First-Time Home Buyer’s Checklist

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First-time home buyers often have more questions than those who have gone through the process before. What home features and neighborhood characteristics should they look for? What can they afford? Are they ready to be homeowners? According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, 45% of all buyers are first-time buyers and 63% of first-time buyers are millennials. As a Zillow Premier Agent, you’ll have real-time visibility into the homes your clients are searching for, viewing and saving.

Agents typically bring a sample home-buying checklist to each open house and offer to email a copy to buyers (a great way to exchange contact information). Some agents also host first-time home-buying seminars at their brokerage and use this handout as an incentive to attend.

Here are the topics you can go over with clients in our new home buyer’s checklist:

Make sure you’re (really) ready

  • You have a stable job.
  • You can see yourself living in the same town for the next 5-10 years.
  • You’re prepared for the extra work that comes with homeownership.

Create your home wish list

  • Determine what’s most important to have right now — e.g., location, number of bedrooms, a yard.
  • Check out different neighborhoods, home styles and listings online to get a feel for what’s most important to you.

Figure out what you can afford

  • Request your credit report from all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Fix any errors right away.
  • Determine a down payment amount (ideally 20% to avoid paying private mortgage insurance).
  • Calculate how much you’ll need in an emergency fund for unexpected maintenance or repair costs.

Gather the necessary documents

  • Collect proof of employment, including pay stubs and past tax returns.
  • Print out bank and investment account statements from the past 90 days.
  • Compile your previous addresses and current landlord’s contact information.

Research mortgages

  • Request quotes from multiple lenders and comparison shop for loans.
  • Get pre-qualified for a loan (many sellers won’t even consider a bid unless you’re pre-qualified).
  • Obtain a pre-approval letter (this requires a credit and background check, but it can make you a stronger candidate).

Assemble your team

  • Find a real estate agent you trust and communicate well with (check out agent profiles on Zillow and Trulia).
  • Ask a friend or family member for second opinions as you go through the buying process.


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