Buying a house checklist

Homebuying checklist: your step-by-step guide to buying a new home.

Congratulations on taking the first step to becoming a new homeowner! Regardless of whether you’re buying a brand-new home or a previously owned home, this checklist will help you get a jump start on the homebuying process and keep you on track. Explore the major homebuying steps below, and check off your progress along the way.

  • Familiarize yourself with your finances. Before you start looking for a home, it’s important to know how much you can afford, and how much you want to spend. Take a look at your existing spending and income, and determine what your monthly budget should be. In addition, determine how much you want to save for a down payment or how much you’re willing to contribute from your current savings for a down payment. Get started with our finance calculators.
  • Gather all of the right documents. There’s usually a significant amount of documentation required for financing the purchase of a home. Probably more than you would initially expect. However, the volume of paperwork required is actually incredibly beneficial for everyone involved. Based on the materials you provide, your loan officer can provide you with the best options available to you specifically, and more quickly progress you to the loan approval process, bringing you one step closer to home ownership.
  • Get prequalified and explore mortgage options. While prequalification is not a mandatory step, it’s highly recommended. Getting prequalified shows sellers you’re serious about buying a home, and they may be more willing to work with you and accept your offer over other competing offers. Also, it’s a great way to validate the budget you originally set, and it can officially determine just how much home you can comfortably afford. At this stage, you’ll also be able to figure out which loan type will be best for you.
  • Create your “ideal home” wish list. Now that you know just how much home you can afford, you can create your “ideal home” wish list. Make a list of everything you’ve ever wanted in your new home, including size, location, and design options. Also make sure to consider what you absolutely don’t want in your new home. Sort everything into two categories:
    • “Must-have” features: These are non-negotiable requirements for your house. While it may narrow down some of your purchasing options, it’s important to know these requirements before you buy rather than discovering it the hard way later. Here are some thought starters to get you going:
      • Single-story or two story-home?
      • Number of bedrooms?
      • Number of bathrooms?
      • Is school district important?
      • How much square footage do you require?
      • Are there any neighborhoods that you’d love to live in?
      • How soon would you like to move in? What’s your realistic timeline?
      • How far are you willing to commute to work/school/extended family?
    • “Don’t want” features: These are options that you absolutely don’t want in a home, under any circumstances. For some, it’s a two-story floorplan. For others, it could be a pool. Your “don’t want” list is just as important as your “must-have” wish list.
  • Research homes and communities Now, it’s time to find the right community and home for you. Consider important factors, like the quality of area schools, how well-kept the community is, area crime reports, shopping and dining options nearby, commute times, and what area growth looks like.

If you’re looking at building a new home, be sure to research the quality and reputation of a homebuilder with a site like Avid Ratings.

Once you’ve narrowed down your selection, go visit the communities and the homes. Drive through the neighborhoods at different times of the morning, day and night, and take note of what the areas looks like. Also, talk to people in the area to get a feel for what they think are the pros and cons of the communities. Some communities even offer home tours. Here’s what you can expect during a Meritage home tour

Determine if you’re working with or without an agent.

Some buyers choose to work with a real estate agent, while others choose not to. It’s all a matter of preference. Working with a real estate agent may be beneficial for answering questions and submitting paperwork for first-time homebuyers or anyone who would prefer more expert advice. However, there are advantages to working without one, like not having a “middle man” and being able to talk directly to the seller, or not having to pay commissions or extra processing fees. No matter what, if you choose to work with an agent, they should represent your best interests, not their own or the seller’s interests.

When buying a Meritage Home, it’s not necessary to work with an agent, but we welcome them, work closely with them and even have a rewards program called Agents Rock, if you prefer to work with one.

Apply for a home mortgage loan.

Once you’ve done your homework and found the home you want to make an offer on, it’s time to apply for a loan. Some builders work with a preferred lender, which can translate to a more seamless experience for the buyer. Once you know which lender you’ll be working with, contact them with the address of the home you’d like to buy, the price you can offer, and how much you want to contribute to the down payment.

Close on your new home.

Congratulations! It’s time to make your dream of homeownership a reality. After all negotiations have been made and your offer is accepted, it’s time to close. Reserve about an hour and a half for the process. At closing, you’ll sign all the final paperwork necessary to get the keys. This is also when you will need to set up a wire transfer for the downpayment and any other closing funds.

Now that you know the major milestones, you can continue on to Chapter 2: Buying vs. Renting a Home, or see how you can get pre-qualified today by filling out a short questionnaire.

Pictures and other images are representative and may depict or contain floor plans, square footages, elevations, options, upgrades, landscaping, furnishings, appliances, and designer/decorator features and amenities that are not included as part of the home and/or may not be available in all communities. All estimates and claims related to energy savings/performance are created exclusively by third party suppliers, rating services, utility companies, and/or certified auditors, based on DOE methodology and average energy use and scores. Actual energy savings/performance of any home or any of its features may vary widely, depending in part on location, occupant behavior and changes in energy provider rates and programs. Home, pricing, features, and community information is subject to change, and homes to prior sale, at any time without notice or obligation. Not an offer or solicitation to sell real property. Offers to sell real property may only be made and accepted at the sales center for individual Meritage Homes communities. Meritage Homes®, Meritage Active Adult, and Monterey Homes are trademarks of Meritage Homes Corporation. 

The foregoing information is provided solely for general information purposes and is not intended in any way as financial, securities, insurance, tax, or legal advice or services. Each potential homebuyer may have unique financial and other considerations that may be important to any home buying, financing or related decision. Accordingly, Meritage does not assume any duty or liability in providing the foregoing information and expressly disclaims all representations and warranties of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to such information. Potential homebuyers that desire additional information or guidance tailored to their specific situation should contact a relevant professional. Location information obtained from public sources and believed to be correct, but Meritage makes no representation or warranty with respect thereto.