A Basic Guide to Home Buying

Buying your first home (any home really) can be a challenge if you aren’t familiar with the basic home buying steps.  I often feel like first time buyers want to ask, “How do I do this?” but are afraid asking may make her look silly.  It really is not a silly question and frankly, if you have not purchased a home before it can be very confusing.  Below is a basic step by step guide to purchasing a home.  Remember every state is different and ALL transactions are different.  This is meant to serve as simple How To and hopefully give buyers an idea is to be expected.


1. Pre-approval—This is a letter given by a bank that tells a buyer how much money she can spend on a home.  This DOES NOT include cost of living (such as cell phone payments, groceries etc.), so keep that in mind when you are looking in a price bracket. Almost all agents I know will request a buyer to have a pre-approval letter from a bank or credit union before looking at properties.  We do this for a few reasons.  One, if you fall in love with a house we must submit your letter with an offer to show you are capable of buying a home.  Two, you need to know you are looking in the correct price range.  Three, if it turns out you cannot purchase a home and an agent has dedicated time to you, the agent has lost valuable time.  We are not paid by the hour.  We do not get paid until a house closes!

2. Select a realtor--Best bet is to ask family and friends if they know or have used a trusted agent.  If you can’t do this, look online, go to open houses and meet an agent there, or call a local real estate agency to find one.  You can also ask me!!   

3. Home search—Agent will begin looking for a home and schedule showing for the buyer to view the home.  Remember, we are trusted law abiding professionals that have additional access to properties and information the average consumer does not.  Agents realize Zillow, Realtor.com etc. are a thing, so we know our clients will also be looking for a home and sending these to us.  Don’t always rely on these sources, there is typically incorrect information listed.

4. Offer—When you fall in love with a property and decide you want to purchase that home, your agent will write up an offer.  Buyer will sign offer and agent will submit it to the listing agent.  The listing agent (represents the seller) will present the offer to the seller.  Seller will accept, counter offer, or decline offer.

5. Attorney approval—When the offer is accepted and all parties sign, an attorney approval is needed. The contract is sent by the real estate agent to the lawyer.  The lawyer has 3 business days to approve the contract.  If we do not hear from the lawyer within 3 days, agents assume contract is approved and we continue with the contract.  Also note, once an offer is signed by all parties we refer to it as a contract.

6. Home inspection –-Buyer will select an inspector (trained professional) to do an inspection on the property.  The inspector has a checklist he or she will go through, take photos, and notes of any issues or items that need to corrected/repaired/replaced.  The report comes back with 3 different levels: low, medium, high.  High risk items are usually what are asked to be remedied.  If there are some items that need to be corrected, your agent will write up an addendum and the seller chooses to complete the items or seller may offer a price reduction—this is completely up to the seller.  IF the home inspection comes back completely unsatisfactory, buyers are allowed to pull out of the contract with no penalty.

7. Apply for your mortgage –Buyers are responsible for applying for a mortgage with chosen bank within a certain amount of days.  Buyer will contact bank, let the mortgage representative know she is purchasing a home at address XYZ and the total cost.  Buyer will fill documents out with bank.

8. Send deposit check--This happens simultaneously with inspection and application for mortgage.  A deposit check is also referred to as “good faith deposit.”  It is a check for a certain amount that basically shows the buyer is serious about purchasing a home. The check goes into escrow, so it always belongs to the buyer.  When home closes deposit is usually put towards purchase of the house or closing costs.

9. Appraisal of the property—The bank the buyer is using for the mortgage will call an appraisal firm to do an appraisal on the property.  This is a 3rd party with no ties to the transaction.  Appraiser will go to the subject property and send a report to the bank to state whether or not the house is worth the purchase price. 

10. Mortgage Commitment—This typically happens 30 days from mortgage application.  Again, additional paperwork buyer will complete with mortgage representative.  This is another document that shows buyer has committed to the mortgage and the property.

11. Home owners insurance—Buyer will need home owners insurance before closing on a property.  Buyers will want to get this around the same time she completes mortgage commitment (preferably buyer has done research on which mortgage company he or she is using).

12. Abstract updated & property survey—This is completed by the attorneys that represent the seller and buyer

13. Title preparation—Also handled by an attorney

14. Package to Lender—A closing agent (selected by the bank and not a realtor) serves as a mediator between the buyer and seller.  The closing agent will oversee and ensure all documents are signed and recorded.  Closing agent will also make sure all of the fees, escrow payments, and funds are paid. 

15. Lender Attorney review—Attorney for the lender will review all of the above and then some.  He or she will talk to the attorneys representing the buyer and seller to select a date that will be Closing Day (aka the day buyer takes possession of property)

16. Final Walkthrough—Once the real estate agent has received the green light, we schedule a final walk through.  This is a scheduled and brief visit to the property to ensure items on the home inspection addendum have been taken care of and property is in good condition. 

17. Closing Day—Buyer will be told where she will go to sign final documents and receive the key(s) to the property.  And this my friends is the final step.  You are now a home owner!! Yay!


Hope this helps all of you! Again, I cannot stress enough, all transaction are different!  But this step by step guide should at least help a buyer know what he or she is “doing” while purchasing a home.  As always, feel free to contact me with questions!


Thanks for reading!




Gina Garlock