The Five Steps to Shopping for a Home

Buying a home is a process that can seem daunting and even a little scary to most first-time buyers. After all, being a homeowner is a huge financial and personal responsibility.

To make this lengthy process a bit more approachable, we’re going to break it down into five steps. While these five steps may be somewhat different for each person, depending on their own unique situation, they do comprise most home buyer’s experience.

If you’re interested in learning the steps you’ll need to take before owning your first home, read on.

Step 1: Know your long-term goals

Before you buy a home, you’ll want to have a clear understanding of what you, your spouse, and your family want from the next five or more years. You’ll want to make sure the area you’re moving to can provide things like career advancement and opportunity, good schools for your children, and so on.

These questions may seem obvious, but it’s an important conversation to have before making the long-term commitment of owning a home.

Step 2: Your budget and your needs

It might be tempting to hop online and start shopping for houses, but first you should get a clear idea of the size and cost of the house you’re looking for. This involves determining your budget, thinking about your credit and planning for your down payment.

Step 3: Mortgage pre-approval

Getting preapproved for a mortgage can be a great way to gauge the interest late and loan amount you’ll be approved for. You’ll need to gather paperwork, including income information (pay stubs), tax returns, and W-2 forms.

Be aware that lenders will run a detailed credit report. Since credit reports count as an inquiry, they can temporarily lower your credit score by a few points.

Applying to several lenders within a short period of time can make a significant impact on your score. However, it will start to rise again within a few months if you don’t open any new credit accounts or take out other loans.

Step 4: Get an agent

Real estate agents know the ins and outs of the home buying process better than anyone else. They’ll be able to guide you through the process and provide you with information that you can’t get anywhere else.

Step 5: Pick the right home for you

Now it’s time to start home shopping. However, before you begin, remember that getting approved for a loan doesn’t mean you must or should seek to spend the full amount on a home.

Plan for your needs, and keep the future in mind. Someday you might decide to upgrade, but in the meantime you can be building your credit and building equity in a smaller or more frugal home.

Condo Buying Tips: Things to Look For in a Real Estate Agent

Want to relocate to a condo? With assistance from a real estate agent, you should have no trouble moving into the condo of your choice.

Employing a real estate agent with condo experience is ideal, particularly for property buyers who are considering condos for the first time. However, it is important to note that not all real estate professionals with condo experience are created equal, and some stand out for all the right reasons.

Ultimately, there are several factors to consider as you search for a real estate agent to help you find the perfect condo, including:

1. Expertise

How many years has a real estate agent been assisting condo buyers? Does a real estate agent know how to get information from a homeowners’ association (HOA)? And can a real estate agent set up condo showings at your convenience? These are just a few of the questions that condo buyers need to consider before they employ a real estate agent.

As a condo buyer, there is no need to settle for a subpar real estate agent. In fact, real estate agents with condo expertise are available across the country. And if you conduct a comprehensive search for the right real estate agent, you should have no trouble finding a real estate professional who can guide you along each step of the condo buying journey.

2. Communication Skills

How does a real estate agent keep in touch with his or her clients? Try to find a real estate agent who provides regular updates throughout the condo buying process. This real estate professional will make his or her clients a priority and do whatever it takes to help them get the best results possible.

Ideally, you should be able to get in touch with a real estate agent via phone, email or text. And if a real estate agent is unavailable, you usually should expect to hear back from him or her within a few hours at most.

A real estate agent who is readily available will be able to provide you with the condo buying support that you need, any time you need it. As a result, this real estate professional can keep you up to date about new condos as they become available, the state of negotiations with a condo seller and much more.

3. Client Satisfaction

Are past clients satisfied with the support that they received from a real estate agent? Ask a real estate agent for client referrals to find out.

Reaching out to past clients can provide you with a better idea about how a real estate agent will assist you during the condo buying journey. That way, you can determine whether you will feel comfortable working with this real estate agent or if you should consider other options.

Dedicate the necessary time and resources to find a great real estate agent to help you find your dream condo. By doing so, you can move one step closer to making your condo ownership dreams come true.

Consider Your Future Needs When Buying a Home

Finding the ideal home for your family’s needs is no easy task, but if you stay organized and focused, the right property is sure to come along!

One of your most valuable resources in your search for a new home is an experienced real estate agent — someone you trust and feel comfortable working with.

They’ll not only set up appointments for you to visit homes in your desired price range and school district, but they’ll also help keep you motivated, informed, and on track. Once you know and have shared your requirements (and “wish list”) with them, your agent will be able to guide you on a path to finding the home that will best serve your needs — both short- and longer term.

In addition to proximity to jobs, good schools, and childcare, you’ll probably want to pick a location that’s close to supermarkets, recreation areas, and major highways. If you have friends or family in the area, then that would also be a key consideration.

While your immediate needs are a good starting point for creating a checklist of requirements, it’s also a good idea to give some thought to what you may need in the future. Plans to expand your family, possibly take care of aging parents, or adopt pets are all factors to consider when looking at prospective homes to buy.

If you have college-age children or recent graduates in the family, you might have to save room for them in your new house. Many grads need a couple more years of financial and moral support from their parents (not to mention home-cooked meals) before they’re ready to venture out on their own. Houses with a finished basement, a separate in-law apartment, or even a guest cottage on the property are often well-suited for multigenerational households.

In many cases, people tend to buy a home based on their emotional reaction to it, and then justify the purchase with facts. For example, if the price was right and a particular house reminded you of your childhood home, then that combination of elements could prompt you to make an offer on the house — assuming those childhood memories were happy!

Sometimes prospective buyers might simply love the look and feel of a neighborhood or the fact that there’s a spacious, fenced-in back yard in which they can envision their children or dogs happily (and safely) playing.

According to recent surveys, today’s buyers are attracted to homes that have energy efficient features, separate laundry rooms, and low-maintenance floors, counter tops, and backyard decks. Gourmet kitchens, stainless steel appliances, a farmhouse sink, a home office area, and outdoor living spaces are also popular features. Although your tastes may differ, many house hunters also like design elements such as subway tiles, hardwood floors, shaker cabinets, pendant lights, and exposed brick.

When it comes to choosing the home that you and your family will live in for the next few years, your top priorities will probably include a sufficient amount of space, plenty of convenience, and a comfortable environment in which you and your loved ones can feel safe, secure, and happy for the foreseeable future!

Who Pays Closing Costs When Buying or Selling a Home?

The process of closing on a home can seem lengthy and complex if it’s your first time buying or selling a house. There are several costs and fees required to close on a home, and while it’s up to the individuals to decide who covers what costs, there are some conventions to follow.

In this article, we’re going to talk about closing costs for selling a house and signing on a mortgage. We’ll discuss who pays what, and whether there is room for negotiation within the various fees and expenses.

But first, let’s talk a little bit about what closing costs are and what to expect when you start the process of buying or selling a home.

Closing costs, simplified

If you’re just now entering the real estate market, the good news is you can often estimate your closing costs based on the value of the property in question. You can ask your real estate agent relatively early on in the process for a ballpark figure of your costs.

Closing costs will vary depending on the circumstances of your sale and the area you live in. In some cases, closing costs can be bundled into your mortgage, such as in “No Closing Cost Mortgages.” However, avoiding having to deal with closing costs often comes at the expense of a slightly higher interest rate.

If you are planning to buy a house and have recently applied for a mortgage, laws require that your lender sends you an estimate of your closing costs within a few days of your application.

Now that we know how closing costs work, let’s take a look at who plays what.

Buyer closing costs

In terms of the sheer number of closing costs, buyers tend to have the most to deal with. Fortunately, your real estate agent will help you navigate these costs and simplify the process.

They can range from two to five percent of the cost of the sale price of the home. However, be sure to check with your lender for the closest estimate of your closing costs. It’s a good idea to shop around for mortgage lenders based on interest rates as well as closing costs charged by the lender.

Here are some of the costs you might be asked to pay as a home buyer:

  • Appraisal fees

  • Attorney fees

  • Origination fees

  • Prepaid interest or discount points

  • Home inspection fee

  • Insurance and Escrow deposits

  • Recording fees

  • Underwriting fees

Seller Closing Costs

While the seller pays a larger amount of closing costs, sellers still have obligations at closing that can be just as expensive. The biggest expense for sellers is to pay the real estate commission. Commission usually falls in the vicinity of 6% of the sale price of the home. This covers the commission of both the seller’s and the buyer’s real estate agents. 


The main takeaway? Buyers and sellers both share the burden of closing costs. While the buyer has more expenses to take care of, the seller pays for the largest costs.