There are many phases to buying a first home, so get professional advice, do your homework, and know what you want.
Step 1: Save and learn Save money by living with your parents to plan ahead and sock away some cash. Open a savings account, and don't touch this account for any other reason except buying your first home. Use the time to study real estate, deciding what you want and what your time frame is.
Step 2: Run credit report Get your credit report to have an accurate idea of whether you might qualify to buy a home. If you've had a bad year and might not qualify for a loan, find out now. Look for available first time home buyer programs while you're at it.
TIP: Look for loan subsidies in rural areas or inner cities, and find out if you can borrow from your 401k or take money from an IRA, and still escape the ten percent early withdrawal penalty.
Step 3: Get an agent Get a real estate agent when you're ready to look. Don't try to buy without advice from a professional. Make sure you are working with a licensed Realtor.
Step 4: Fill out papers Fill out required mortgage paperwork, and arrange to be pre-approved.
Step 5: Conduct home search Conduct a home search with clear ideas about the size, neighborhood, schools, parks, and commute you want. Decide ahead of time what kind of kitchen and back yard you need. On site, take detailed notes about features, colors, and design.
TIP: Limit your search to no more than 3 houses in a day. Viewing more than this can be confusing and you won't remember everything you've seen.
Step 6: Tour home again Return to the home most likely to fit your expectations and tour it again, with different, more critical eyes.
Step 7: Make the offer Make an offer with help from a Realtor when you're sure you want to buy the home. The Realtor will prepare a response to, or arrange changes for, your answer to the seller's inevitable counter offer.
TIP: Ask the seller to provide a home warranty for a 1-year service period. A covered defect or breakdown could be repaired at no cost to you.
Step 8: Contract inspection Hire an inspector to examine the structure and identify any needed repairs. Your purchase offer should be contingent upon your acceptance of this inspection.
Step 9: Take ownership Buy homeowners' insurance and bring your policy and a certified check covering any expense, like a down payment, to closing. Complete the transaction, usually with both buyer and seller present. Sign, and you're a homeowner!
FACT: A 2009 report from the National Association of Realtors announced that the number of first-time home buyers was nearly half of all home sales, the highest on record since 1981.