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Buying a Home

FindLaw's Buying a Home section provides in-depth information for first-time home buyers, veteran real estate flippers, and everyone in-between. The Home Buying Guide goes over everything you need to know to buy a house, including lists of questions to ask your real estate agent, mortgage agent, lawyer, and home inspector. The section on the Home Buying Process provides a step-by-step guide to buying a home, while the Resources section provides checklists and worksheets to help you evaluate what you can afford and how to find the right real estate lawyer or agent in your area. A home is typically the largest transaction an individual will make in his or her lifetime, involving several legal and fiduciary considerations. This section will help you get up to speed before you sign on the dotted line.

Can You Afford to Buy a Home?

Before you even start searching for available homes, you need to make sure you're ready to make such a long-term financial commitment. This includes more than simply your annual income, since creditors will want proof of financial stability. Some of the financial considerations you should make before buying a home include:

  • Employment History - Be ready to explain any gaps in your work history and whether your income has fluctuated in the past two years (and why).
  • Credit History - Your credit-worthiness will be reflected in your credit score (based on credit card balances, timeliness of payments, involvement in collections, etc.).
  • Available Cash for Downpayment - Most loans require a downpayment; and the more you pay upfront, the better your loan terms will be (lower monthly payments, lower rate)
  • Cashflow - Generally, you don't want your mortgage payments to exceed 28 percent of your monthly income; but you also need to consider the cost of ownership (upkeep, improvements, maintenance emergencies, etc.)

The Home-Buying Process at a Glance

Anyone who has bought a home will tell you that is a complicated, tedious, and often frustrating experience. But the many rewards of home ownership are difficult to quantify. After determining whether you can afford to buy a home, you should make sure you understand the various procedures involved to help you better know what to expect. Working with a real estate agent typically makes this process a lot easier.

The first step is to determine what you're looking for in a home, including the size and location; proximity to employment; and quality of schools (to name a few). You'll want to check and see what is available based on those criteria, and then narrow this list down to only those homes you can afford.

Meanwhile, you will want to research mortgages and get preapproved for a loan.

When you decide on a home, ask as many questions as you can. After you make your offer, which typically includes contingencies (based on the inspection results, loan approval, requested fixes or improvements, etc.), you may get a counter-offer. When a price is agreed upon, you and the seller will sign documents and determine a closing date (the date on which you receive the keys and move in).

If you need legal assistance with a home purchasing decision, speak with a real estate attorney. Click on a link below to learn more.