Buying a home is an exciting yet stressful time, especially if you're a first time homeowner. Many buyers don't realize that there's a lot of prep work to do before you even start looking at homes. For example, did you know that real estate agents and sellers consider a pre-approved buyer's offer more attractive than the same offer from a buyer who has not been pre-approved?

A pre-approval is just one of many things that you can do early in the process to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Following are some additional tips on how to be prepared and what to expect when buying a home.

Step 1: Get pre-approved

Get pre-approved

Once you've decided that you want to buy a home, you should determine what payments you can comfortably afford. There are many tools available such as an affordability calculator that give you a general idea of what your payments would be, but to get a better idea of the price range of homes to view, you should get pre-approved. A pre-approval is beneficial in many ways. First, it gives you an idea of what loan amount and purchase price you can afford. Second, it strengthens your offer to the seller and the seller's real estate agent. Third, by getting pre-approved, you're getting a jump start on the approval process. Once you find your home and open escrow, you're already a few steps ahead. There is no cost or obligation to get pre-approved. Get pre-approved today.

Step 2: Determine which loan best suits your needs

Determine which loan best suits your needs

There are many loan options available from first-time buyer programs to traditional conventional, jumbo, and FHA loans. There are 30 year and 15 year fixed loans as well as adjustable and hybrid loans such as a 5/1 ARM or 3/1 ARM. If you're interested in lower payments, an interest-only loan may be a good option for you. With all the options available, you need expert advice to help you choose the right loan for your situation. Be sure to visit our loan options page to learn about all the options that are available and if you have more questions, you can call one of our home buying experts at (866) 571-0609.

Step 3: Contact a real estate agent and start shopping

Contact a real estate agent and start shopping

From the get-go, make sure you're working with a trusted real estate agent who can walk you through the ins-and-outs of home buying. They will help you narrow down your search, take you on private home tours, handle all necessary paperwork, and negotiate the best price just for you. You should also do your own homework on the side, such as driving through prospective neighborhoods, gathering information sheets from "for sale" properties, and taking pictures of houses you may like so you don't forget which one is which. Read up on some financing options like FHA loans, secure 30-year fixed or 15-year fixed, and depending on how much you have in savings, check out home loan programs that require low down payments. You might also find it helpful to get some good buyer know-how by familiarizing yourself with terms that are commonly used in the housing and mortgage industries.

Also, for more information check out our first-time home buyer tax credit video for tips and facts on how to get an $8,000 tax credit.

Another way to look for a home is to check newspaper classified ads, popular real estate listings websites, or through real estate company websites.

Why use a real estate agent?

A real estate agent can be very helpful in searching for homes. They can give you the ins and outs of home buying from an experienced professional's point of view. Some people prefer not to use a real estate agent – that's your prerogative. But if you're an inexperienced first-time home buyer, you wouldn't want to be swindled or taken advantage of by a seller's agent your first time out. Plus, working with a buyer's agent doesn't cost you a penny! Check out our 5 reasons to use a buyer's agent to learn more.

Things to Look for in a Home

You hear people say it all the time: "Location, location, location!" But that doesn't just mean where the home is located – it involves everything having to do with the location. When you look at a home, you also have to consider the kind of neighborhood the home is in. Are the other homes well-taken care of? What kind of businesses are nearby? Are there grocery stores or malls that are convenient and easy to get to? Don't forget to also consider:

  1. Schools - If you have kids or plan to have them, you'll want to research the school system that's in the area you like to make sure your kids will be getting an education that's up to your standards.
  2. Safety - Consider the crime level of the area. When you look around the area, ask yourself if you and your family would feel safe and comfortable living there. Contact the local police department or check the Internet to find out more about the crime level.
  3. Traffic - If you like a particular area, think about the traffic level. If you lived there, what route would you take to work? How long would it take you to get there? Does the traffic create too much noise (if you're, say, next to a highway or set of railroad tracks)?
  4. Local Property Values - Find out what the rate of home appreciation is in the area and how much people are paying in property taxes (since these taxes may be factored into your monthly mortgage payment). New construction or new homes may indicate a possible increase in property values (as well as traffic) in the future.

Finding a Excellent Real Estate Agent

  1. Don't go into a real estate office – most good agents are out in the field working. If you just walk in, you're likely to get the agent whose turn it is to meet whoever walks in.
  2. Ask for referrals from trusted friends and family – talk to them about their experiences with the agents they used and find out who they'd recommend. Besides, if they're happy with a particular agent, it's likely they'll do a good job for you.
  3. Finally, we recommend you get in touch with In-House Realty. They'll match you with the perfect agent and hold your hand throughout the process to ensure that you're purchasing the best home at the best price.

Real estate agents are there to answer your questions and lead you through the home shopping process. If you're a first-time home buyer, finding your dream house begins with finding a real estate agent. Call In-House Realty today at 800-897-7517.

Step 4: Review your loan application and update your loan file

Review your loan application and update your loan file

Depending on how much time has passed since we issued your pre-approval, we may need to collect some updated information and updated documents from you. We probably have everything we need, but it is a good idea to go over the home purchase document checklist to ensure we have everything we need.

Step 5: Lock your rate

Lock your rate

At this point, if you'd like to secure your interest rate, your home buying specialist will send you a lock agreement to confirm the terms of the loan and rate. Once you review and approve the lock agreement, your home buying specialist will collect a lock deposit fee to lock in your rate. The lock deposit will be credited towards your closing fees at the end of the transaction. Once we receive the signed lock agreement and lock deposit, we will send you some preliminary disclosures such as the good faith estimate and truth-in-lending disclosure to review and sign which detail the terms of your rate and loan.

Step 6: Home inspection and appraisal

Home inspection and appraisal

Shortly after escrow is opened, it is advisable to schedule a home inspection with a professional who will walk you through the property to look for any red flags such as structural damages or appliances that may not be working properly and other items that may need to be fixed. It is a small investment for some peace of mind. Any major issues would need to be addressed before the close of escrow date. While your loan is being reviewed and processed, we will schedule an appraisal appointment with the seller's agent to confirm the value of the home. Unlike a home inspection, that appraisal is a requirement to determine that the home is worth what you are paying for it.

Step 7: Loan approval , signing, and closing

Loan approval , signing, and closing

Once we have everything we need, your account manager will submit your complete file to the underwriting department for approval. Once approved, we will prepare loan documents for you to sign. Generally, you will sign your loan documents at the escrow or title office and it will take 30 minutes to an hour. After we receive the signed loan documents back, we will review your loan file one more time to make sure we have everything we need. If everything looks good, your loan will fund 2 to 3 days after your signing, and you will get the keys to your new home!


When it comes to your finances, and something as important as your mortgage, we know it's not something you take lightly. The mortgage company you choose matters. We want you to know what's important to us, too.

You need to know you're dealing with an experienced, reputable company. Of course, we promise to make this your best mortgage experience ever. We'll return your calls by the end of the day. If something's not right, tell us and we'll do whatever we can to fix it. We have the tools to make your mortgage process go smoothly, and the customer service to back it up. It's all part of our 7 Simple Steps to getting a mortgage (that you won't find anywhere else).

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