Buyer’s Checklist

    1. Figure out how much house you can afford.

    • Calculate your monthly income and debt.
    • Check your credit report and FICO score.
    • Use an online mortgage calculator.
    • Figure out your down payment.

    2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage.

    • Choose a type of mortgage.
    • Speak to several lenders and mortgage brokers.
    • Shop for the best interest rates and programs.

    3. Determine what you want and need in a home.

    • Choose a location (downtown, urban, suburban, rural).
    • Choose a type (single family, townhouse, condo, loft).
    • Choose a price range.
    • Choose a size.
    • Choose an architectural style.

    4. Research your target neighborhoods.

    • Look online for information on schools, crime rate, traffic and zoning.
    • Determine your work commute.
    • Scout local amenities, such as parks, shops and restaurants.

    5. Work with a buyer’s agent who knows the neighborhood.

    • Get referrals.
    • Interview at least three agents.
    • Look for experience and good chemistry.

    6. Search for homes in the MLS and For Sale By Owner (FSBO).

    • Browse listings online, including Suecarter.com.
    • Ask your agent to set up tours of homes that fit your criteria.
    • Pick up flyers and attend open houses.

    7. Research each home you want to buy.

    • Ask your agent for comps to estimate the property’s fair market value.
    • Ask the seller’s reason for selling.
    • Review all property disclosures.
    • Find out about liens, easements or other restrictions.

    8. Make an offer and negotiate.

    • Determine the purchase price.
    • Include contingencies, such as financial, inspection or purchase.
    • Spell out any special requests and repairs you want included in the sale.
    • Determine an earnest money amount.
    • Define a move-in date.
    • Once both parties agree to the terms, sign the Purchase and Sale Agreement.

    9. Finalize the deal.

    • Get the house appraised.
    • Get a professional home inspection.
    • Consider getting specific inspections for structural engineering, roof and termites.
    • Use the appraisal and inspection reports to re-negotiate if necessary.
    • Choose a home insurance company.
    • Complete the loan process with the lender.
    • Do a walk-through inspection prior to closing.
    • Set aside cash for the closing costs and down payment.

    10. Close the purchase.

    • Review the settlement document at least 2 days before closing to see how funds will be collected and distributed.
    • Get a cashier’s check for the amount you need to bring to closing, including the down payment and closing costs.