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A Home Buying Guide for First-Time Home Buyers


Buying a home can be a complex process, but with the right knowledge and guidance, it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. In this home buying guide, we will walk you through the essential steps to buying a home, especially for first-time home buyers, and provide you with valuable insights and resources to make the process as smooth as possible. To navigate the home-buying process smoothly, download our first-time homebuyers checklist below.

Home Buying Guide for First-time Homebuyers


Navigating the complex world of real estate can be overwhelming for first-time homebuyers. This guide breaks down the essential steps, from understanding your budget and securing a mortgage to choosing the right property and closing the deal. Empower yourself with knowledge and confidently make your dream of homeownership a reality.

Before getting into the home-buying process, it's important to understand the key steps involved. Familiarizing yourself with these steps will help you get through each stage confidently and efficiently.


Step 1: Needs vs. Wants


Before setting out on your home-buying journey, it's crucial to distinguish between your needs and wants. Make a list of what you absolutely need in a home and what you'd like to have. Take the time to assess your priorities, considering the factors like location, size, amenities, and budget. This will serve as your roadmap. By clearly defining your requirements, you can focus your search and avoid getting swayed by unnecessary embellishments.


Step 2: Find a Lender


It's easy to be in awe with homes on social media, but before you go window-shopping, know what you can afford. Before you start dreaming about sunrooms and walk-in closets, contact a lender. Why? They'll tell you what you can really afford and clue you in on the best mortgage rates. Meet up with a lender to discuss your financial situation. Look for a lender that suits your financial goals and offers favorable terms. It's like having a personal finance wingman.

Step 3: Get Pre-Approved


Once you've chosen a lender, it's time to get pre-approved. Before diving into the home search, obtaining pre-approval for a mortgage is highly recommended. This shows sellers you're serious and makes the process a lot smoother down the road. This step involves submitting your financial documents to the lender, who will evaluate your creditworthiness. Pre-approval not only strengthens your bargaining power but also provides you with a clear idea of your budget, saving you time and effort. Moreover, having a pre-approval letter ready gives you an advantage when it comes to submitting an offer quickly.


Step 4: Find a Location


Location is more than just a ZIP code—it's your future lifestyle. Thoroughly research different neighborhoods, explore their amenities and visit them if possible. Don't just drive by; walk around at different times to get the full picture. Choosing the right location can significantly impact your quality of life. Assessing the long-term prospects of the area, including property values, can also be beneficial. Once you've got the 'where' down, you'll be all set to find an agent who really knows that area.


Step 5: Find an Agent


In the thrilling quest of buying a home, selecting your ally is a crucial step. Teaming up with a proficient real estate agent can greatly enhance your home-buying experience. There are two main types of agents: Buyer's Agents, who advocate for you, and Seller's Agents, who represent the seller's interests.


If you're navigating this journey solo, it's wise to consult a few Buyer's Agents for their expert insights. The beauty of it is, as a buyer, you don’t bear the agent’s fee—the seller does! It's akin to having a cost-free specialist supporting you. However, exercise due diligence: don’t just settle for the first agent you encounter. It's beneficial to interview several, examine their track records and reviews, and then make an informed decision.


The key is to find an agent who aligns with your goals, budget, and has expertise in your desired area. This might involve discussing your housing preferences with various agents until you find the one that resonates with your needs. Once you've teamed up with the right agent, you can move forward confidently, knowing they will diligently seek the best deals, negotiate effectively on your behalf, and ensure a seamless transaction process.


Step 6: Home Shopping


When house hunting, it's crucial to stay focused on your priorities rather than getting distracted by appealing but unnecessary features. Avoid teasing yourself with homes out of your budget, as it can make more affordable options seem less attractive. Be realistic about your financial constraints and flexible in your expectations; sometimes a home may not tick every box but offers potential for easy modifications, like converting a den into an extra bedroom or upgrading the landscaping. Take time to re-evaluate and re-rank your priorities as needed to make an informed decision.


Step 7: Find an Attorney/Title Company


When it's time to make an offer and enter into a contract, having an attorney by your side ensures that your legal rights and interests are protected. While real estate agents are trained to draft and negotiate contracts, these contracts are often written with the seller's interests in mind and can be dense and complex. Given the significant financial commitment involved in buying a home, the cost of hiring an attorney is relatively minimal and provides an added layer of security. Their expertise will safeguard you from potential pitfalls and complications.


Step 8: Offer & Contract Negotiation


You've found the home. Now, navigating the offer and contract negotiation phase of buying a home involves multiple considerations. Your agent will help you put in an offer and negotiate the contract, making sure you get the best deal possible. When making an offer, you'll typically provide an Earnest Money Deposit (1% - 3% of the purchase price) to demonstrate your seriousness. While it's important to protect your interests in the contract, aim for a balanced approach to avoid deterring the seller, striving for a win-win outcome for both parties.


Step 9: Submit Your Loan


With an accepted offer, it's back to your lender to finalize your mortgage application. You're almost there! Provide your lender with all the necessary documentation and respond promptly to any requests for additional information. Having these documents prepared in advance can streamline the process and mitigate stress. It's crucial not to make irregular financial moves during this time as lenders scrutinize accounts for red flags, potentially asking for further proof of transactions or even setting conditions for approval, such as reducing credit card debt.


Step 10: Home Inspection


Home inspections are a critical part of the buying process, conducted simultaneously with your lender's work on your loan application. Get a home inspection to make sure you're not buying a money pit. You're making a huge investment, after all. For an average cost of $500-$600, inspectors scrutinize the home's construction for issues like termite damage or leaky pipes rather than focusing on aesthetics. The inspection can trigger further negotiations with the seller if issues arise, and it's advisable to have contingencies in your sales contract to account for this.


Step 11: Appraisal & Clearing Conditions


After that all-important home inspection, it's time for the appraiser to take center stage! Think of them as the referees of the home-buying world; they’re here to ensure you're not paying a penny more than the Fair Market Value. This step helps to protect not just the lender but your interests as well. If the appraiser's numbers come in lower than expected, don't hit the panic button! This is your golden ticket for another round of negotiations with the seller. Collaborate with your agent and attorney to address these requirements promptly, clearing the way for a smooth loan approval process.


Step 12: Approval Letter


Here it is—the finale of your home-buying process: The Approval Letter! This critical document has a deadline, often set in your Sales Contract, serving as a crucial milestone before the actual closing. Why does it matter? It reassures the seller that you're financially set to buy and gives you a final opportunity to double-check all the loan details, from type to rate. So, celebrate this moment but also scrutinize that letter like a hawk to ensure it aligns perfectly with what you and your lender have agreed upon. Time to get those keys! Once the appraisal and conditions are cleared, your lender will send an approval letter. This means your loan is officially approved!


Step 13: Title


Ensuring a clear title is paramount before finalizing the purchase. A title search conducted by a professional title company will uncover any legal issues that could affect your ownership rights. The title company will issue title insurance, protecting you from potential challenges in the future. This document is crucial for verifying your legitimate ownership and is usually ordered after a commitment letter has been issued. Your attorney will do a title search to ensure there are no legal issues with transferring ownership of the property.


Step 14: Clear to Close


Once your home, mortgage, and finances have been thoroughly vetted and all government requirements are met, you'll receive a "Clear" notice, indicating that you're good to proceed to the closing stage of your home purchase. All paperwork is in, and you're clear to close! Coordinate with your attorney to review the closing documents and ensure everything is in order. Your closing date will be scheduled, and you're on to the final steps.


Step 15: Final Walk Through


As you approach the final stage of your home purchase, make sure the seller has vacated the property and left all items specified in the contract, such as appliances or fixtures. Any discrepancies can lead to delaying the closing or negotiating monetary compensation. This phase culminates in the "Final Walk-Through," your last opportunity to inspect the property before taking ownership. Use this time to verify that all requested repairs or changes, stemming from your initial inspection report, have been completed by the seller. It's akin to a final test drive before fully committing to your new home.


Step 16: Close & Move In


The closing is the culmination of all your efforts—from interviewing and negotiating to inspections and legal consultations, it all pays off as you officially become a homeowner. The main activities at the closing are the signing of essential documents and the exchange of money, marking the formal transfer of property ownership. You made it! Sign the papers, grab the keys, and move into your new home. Time to celebrate!


Why Brighton Bank?


Choosing the right bank for your mortgage needs is as important as finding the perfect home. At Brighton Bank, we offer personalized guidance, competitive rates, and a commitment to making your home-buying experience as smooth as possible. We understand that this is more than just a transaction; it's your future and your dreams coming to life. Our team of experienced professionals is here to listen, answer your questions, and offer expert advice to help you make informed decisions. We're not just interested in closing a deal; we're dedicated to helping you secure your dream home while ensuring it aligns with your financial goals. At Brighton Bank, we are committed to your long-term financial success.


State-Specific Closings Costs


Understanding closing costs is a pivotal part of the home-buying process. These costs vary by state, and having accurate, state-specific information can significantly impact your budgeting and overall home-buying experience. We've developed a user-friendly, state-specific mortgage calculator to support your financial journey. It offers a detailed analysis for each state, including insights on property tax, housing market statistics, closing costs, and more, all tailored to meet the needs of first-time homebuyers like you.



Brighton Bank is dedicated to guiding you through every stage of the process. From understanding your mortgage payments to planning your closing costs, we provide the resources and support you need to make informed decisions that align with your financial goals.

Start the pre-approval process today.

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