A House Buying Checklist

by : Steve Gillman

A house buying checklist will keep you from forgetting something important, and help make the whole process a little less chaotic. It is perhaps best to put together your own list according to your own needs. Here are some of the items you will want to include.

___ Prepare to buy a house. Figure out the monthly payment you can afford, but also how much you want to afford, if you have other major goals. Take a look at your credit report. Take actions to improve your credit score. List what you want or need in a home, prioritizing each item it in case you can't get everything.

___ Narrow the search to an area you like. Consider what you need to be comfortable. You can use online resources to investigate towns, and to check on crime rates. You can also read various local newspapers online to get a "feel" for a town. If you already know the town you'll be moving to, start driving around to see which neighborhoods you like.

___ Get preapproved for a mortgage loan. Gather pay stubs, recent bank statements, tax returns, w-2 forms, and proof of other income. Visit several lenders. Have a list of questions about your loan options, and take notes. Get copies of any pre-approval letters. You can submit these with your offers, so the seller knows you are able to follow through.

___ Start shopping for a house. Look at online listings, in newspapers, and in real estate guides. Locate a real estate agent that's active in the neighborhoods you like, and one who sells the types of houses you're looking for. You may want to consider using a buyer's agent. Be very clear about what you're looking for. If an agent repeatedly shows you homes that don't fit your criteria, find a new agent to help you.

___ Go see those homes. Have a good list of questions as part of your house buying checklist. Does the house have what you need? Does it feel good when you walk through it? Do you like the neighborhood? What problems does it have? A photo or written description will help you remember the home after looking at others. Carry and use a home inspection checklist, so you can take notes to pass along to a professional home inspector.

___ The decision. It may be best to look at six or more homes before writing an offer. Does this home have what you need? How does it compare to others you have seen? What is the appraised value, or at least the value indicated by the tax assessor. Why is the seller selling? Have there been other offers, and what happened with them (ask the agent)?

___ The offer. Don't reveal your thoughts on possible negotiations to the agent. Make out your earnest money check to an escrow agent, or the real estate broker if they have an escrow account. Specify what stays with the home, and who will pay for each closing cost. Have contingencies in the offer for any necessary inspections.

___ Closing the purchase. Get inspections done as soon as you can after the offer is accepted. Watch the deadlines for any other contingencies in the offer. Make sure you have a written loan commitment from a lender. Set a closing date. Buy insurance for the house. Get a copy of the closing statement before closing. Have a cashiers check ready for the closing.

___ Moving. When the closing date is certain, transfer utilities to your name. Change your address at the post office. Pack. Hire a mover or arrange for a u-haul. Transfer your prescriptions if you are moving out of town. Register the kids in their new schools.

___ A final item on your house buying checklist: check out everything thoroughly when you arrive at your new home. Generally (and specifically in most contracts) it should be in the same or better condition as the day you made your offer.