Finding, buying, and moving in to a new house can feel like a full-time job. Stay organized and cover your bases with a checklist of these important and vital “to-do” items.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage.
Once you know what a lender is willing to lend you, and at what rate, you have a better idea of what you can afford. Bear in mind that longer amortization periods (for example, a 30-year versus a 15-year mortgage) mean more interest over time. Only opt for a variable rate if you feel rates are bound to get lower over the life of your mortgage.
Find a broker that’s right for you.
The top-seller in your market might be great for sellers, but the real estate professional you need is one who listens and understands what you’re looking for. Don’t waste time looking at homes that might not suit your needs or desires or fall outside your price range. Go with your gut.
Connect with an insurance agent.
Homeowner’s insurance is key to helping put your mind at ease, so it makes sense to bring an agent into the mix early in the process. Like your real estate broker, your agent is someone you should talk to about a possible new home purchase. When you find a house you love, they can offer advice on factors that might affect your insurance premiums and walk you through all of the necessary considerations to help you select the right insurance coverage for your new home.
Calculate actual monthly expenses.
Consider not only mortgage payments, but also insurance, and taxes (these first three may all be on one bill through your mortgage lender) as well as utilities and maintenance costs like cleaning and landscaping. Be sure to include annual and semi-annual expenses like having gutters cleaned and maintaining heating and cooling systems. Although you can’t know what major repairs may be needed, you can get a pretty good sense of how much you’ll need to spend every month and whether you can stay in your financial comfort zone before you buy. Always leave some wiggle room and even set aside some savings for unexpected expenses.
Focus on home inspection.
Be sure to hire a reputable home inspector and take your time with this step. While the home inspector checks out things like the condition of the roof, heating and cooling systems, and foundation, you can take measurements, think about paint colors and where you want to put furniture in the rooms. Be ready to consider how much you love the place should the inspection yield potentially expensive repairs now or down the road. Depending on whether your offer was inspection-contingent, you may need to negotiate.
Find a mover you can truly trust.
Get as many personal references as you can, ideally from friends, relatives, or neighbors who’ve recently moved. Take a careful inventory of everything before you pack (and especially if you have movers pack for you). Remember that you are putting everything you own in their hands and on their truck. Trust is key… as is moving insurance. Be sure you are covered for damage and loss.
Customize your insurance policy.
Once you’ve made a successful bid on a property, you’ll want to work with your insurance agent as you select the coverage that’s right for you. Be sure to take a full inventory of your belongings and consider additional coverage for some of your belongings, like computers and jewelry as well as your new home’s features, like A/C systems and water heaters. You’ll need to have your policy in place by your closing date, especially if you are taking out a mortgage. Your lender will likely require a declarations page showing payment of your first year’s premium. After that, your insurance may be rolled into your house payment, along with taxes. Be sure to ask your agent about discounts available to you and plan to review your coverage annually to help ensure you’re adequately protected as your life and circumstances change over time.