1. Pre-qualify for a mortgage. Now you know how much house you can afford before you start looking. This will narrow your search and keep you real and not disappointed on houses you cant afford.
2. Find a good neighborhood. Know the school district and is it a good one if you have kids attending. Is shopping convenient? Is the area growing and can you look forward to appreciation on your house? Whats the area like? Are you next to vacant land that could be a freeway or a new mall in your backyard?
3. Log. Log your visits to potential houses. Sounds silly, but after you look at several, it can get confusing later on. Write down advantages and disadvantages of each house. Even draw a simple layout sketch to refresh your memory.
4. Money. How much more is your house going to cost than just your house payment? Taxes and Insurance. And if you are new home buyer and dont have a huge down payment (20%) then add in mortgage insurance. Required by the government. Check with your mortgage company. They can give you the rate. Realtors sometimes forget to tell you these added costs. This will be your real payment. You also have to look at utilities. And certainly it would be hard to move into a house without repainting or wallpapering or something.
5. Shop till you drop. Dont stop at the 3rd house and say thats it and pick one. You should look at a bunch of homes to get a good comparison. And youll remember number 3 above. You should look at 15 homes at least as an average guideline.
6. Inspect. Found the house you want? Ready to make an offer? Not yet. Hire a professional inspection service. Once they make their inspection, you are better armed with any potential problems and can adjust your price accordingly.
7. Let the negotiations begin! Now you are armed with your inspection information, you are ready to negotiate carefully. Put it ALL in writing. No exceptions.
8. Moving. Allow extra time to move. Something always happens. Make sure you have plenty of overlap and plenty of time to get out of your old house. One word. Rain.
9. A word on insurance. Shop around. Consider a high deductible. $250 deductible seems a little low these days. And you pay for it. Also, consider your car insurance while shopping. Most offer discounts when they get all of your business.
10. Real Estate Agents. Yes, you can find a house on your own, but agents are helpful to assess your needs and show you houses that may match what you are looking for. They also get on your side for the negotiating. Get a referral from a friend or family.
Buying a house is a big deal. No need to rush. They make them everyday. Shopping for financing can be as big a step as actually finding the house. Dont give up. Its work. Then you have to move everything.