Make a list of the things that are important for you. Consider the landscape, size of the house and number of bedrooms and bathrooms, space for pets, proximity to shopping/cultural events/nature, and any other features that are important to you. Prioritize the list and separate your “must haves” from your “wished fors.” Want to deepen your research? Begin with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and the Vermont State Housing Authority
For most people, it takes 30 years to pay off a mortgage. As you consider the cost of your home, factor in the cost of current expenses as well as future expenses. Aside from your regular utilities, will you need to pay for water or septic in your new home? Do you have future expenses coming down the line like a new car, college, or travel? How much are you putting away for retirement or a rainy day? Make sure your home fits comfortably in your budget.
Research lenders (mortgage originators and brokers) in your area. You can begin with an internet search and ask your friends who they trust. Then reach out for rates and fees so you can compare your options. If you are confused about any terms or requirements, ask questions.
Once you’ve selected a lender, get pre-qualified for a loan. In order to offer pre-qualification, your lender will request information about your finances. This process will help you determine how much you can borrow and will prove to sellers that you are a viable buyer. If you aren’t able to make a down payment of at least 20%, you may also be required to get private mortgage insurance.
Research real estate agents much like you researched your lender. It’s best to find someone you feel comfortable with and can develop a rapport with because they will act as your support system throughout the buying process. As a buyer, you will work with a “buyer’s agent.” They will help you find a suitable home and will ensure that you don’t miss any details or deadlines.
You won’t need a lawyer until later in the process, but research and find a lawyer early on. They will conduct a title search on the property to ensure that there are no liens or restrictions on the title. They will orchestrate the closing and distribute paperwork and payments.
Once you’ve found your dream home, it’s time to put in an offer. For this part of the process, you may want to study local markets and practice your negotiating skills. Your agent can help you with the paperwork and will work with the seller’s agent to communicate your offer to the seller.
Your lender will require an appraisal to ensure the house is worth the offer you’ve made.
A home inspection helps you uncover any structural, mechanical, or electrical issues in the house. You may not be required to get one, but it’s often a good idea and can be a tool in negotiations. Inspections are often two to three hours long and result in a detailed report of the issues and their level of urgency. You can use this report to create a list of items you’d like resolved before you purchase the home.
Before you receive your loan money, you will need to secure homeowner’s insurance.
Make sure you’re on time for your closing. This is the culmination of the process and the time when you sign the paperwork and receive the keys to your new home.
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