The Definitive Home Buying Checklist

Published July 10, 2020
by Better

Father and Son

The path to homeownership is made up of lots of little steps that add up to one important purchase. We'll take you through the complete home buying checklist—most of which can now be completed online with the help of Better.

You can even download a printable version so you can mark your progress any time, anywhere.

  • Figure out how much home you can afford

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    The first step towards owning a home is to develop a good understanding of your financial strengths and limitations. Knowing exactly where you stand will help you negotiate with confidence and avoid situations where you’re financially overextended.

    1. Check your credit score
    2. Calculate your debt-to-income ratio

    3. Consolidate your down payment funds
    4. Get a sense for how much you can afford.

      Try using our Affordibility Calculator

    5. Start thinking about financing options

    6. Get pre-approved for a loan. Better can get you pre-approved in as little as 3 minutes

    7. Avoid hard credit pulls and/or switching jobs as these changes could require further documentation and delay your mortgage
  • Start the fun part: house hunting

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    Once you have your financials memorized, it’s time to begin your home search. Remember: dream big, but stay within budget. Explore and ask a million questions.

    • Brainstorm your must-haves and dealbreakers
    • Research your favorite neighborhoods
    • Look at your preferred school districts

    • Evaluate transit needs
    • Try doing a dry run of your commute
    • Check out pre-market listings
    • Cruise the open house circuit
    • Run the faucets to test the plumbing
    • Flick switches to make sure there are no electrical issues
    • Open and close all windows and doors
    • Give the garage door a test run
    • Double check that every feature is in working order

    Remote option: When you work with a Better Real Estate agent be sure to ask if you can arrange for a virtual tour if you aren't able to to visit the property in person.

  • Assemble an all-star team to help guide you through the process

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    Buying a home is very much a team effort. Make sure you get the right people behind you—a little due diligence ensures that everyone has your best interests in mind.

    1. Find the perfect agent to
      bring it all together

      Work with a Better Real Estate agent and you’ll not only have a local expert on your side, you could also save $2,000 on closing costs if you choose to finance with Better Mortgage.* *See Better Real Estate discount fine print.

    2. Recruit an attorney to help
      with the paperwork

      Find out if your state requires an attorney.

    3. Get an inspector to do
      a thorough examination

    4. Find an insurance agent
      that covers your needs

      Did you know: Better Cover offers home owners insurance coverage to go with your Better Mortgage. See what’s available in your state.

  • Gather your mortgage documents to speed
    things along

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    If there are multiple people vying for the same property, the most organized buyer usually wins. Make sure to come to the table with all your documents at the ready.

    Tip: Better Mortgage can help you get ready with fast uploads and processing speeds.

    • Make sure to have 2 years of personal tax
      returns handy
    • If you’re a business owner, include 2 years of business tax returns, K-1 statements if you own an S-corp, and your profit & loss statements
    • Get at least 2 years of W-2s or 1099s
    • Download 2 months or more of recent
      bank statements
    • Get proof of alimony or child support
      payments (if applicable)
    • Have your pre-approval letter from
      Better Mortgage on hand
    • If you earn a fixed income, prepare to share your pension award letters, Social Security, and/or disability income
    • If part of your income is from restricted stock units (RSUs), locate your written verification of employment (WVOE) from your employer and your vesting schedule

  • Make it official with the seller of the home

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    The early stages of a homebuying journey are all about research, planning, and due diligence. Now, we’re getting to the buying part.

    1. Make an offer on your dream home and negotiate the terms of your purchase agreement.

    2. Sign your purchase agreement, and go officially “under contract.”

    3. Get the property inspected. If there are any issues, negotiate repairs with the seller.

    4. Find the right lender and ask for a loan estimate – which is a standard document that reflects all the important details of your home loan.

      Tip: You won’t find commission or origination fees on our loan estimates. That’s what helps us deliver more affordable home loans to our borrowers.

    5. Use points and credits to adjust your interest rate and the amount you’ll owe at closing. Points allow you to “buy down the rate” by prepaying interest at closing. Credits allow you to lower your closing costs in exchange for a higher interest rate.

    6. Choose a loan and lock your rate. If in doubt, refer to your notes about financing options from the beginning of your search, then pick the loan that best fits your lifestyle.

    7. Upload your documentation to start the processing and underwriting stage of your loan application.

    8. Monitor the appraisal process. Your lender will have your new home appraised to see if the value of the property matches the amount of your loan.

    9. Be prepared to answer any requests from your lender in a timely manner. Our client dashboard is available 24/7, so you can respond at any time.

  • Close on your dream home

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    Closing is the final stage of the homebuying process. It’s when you formalize the sale, transfer ownership of the property, and become a homeowner.

    1. Hire a settlement service to provide your mandated title history search and title insurance. They’ll act as the coordinator for the rest of your closing.

      Tip: Better Settlement Services works directly with Better Mortgage to help ensure a seamless closing experience.

    2. Select your homeowners insurance provider and policy. This is another mandatory service—but it’s also highly valuable.

      Tip: Let Better Cover do the shopping for you. We’ll find policies from top insurers right within your mortgage application.

    3. Schedule your closing with your settlement service—such as Better Settlement Services, which provides remote closings for your convenience.

    4. Do a final walkthrough of the property. Make sure all repairs have been made and all purchase contract contingencies have been met.

    5. Make sure all your closing costs are paid—whether they’re coming from you, your seller, or an interested party.

    6. Sign and notarize all county- and state-required documents.

    7. Record your purchase with the county. You can save yourself a trip to the county clerk’s office if your state offers e-recording.

    8. Celebrate! At this point, you’re a homeowner.

  • Get ready for the big move

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    Once you’re here, the hard part is essentially over. Now it’s time to make your dream a reality and start nesting. Congrats.

    • Pick up your keys

    • Pick out your movers

    • Outfit your new home with a security system

      Save money on a SimpliSafe home security when you close a Better mortgage.

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