When we see our friends buying a new home, we usually only see the happy part on social media – the part where they’re smiling in front of their new home or by the big SOLD sign on the lawn. But there’s a lot that goes on before you get to that point that is a bit more difficult than you may think.

Fortunately, if you’ve got a great first-time home buyer checklist, you’ll know ahead of time what to expect!

We’re going to break down the big items you’ll need to check off your list, beginning the moment you read this, and ending with the day you finally place your key in the lock and walk into your very own home for the first time.

First-Time Home Buyer Checklist

We know that not everyone is completely out of debt when they want to buy their first home. Extenuating circumstances, student loans, car payments — these things are part of our lives and at times, we do carry some debt into our first-time home purchases.

But wherever possible, try to pay off your debt before you buy your house. At the very least, pay off credit cards and small loans. This helps you accomplish 2 things:

1. You will have more cash freed up to save for your down payment and apply to the costs of moving into your home.
2. You will improve your credit score, helping you secure a better interest rate on your mortgage.

If you can save 20% of your home purchase price, you’ll be in great shape as you begin your home buying search. If you can’t, that’s ok! You can buy a house with a smaller down payment, but you still need to save as much as you can. You’ll also need money to put towards closing costs of the home. These amounts vary depending on the purchase price of your home, so for now, just save as much as you can!

Take advantage of first-time home buyer incentives wherever you can!

Break your list into 2 columns: Must-Haves, and Nice-to-Haves.

In your must-have column, list things you absolutely can’t compromise on. Some common examples are parking, number of bathrooms, enough bedrooms for your kids, outdoor space, within a certain distance of your workplace, etc. Whatever you need, put it down on paper.

In your nice-to-have column, list things you would really like, but you can live without. Some common examples are a swimming pool, a guest room or office, a finished basement, or an attached garage.

Everyone’s lists are unique and creating them often reminds you of the true necessities you need from your first home, and stops you from getting distracted by the things we all love but don’t really need during the home search.

If you’re purchasing in an area that you’re not familiar with, take the time to learn about its communities beforehand so you can help your agent choose neighbourhoods that get you excited, and rule out the no-gos ahead of time. The great thing is that many communities have their own neighbourhood websites so you can do a lot of your research online without ever leaving your home.

Single Family

Use your list to ask questions as you shop about the current owner’s energy bills, shop around for internet rates, and even check using your phone carrier’s website how the cell service is in the neighbourhood. This will help you understand how much you will be spending each month on top of your mortgage payments, and visualize how much you can afford.

Once you’ve got all your lists made, it’s time to shop around for a mortgage pre-approval. If you don’t know who to call, we would be happy to connect you with someone we recommend to all of our clients, just reach out and let us know!

We highly recommend getting your approval before you look at houses, this will help you know exactly how much home you can afford and gives your agent a more concrete price range to work with. It also allows you to shop around since you can speak to a number of lenders to get the best interest rates and secure the best loan for your needs.

Whether you choose to work with the Katharine Loucaidou Group or not, we highly recommend working with an experienced real estate agent. A great realtor will help you understand contracts, give you excellent advice, be sure you aren’t being taken advantage of and do a lot of the research for you, handle all the paperwork, help you negotiate, and so much more.

If you are thinking about working with us and want to know more about how our team can make a difference, then feel free to reach out or read more on our Why Choose Us page!

For most people (especially a first-time home buyer) this is the fun part! This is also where the lists we’ve crafted and pre-approval will come in really handy. If you’ve been creating a great list of your wants and needs for months, you’ll be able to filter the homes you look at by what fits your needs and your budget. You’ll save lots of time and energy, and you’ll be well on your way to finding your first home.

When the time has come to submit your offer we always say, pay what you’re comfortable paying. In a seller’s market, you may need to present very strong offers – often above the asking price. Your agent will guide you through this though and help you determine the best bidding strategy.

We truly believe that all homes should be inspected by a certified home inspector, the main reason being to protect you the buyer.

You may find issues with the home that even the current owner didn’t know about! And your home inspector can teach you a lot about the house while they inspect the foundation, electrical, plumbing, roof, and more.

It’s tempting to remove the inspection condition from your offer, especially if you’re in a bidding war and a tough market, but we do advise against it because it can leave you biting off more than you can chew with repairs and renovations.

Hopefully, you can skip this step. But if your home inspection brought any major issues to light, you may choose to renegotiate your offer.

You might choose to simply lower your offer. You may choose to ask the owners to make some repairs before the sale is complete. Either way, knowing you have options, provides peace of mind.

The last on this list and hopefully one we can help you tick!

Closing the sale on your first home is by far one of the most memorable and exciting times in your life. The process of buying a home can fill you with many emotions: fear, confusion, excitement, pride — and hopefully, the process is really enjoyable!

Hopefully reading through this list has helped you gain a greater understanding of the home buying process, we also have a free digital Home Buying Guide available for you (no sign-ups or download necessary just flip through right here on the site) if you’d like to go even deeper into the process of buying a home!


Home Selling Guide


Reach out to re-imagine real estate with the Katharine Loucaidou Real Estate Group!

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