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Your comprehensive home buying checklist: A step-by-step guide

For many, buying a home is a momentous occasion – the culmination of years of sacrifice and hard work. While purchasing a place can be exciting, it can also come with feelings of trepidation and nervousness. This could be due to the fact that buying a home is a large financial investment, and the process is new and a little unknown.

To help break down the steps, we've created a comprehensive checklist to explain and guide you through each stage.

Assess your finances

Before you get too carried away with looking at properties and planning your new life, it's important to determine a budget and a realistic price range. While it can be tempting to go for a more expensive property, it's important to consider your financial situation and ensure that you can comfortably afford the mortgage payments. There are many online tools available to help you figure out how much you can afford and what the best deals are at the time. You'll need to save for a deposit (usually 10 percent of the property price), plus consider additional costs such as settlement fees, insurance, and maintenance costs.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Getting pre-approval is a good way to know how much you can borrow. Research and compare mortgage lenders, then once you've found one you like, gather the necessary financial documents to proceed. Your lender should be able to walk you through this step, gathering the information required to make an accurate assessment. Once pre-approved, you'll have a better understanding of what properties are within your budget and can confidently make an offer when the right property comes along.

Know what you want

Create a list of essential features your new home must have. This could include items such as an ensuite, a large backyard, or proximity to schools and public transport. Knowing what you want can help narrow down your property search and make the decision-making process easier. Differentiate between needs and wants to prioritise your preferences. You may need to compromise on some wants to stay within your budget, but try not to compromise on the essential features that are non-negotiable for you and your family.

Research neighbourhoods

Each neighbourhood is a little different, so it's important to research different areas and get a feel for the local community. Consider factors such as crime rates, school zones, public transport availability, commute times, and amenities like shops and parks. Think about your lifestyle and what kind of neighbourhood would suit you best. Do you want a quiet suburban area or a bustling inner-city? The internet can also be handy for finding lived-experience opinions on a suburb. Take your time to explore different neighbourhoods before making a decision on the location of your new home and remember to visit potential areas during different times of the day. Some areas may seem idyllic during the day but can be noisy or unsafe at night.

Start house hunting

Make a shortlist of properties that meet your criteria and start inspecting them. Look beyond the cosmetic aspects of the house such as paint colours and focus on important structural features like foundation, roof, windows, plumbing, and electrical systems. Ask the real estate agent any questions you may have about the place while you're there, or send them an email afterwards. It can be easy to forget the details of a place, especially if you're looking at multiple properties a day, so you may also like to take notes and photos during your inspections to help with comparisons later.

Make an offer

Once you've found a place you like within your price range, it's time to make an offer. Work with the real estate agent to determine a competitive but reasonable offer to be presented to the owners. Be prepared for negotiations and consider contingencies. For example, you can ensure the property sale is subject to finance or building and pest, which means you can change your mind or renegotiate if any issues arise during these processes. Keep in mind, if you're buying at auction, there's no cooling-off period and you must be ready to commit on the spot if your bid is successful.

Property inspections

Once your offer has been accepted, you'll likely want to complete a number of inspections to ensure the property is sound. This could include a building inspection and a pest inspection. A building inspection will check for any structural issues or potential problems with the property, such as water damage, A pest inspection will check for any unwanted inhabitants like termites, rodents, or other critters that could cause damage to the property. Review the inspection report and negotiate a lower price with the owner if necessary.

Secure financing and legal assistance

Finalise your mortgage application with your lender. This is where you'll need to have all your financial documents ready, including proof of income, assets and liabilities. Your lender should go through the application process with you and request any additional documents required. Remember to enlist the help of a conveyancer or solicitor who can review the contract and handle all legal aspects of the purchase on your behalf. They'll be able to assist you with getting all your ducks in a row for settlement day. Your conveyancer or solicitor should handle most of the paperwork and explain any legal jargon, so don't be afraid to ask questions if you're unsure about anything.

Close the deal

Now it's time to close the deal! This means exchanging contracts with the seller, reviewing and signing the closing documents, and transferring funds for closing costs. Your conveyancer or solicitor will typically handle the transfer of funds and ensure all the necessary paperwork is signed. Once all necessary documents have been signed and funds have been transferred, your new property will officially be yours! Congratulations on becoming a homeowner!

Move-in and settle

There are a few more tasks to complete before you can settle into your new home. Coordinate with movers, change your address, set up utilities, and familiarise yourself with your new surroundings. Don't forget to update your insurance, keep copies of all important documents and warranties, and of course, establish a maintenance schedule for your home to keep it in tip-top shape. Enjoy your new home and the journey of homeownership.

Navigating the homebuying process can be daunting, but with a comprehensive checklist, you can stay organised and make informed decisions. From assessing your finances to settling into your new home, take each step as it comes and try not to get overwhelmed by how much there is to be done. By following this guide, you'll be well-equipped to embark on a successful home buying journey. Remember, patience and diligence are key as you work towards making this significant life investment.