards one to four family homes, condos or co-ops depending on an applicant’s credit score, income limits and completion of a homebuyer education course.

There are also a number of private and employer-based programs that provide first-time homebuyers assistance with down payments and closing costs, however eligibility depends on how many previous homes you own, as well as any history of foreclosure in which case these programs may not be applicable.

Many people mistakenly assume they cannot qualify for a first-time buyer program because they own or recently owned a home within three years, but this isn’t always true; many state and employer sponsored programs, like those provided by Rocket Mortgage, have flexible guidelines to determine who qualifies as first time homebuyers.

Before accepting an offer from a buyer, sellers typically require them to submit an earnest money deposit. This deposit demonstrates their seriousness about purchasing and will typically be refundable should the sale fall through for any reason. It typically represents a portion of the sale price which will go toward home inspection fees and closing costs. Sometimes sellers may offer concessions in form of covering certain of these costs themselves – known as seller concessions.


Mortgages are an essential part of home buying for most people; few households can afford the upfront purchase cost alone. A mortgage typically works by having you put down an agreed-upon percentage (usually 20%) before taking out a loan for the remaining balance that will then be repaid with interest over time. Under such an arrangement, your lender has legal grounds to claim ownership in case you default on their financial obligation — possibly through foreclosure proceedings.

Borrowers who wish to become homeowners typically begin the process by applying to one or more mortgage lenders to receive preapproval; this enables you to get an idea of the maximum amount they are willing to lend you and narrow your home search down accordingly.

As part of your mortgage application and underwriting process, lenders will ask for proof of income, assets and debt. They may also check your credit report or look for any liens placed against your property by creditors – as well as double-check that its title is free and clear (no unpaid real estate taxes or judgments recorded against it).

Once approved for a mortgage loan, once you’ve made an earnest money deposit towards your purchase of your home. This shows the seller you are serious and protects them against other offers on their property. In addition, make your down payment, choose your desired mortgage term length and choose your loan program type before placing this earnest money deposit.

Your homebuying options may depend on several local factors, including cost and demand of homes in your area as well as federal programs that make certain types of loans available to certain buyers – for instance, USDA guarantees mortgage programs specifically targeting rural areas while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fund loan programs to help first-time homebuyers.


Home inspections are an integral component of home buying. Trained officials visit properties to conduct a visual examination and take pictures and note any defects they identify before compiling a report on whether it meets living needs or not.

Home inspections provide buyers with an opportunity to ask the seller to make repairs or provide credits against the sales price. Buyers should work closely with their realtor to understand what requests are reasonable from sellers and keep in mind that certain issues, like roof damage or an aging furnace may need replacing eventually.

An inspection should take place once an offer has been accepted by the seller and before signing of a sale contract. Some buyers choose to schedule one after signing, however this could extend the in-contract period and lengthening closing process significantly.

Home inspectors are trained to assess all aspects of a property, from foundation integrity to electrical systems and everything in between. They are adept at detecting potential issues that could reduce its overall value as well as any safety hazards, such as electrical wiring that doesn’t comply with code or ground fault circuit interrupters (which prevent electric shock and fires) being installed in bathrooms, kitchens and garages.

An inspection can uncover illegal modifications to a property, such as unpermitted additions or modifications of garages or basements. These illegal modifications can have significant ramifications on insurance rates, taxes and usability of the home as well as creating costly problems for new owners to address, according to Chantay Bridges of Clear Choice Realty & Associates.

Home buyers should always attend their home inspection whenever possible to gain a better understanding of the property and ask any pertinent questions of the inspector. Attending will allow for better insight into what they are getting into as well as any additional services such as radon testing or termite inspection that might be available from that inspector.


At closing, both sellers and buyers meet with an escrow agent, title agent or attorney to sign final documents, transfer ownership of the property and complete the loan process. This typically happens four to six weeks after signing a purchase contract; by this point the home has already been appraised and inspected, lenders should have obtained all mortgage paperwork including appraisal report, certificate of occupancy document as well as fees collected at closing (mortgage fees, survey costs as well as other charges may also be collected) plus title search reports as part of this process as part of closing process and possible running title searches on this process which may involve running to ensure no other person may claim this particular piece of real estate before finally finalising purchase of this particular piece of real estate (for instance: purchasing title insurance policy on that property) before this final phase takes place four to six weeks later after signing their purchase contract is signed.

Your purchase contract, proof of homeowners insurance, inspection report and lender disclosures. Also bring cashier’s checks or wire transfers in order to pay any outstanding escrow items or closing costs not covered by your mortgage such as homeowners association fees, prepay interest or property taxes.

Closing can be a lengthy process, and it is wise to plan ahead. To ensure the smoothest closing experience possible, make any significant changes or opening new accounts until after closing has taken place – this will allow your finances to meet all closing costs, giving the mortgage provider an accurate picture of your financial status and giving yourself time for any surprises that might arise along the way.

Your real estate agent can give you an idea of the typical fees associated with a particular neighborhood, so that you are prepared for what to expect at closing. In addition, ask your lender for an estimated breakdown of closing costs prior to the final meeting so you can compare this figure against your loan estimate in order to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises at closing.

Many closing costs are non-negotiable, but you can ask your lender to reduce or waive certain fees such as origination. Furthermore, sellers may pay some of your closing costs so long as this does not reduce your down payment or increase monthly mortgage payments. Whenever making these requests it’s advisable to have them reviewed beforehand in order to ensure approval by your lender.