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Steps for First-Time Home Buyers: A Complete Guide

Updated: Feb 13

A happy couple holding keys in a hand with Steps for First-Time Home Buyers text overlayed on the photo

Buying a home is one of the most important and exciting decisions you can make in your life. It can also be one of the most challenging and stressful, especially if you are a first-time home buyer. There are many steps involved in the home-buying process, and each one requires careful planning and preparation. You need to save for a down payment, check your credit score, get pre-approved for a mortgage, find a real estate agent, search for homes, make an offer, get a home inspection and appraisal, and close on the home. Sounds overwhelming, right?

Don’t worry, we are here to help you. In this article, we will explain the steps for first-time home buyers in detail, and give you some tips and tricks to make the process easier and smoother. We will also provide you with some real-life examples of people who have successfully bought their first homes, and how they did it. By the end of this article, you will have a clear idea of what to expect and what to do when you buy your first home.

Steps for First-Time Home Buyers

Step 1: Save for a Down Payment

An image of a piggy bank with a model house on it.

The first step in buying a home is to save for a down payment. A down payment is the amount of money you pay upfront for the home, while the rest is financed by a mortgage. Ideally, you should aim for a 20% down payment to avoid extra fees and get better interest rates, but you can also find loans that require lower down payments, such as 3% or 5%.

To save for a down payment, you need to set a budget, track your expenses, and cut down on unnecessary spending. You also need to look for ways to increase your income, such as taking on a side hustle, selling unwanted items, or asking for a raise. You can also use some tools and programs that can help you save faster, such as:

  • Automatic savings plans: These are plans that automatically transfer a certain amount of money from your checking account to your savings account every month. This way, you can save without thinking about it, and avoid the temptation to spend the money.

  • High-yield savings accounts: These are savings accounts that offer higher interest rates than regular savings accounts. This means you can earn more money on your savings, and reach your goal faster.

  • First-time home buyer programs: These are programs that offer financial assistance to first-time home buyers, such as grants, loans, tax credits, or discounts. You can check with your local or state government, or with some non-profit organizations, to see if you qualify for any of these programs.

Example: Ravi and Priya are a young couple from Ludhiana who want to buy their first home. They have a combined income of ₹80,000 per month, and they spend about ₹50,000 on their living expenses. They want to buy a 2 BHK flat in a good locality, which costs about ₹40 lakhs. They decide to save for a 10% down payment, which is ₹4 lakhs. They set a budget and track their expenses using an app, and they find out that they can save about ₹15,000 per month. They also open a high-yield savings account that offers 6% interest per year. They also sell some of their old furniture and clothes online and earn an extra ₹5,000 per month. They also apply for a first-time home buyer grant from the government, and get ₹1 lakh. With these strategies, they are able to save ₹4 lakhs in about 20 months, and they are ready to buy their first home.

Step 2: Check Your Credit Score and Report

A laptop with credit score report on the screen,

The next step in buying a home is to check your credit score and report. Your credit score and report are important factors that lenders use to determine your eligibility and interest rate for a mortgage. A higher credit score means you are more likely to repay your loan on time and get a lower interest rate, which can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

To check your credit score and report, you can use free online tools or request a copy from the major credit bureaus once a year. You should review your report for any errors or discrepancies and dispute them if necessary. You should also pay your bills on time, keep your credit card balances low, and avoid applying for new credit before you apply for a mortgage.

Example: John and Lisa are a married couple from New York who want to buy their first home. They have a combined income of $100,000 per year, and they spend about $60,000 on their living expenses. They want to buy a 3-bedroom house in a nice neighborhood, which costs about $500,000. They decide to save for a 20% down payment, which is $100,000. They check their credit scores and reports online, and they find out that they have good credit scores of 750 and 760, respectively. They also review their reports and find no errors or negative items. They are confident that they can get a good mortgage deal with their credit scores.

Step 3: Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

A letter with a approved stamp on it.

The third step in buying a home is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. A pre-approval is a letter from a lender that states how much money they are willing to lend you based on your income, assets, debts, and credit history. A pre-approval can help you narrow down your home search by giving you a realistic budget and showing sellers that you are a serious and qualified buyer.

To get pre-approved, you need to provide the lender with some financial documents, such as pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and proof of identity. You also need to compare different lenders and their offers to find the best deal for you. You should look at the interest rate, the loan term, the monthly payment, the fees, and the closing costs. You should also ask the lender about the type of loan, such as fixed-rate or adjustable-rate, and the features, such as prepayment penalties or rate locks.

Example: Ravi and Priya, from the previous example, decide to get pre-approved for a mortgage. They contact a few lenders and compare their offers. They choose a lender that offers them a 30-year fixed-rate loan with an interest rate of 8%, a monthly payment of ₹28,000, and a closing cost of ₹1 lakh. They also get a pre-approval letter that states that they are approved for a loan of up to ₹36 lakhs. They are happy with their pre-approval and start looking for homes within their budget.

Step 4: Find a Real Estate Agent

A smiling real estate agent shaking hands with a client.

The fourth step in buying a home is to find a real estate agent. A real estate agent is a professional who can help you find and buy your dream home. A good agent will have knowledge and experience in the local market, negotiate on your behalf, handle the paperwork, and guide you through the entire process.

To find a real estate agent, you can ask for referrals from friends, family, or coworkers, or use online platforms that connect you with agents in your area. You should interview several agents and choose one that you trust and feel comfortable with. You should also check their credentials, reviews, and track records. You should also discuss your expectations, preferences, and budget with your agent, and sign a contract that outlines the terms and conditions of your relationship.

Example: John and Lisa, from the previous example, decide to find a real estate agent. They ask their friends and family for recommendations, and they also use an online platform that matches them with agents in their area. They interview three agents and choose one that has a lot of experience, positive feedback, and a good rapport with them. They also sign a contract that states that the agent will represent them exclusively and that they will pay a commission of 3% of the sale price to the agent.

Step 5: Search for Homes and Make an Offer

A couple looking at a house with a for sale sign on the lawn.

The fifth step in buying a home is to search for homes and make an offer. This is the most fun and exciting part of the process, but also the most competitive and stressful. You need to find homes that match your criteria and budget and make an offer that stands out from the rest.

You can use online tools, such as Redfin or, to browse listings, view photos, and schedule tours. You can also attend open houses, drive around neighborhoods, and ask your agent for suggestions. When you find a home that you love, you need to make an offer to the seller, which is a formal proposal that includes the price, terms, and conditions of the purchase. Your agent will help you craft a competitive and realistic offer that reflects the market value and your interest in the home. The seller can accept, reject, or counter your offer, and you can negotiate until you reach an agreement.

Example: Ravi and Priya, from the previous example, start searching for homes in their preferred locality. They use an online tool to filter the listings by price, size, location, and amenities. They also visit some open houses and tour some homes with their agent. They find a 2 BHK flat that they love, which is listed for ₹38 lakhs. They decided to make an offer of ₹36 lakhs, which is slightly below the asking price. They also include some contingencies, such as financing, inspection, and appraisal. Their agent submits their offer to the seller’s agent, and they wait for a response.

Step 6: Get a Home Inspection and Appraisal

A home inspector checking a house.

The sixth step in buying a home is to get a home inspection and appraisal. These are two important steps that can protect you from buying a home that has hidden problems or is overpriced.

A home inspection is a thorough examination of the physical condition and structure of the home, performed by a licensed inspector. A home inspection can reveal any defects, damages, or safety issues that may affect the value or livability of the home. You can use the inspection report to request repairs, renegotiate the price, or back out of the deal if the problems are too severe.

A home appraisal is an estimate of the fair market value of the home, performed by a certified appraiser. A home appraisal is required by the lender to ensure that the loan amount does not exceed the value of the home. If the appraisal comes in lower than the offer price, you may have to pay the difference, renegotiate the price, or cancel the contract.

A clipboard with a home appraisal report on it.

Example: John and Lisa, from the previous example, make an offer of $480,000, which is 4% below the asking price. They also include some contingencies, such as financing, inspection, and appraisal. Their offer is accepted by the seller, and they move on to the next steps. They hire a home inspector and an appraiser to evaluate the home. The home inspector finds some minor issues, such as a leaky faucet and a cracked window, but nothing major. The home appraiser values the home at $490,000, which is higher than their offer price. They are relieved that they are getting a good deal, and they proceed with the purchase.

Step 7: Close on the Home

A person signing a stack of documents.

The seventh and final step in buying a home is to close on the home. Closing is the final step of the home-buying process, where you sign the legal documents, pay the closing costs, and get the keys to your new home. Closing usually takes place at a title company or an attorney’s office and involves you, the seller, the agents, the lender, and the closing agent.

You need to bring a valid photo ID, a cashier’s check or wire transfer for the closing costs, and proof of homeowners insurance. You also need to review and sign the loan documents, the settlement statement, the deed, and other paperwork. You also need to pay the closing costs, which are fees and charges associated with the transaction, such as origination fees, title fees, taxes, and escrow deposits. The closing costs typically range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount. Once everything is done, you will receive the keys and become the proud owner of your new home.

Example: Ravi and Priya, from the previous example, close on their home. They go to the title company with their agent and meet the seller, the seller’s agent, the lender, and the closing agent. They bring their photo IDs, a cashier’s check for ₹2 lakhs, and proof of homeowners insurance. They review and sign the loan documents, the settlement statement, the deed, and other paperwork. They also pay the closing costs, which amount to ₹1.5 lakhs. They receive the keys and a congratulatory handshake from the seller. They are overjoyed and excited to move into their new home.

Disclaimer: Please note that while every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is always advisable to consult with a real estate professional or conduct further research for the most up-to-date and comprehensive information.


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Hi, I'm Kashish Mahajan

I'm a real estate entrepreneur with over 8 years of total working experience in various roles, including teacher, corporate executive, manager, and content writer.

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Creativity. Productivity. Vision.

I have always been fascinated by how real estate has helped millions become millionaires. I'd like to bring those stories to you along with many more topics to help you navigate through the complex world of real estate.


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