The Ultimate Home Buying Checklist

home buying checklist

Buying a home is the biggest purchase you will make in your lifetime.

A checklist can help make sure you don’t forget any steps along the way and get the best deal possible.

In this article we will provide a home buying checklist put together by expert real estate agents and mortgage lenders to help you navigate through the home buying process.

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Today

Home Buying Checklist

  • Find out how much house you can afford
  • Determine how much you need for a down payment
  • Get your credit in order
  • Get pre-approved
  • Get loan quotes from 3-4 lenders
  • Search for a home
  • Find a reputable real estate agent
  • Visit open houses and tour homes
  • Submit an offer
  • Get a home inspection
  • The home appraisal

1. Find out How Much You Can Afford

A mortgage loan is not just principal and interest. Property taxes, mortgage insurance, and homeowners insurance are also included in your monthly payment. Be sure to account for these additional expenses or you will not be approved for as much as you think.

Use our mortgage affordability calculator to determine how much house you can afford.

2. Determine How Much of a Down Payment You Need

The down payment amount you need will largely depend on which type of mortgage you’re getting. It’s a good idea to explore the different types of mortgage loans to get an idea of how much you’ll need for the down payment.

FHA Loans

FHA loan credit requirements

FHA loans are very popular, especially with first-time homebuyers because of their low down payment and credit score requirements. For FHA loans, your credit score will determine how much of a down payment you need. With a minimum credit score of 580, only a 3.5% down payment is required, with a score below 10% you’ll have to come up with 10% down.

Minimum down payment required by loan type

3. Get Your Credit in Order

Your credit score is one of the most important factors in determining if you qualify for a mortgage. The interest rate you receive is also tied closely with your credit rating. Most lenders require at least a 620 credit score to qualify for a loan. However, there are some lenders that can approve much lower scores. There minimum credit requirement will vary depending on the lender and loan type.

Minimum Credit Score Requirement by Loan Type

  • FHA Loans – 500-579 with 10% down, 580+ with 3.5% down
  • VA Loans – 580-620 score
  • USDA Loans – 640-660
  • 203k Loans – 640
  • Conventional Loans – 620-640

Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

You can get a free copy of your credit report once a year for free at You can also see your credit report and credit scores from websites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame.

Check for Errors

According to an FTC study, one in five consumers has at least one error on their credit reports. Carefully go through each account listed in your report and check for any inaccuracies such as late payments, collection accounts, or anything else that could negatively impact your FICO score.

Dispute Inaccurate Information

If you identify anything you believe is inaccurate you can dispute it directly with the credit bureaus. Once submitted, the credit bureau will request documents from the credit to validate the account. If they are unable to prove the account is accurate within 30 days it will be removed from your report.

Improve Your Credit Score

A low credit score can prevent you from being approved for a home loan. Most lenders require at least a 620 credit score to qualify, your credit rating will also directly impact the interest rate you receive on a loan. Before applying you should work on improving your FICO score.

Pay Down Credit Card Balances

Your credit utilization ratio is the amount of credit you are using. For example: If you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit and your balance is $6,000 then your credit utilization ratio is 60%, which is very high and will negatively impact your score.

Try to pay your credit card balances to below 25% of the credit limit. This will ensure you get approved and get the lowest interest rate possible.

Negotiate with Creditors to have Collection Accounts Removed

If you have unpaid collection accounts on your report you should contact the creditor and negotiate a pay for delete. A pay for delete is an agreement between you and the creditor that they will remove the negative account once you have paid the account balance. Just paying off collection accounts does not improve your score, to improve it you must get the account removed from your report entirely.

4. Get Pre-Approved

Before you start going out to look at homes with a realtor, you need to get pre-approved. In fact, most realtors will not start showing you homes until you have one.

The pre-approval process is fairly quick and requirements just a few documents. Just contact a lender, you will need to have some w2’s, paycheck stubs, recent bank statements taxes returns.

A loan officer will pull your credit to ensure you qualify credit-wise. If you meet the minimum requirements a pre-approval letter showing how much you’re approved for will be issued immediately.

Being pre-approved is different than being pre-qualified. Pre qualified just means a buyer may meet the minimum credit requirements of the loan, however credit is not checked and income and asset documents are not required.

A pre-approval means that a mortgage lender checked your credit and verified income documents. Most sellers will not accept a pre-qualification letter.

5. Shop Rates from Multiple Lenders

One of the biggest mistakes homebuyers, especially first-time home buyers make is not comparing loan quotes from other lenders. Interest rates and lender fees will vary lender to lender. Shopping for the best rates and lowest closing costs can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a loan.

Shop and Compare Rates and Loan Quotes

6. Search for a Home

Searching for a home is the easy part, and the most fun. There are several sites you can use to browse the available homes in the areas you’re interested in.

A real estate agent will also be able to send you MLS listings, most homes for sale will be listed on sites like Zillow, and, but the MLS will have every available property.

7. Visit Open Houses and Tour Homes

While looking through the available homes for sale you should mark the ones you are interested in looking at. Your realtor will be able to take you on a tour of each home, generally they prefer to set a day aside and show you all of the homes in a single day.

You can visit an open house on your own, without your agent. Open houses will be on Saturday and Sunday and do not require an appointment. Try going to some open homes even if you’re not thinking about living in the neighborhood, or the home

8. Hire an Experienced Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent helps guide you through the home buying process from start to finish. It’s important to know that a realtor is not paid directly from the buyer, their commission is paid by the seller. Not having an agent will not save you a dime.

9. Submitting an Offer on a Home

When you find the home you wish to purchase you will need to submit your home offer. Your agent will prepare the offer and negotiate on your behalf. If you’re seeking for the seller to help you with the closing costs that need to be included in the offer.

10. Get a Home Inspection

A home inspection is typically not required by the lender but is strongly recommended. An inspection runs around $300-$500. The inspector will carefully go through everything from the roof to electrical components if there are any issues they will be outlined in the inspection report.

You can ask the seller to fix the issues prior to closing and gives you extra negotiating power. Without an inspection, you face a possibility of large repair costs down the road that you will be responsible for.

11. The Home Appraisal

A home appraisal is required by lenders to determine the fair market value of a property. If the property does not apprise for at least the purchase price you will need to renegotiate a lower price with the seller.

The buyer pays the home appraisal fee a few weeks before closing, the cost ranges between $300-$800 depending on the size and market value of the home.

The Bottom Line…

Buying a house doesn’t need to be an intimidating process. As long as you follow the advice in this article.

Find out your credit score and work on improving it. Remember to compare loan quotes and rates from at least 3 lenders, and hire an experienced realtor.

  • Find out how much house you can afford
  • Determine how much you need for a down payment
  • Check your credit score
  • Get pre-approved
  • Get loan quotes from 3-4 lenders
  • Search for a home
  • Find a reputable real estate agent
  • Visit open houses and tour homes
  • Submit an offer
  • Get a home inspection
  • The home appraisal

Are you ready to start the home buying process?

Get started today by speaking to our lenders