Remember that real estate professionals can be helpful guides. As a rule, they have a thorough knowledge of local markets and maintain important contacts, like inspectors and closing agents. They normally work with you during home buying from beginning to end, so they’re in a good position to answer questions or help you keep up with the details.

Once you’re down to the short list of homes you’re considering, do some investigating — inside and out. Check it out from top to bottom, from the roof to the foundation. Finding problems up front may help you reach a better purchase price or re-think your decision. If you know all the details, you can also protect your investment and guard against extra expenses and disappointments later on. For a thorough evaluation, you may want to hire a professional inspector.

Once you’ve chosen a home, you need to make a purchase offer. This involves a formal purchase agreement, which your real estate professional or closing agent can help you negotiate. You should read the document carefully and understand every detail. After you sign it and make your down payment, the agreement is binding.

At any time during house hunting, you can decide what kind of mortgage you need, although the best time is when you prequalify. This decision may not be easy because there are so many different kinds of mortgages to choose from.

This variety is actually a very good thing. It means you have a lot of options you can use to your advantage. Your mortgage specialist can help you find a solution that works for you.

A mortgage can be tailored to your personal situation:
• Your budget now and how you expect it to change
• How long you expect to stay in your home
• How much time you need to pay off your loan

This is just the beginning. You should also explore special features to your mortgage, like Rate Locks and Float Down Options. These options can safeguard you from dramatic changes in interest rates. Buydowns can temporarily lower your interest rate and your monthly payments.

The final step of the mortgage process is closing or settlement. This process can seem unsettling and mysterious. But once you learn a little more about it, you’ll see it’s very straightforward. Closing is the time when all your home-buying plans come together. By this point, you’ve decided how much you can afford, selected your new home, have been approved for a mortgage and finalized the deal with the seller.

Several people are involved:
• You (and your attorney, should you choose to employ one)
• Your mortgage lending team
• The seller
• Real estate professionals
• Closing agent

The closing agent will be an especially important part of making your purchase final. For help in hiring a closing agent, just ask your mortgage specialist.

Once everyone is ready for closing, this is generally what you need to do:
• Choose a date, time and place for closing
• Perform a walk-through, or “white-glove inspection,” of your home to make sure any problems have been noticed and resolved. Your real estate professional may join you
• Sign the legal documents to complete the sale
• Settle your upfront financial obligations with everyone involved

Your mortgage specialist will provide a Good Faith Estimate of your closing costs after you apply. Then your closing agent will send you an overview of all your expenses and the exact amount you will need for closing.

Wherever you are on the journey to becoming a homeowner, make sure you are working with a mortgage or real estate professional. They can help you make the dream of homeownership a reality while avoiding a money pit. You have a lot to consider when you begin the process of looking for a home, but when you have all the right tools, it can be the most rewarding decision of your life.