When home shopping in Nassau County on Long Island, there are a few steps to buying a house you should consider to help your home purchase run smoothly from the open house to the closing table.

Buying a house can be an exciting and overwhelming time. Whether you are searching for a new home for the first time or as a veteran home buyer, each time you buy it is a whole new process.

From how to buy a house, where to start looking, and obtaining financing, as a home buyer, you probably have a million questions.

This guide will go over what to do to buy a house and give you some great tips to help you become a homeowner on Long Island.

Start Researching

When you’re first starting out in the home buying process, you will likely start by researching online if you haven’t already. Searching through listings online, Long Island areas, and the different types of homes can help you get the process started. 

In the weeks and months to come, you’ll be faced with a lot of decisions. From your housing budget to which area you’d like to live in, doing a little research can help you make some of these decisions easier.

You’ll want to research what you might be able to afford, where you’d like to live, and your time frame for moving. These are all important steps to buying a home.

Get Your Finances In Order

When it comes to how to buy a house, one of the most crucial steps is getting your finances in order. No matter which area you choose on Long Island or what your budget is, you’ll need to know where you stand financially.

Getting your finances in order includes knowing how much money you have coming in and out, your expenses, how much you have saved, how much you earn, and how much you’d like to spend.

Before you even start working with a lender or bank, get these numbers in order. You can start by tracking your income and expenses at home. 

By tracking this information you’ll be able to tell how much you might be able to spend on a monthly housing payment.

A common rule of thumb is that your housing expenses shouldn’t be more than 28% of your income according to Investopedia

Get a Prequalification Letter

If you are buying a home in cash, this won’t apply to you but if you are obtaining mortgage financing, your lender will typically give you a prequalification letter.

To get this letter, your lender will run your credit score, look at your debt to income ratio, your credit history, and asses your net worth. All of these factors will go into how much financing you qualify for.

Before you start seriously looking for a home, you should do what you can to pay down your debts, bump up your credit score and save money. You can get a free credit report each year from the Federal Trade Commission.  

Downloading your free report will help you see where you stand in terms of debts and what you can pay down. You can also dispute anything that isn’t accurate. Remember that the higher your score, the lower your interest rate will be. 

The prequalification process shows realtors and home sellers that you are a serious buyer. It means your finances have been vetted and you know what your realistic home budget is.

Work With a Local Real Estate Agent

When you are ready to work with a local Long Island real estate professional, they can help you navigate through a lot of the next steps. From narrowing down your search area to helping you stay on budget, a real estate professional knows the local landscapes and has the most up to date data and information to guide you down the right path. 

Working with the right real estate agent is like working with a trusted teammate or partner. Your real estate agent will set up a custom MLS (multiple listing system) search for you, show you properties as soon as they hit the market, and help get you in to tour the homes you’re interested in. 

While shopping online for homes is great for researching, a real estate professional can help answer any questions you have regarding certain areas on Long Island, such as schools, transportation, or  anything else that is important to you.

Your real estate agent will be with you every step of the way while you search for and close on your new home. They are your guide through the entire process from searching to closing, everything in between, and even after closing.

Narrow Down Your Wish List

While almost every home buyer hopes to find their dream home within their budget, this may not always be completely realistic. 

When you’re shopping for a home, it can be helpful to make a list of what is most important to you in a home. 

Let’s say you have five children, for example, a home with a lot of bedrooms is likely a must. If you commute to Manhattan, walkability, and access to transportation is likely at the top of your list.

When you’re preparing to buy a home, think about what things you can’t live without in a home. Next, think about some things that would be nice to have but aren’t necessarily deal-breakers. 

Share this information with your realtor and they can help you filter out properties that won’t work for you. Your realtor may also show you listings you wouldn’t normally look at.

Remember to keep an open mind and enjoy the home shopping process. This is one of the most fun and exciting parts of buying a home.

Prepare to Move

As you are searching for a home, it is also a good time to prepare yourself to move.

Preparing to move may involve selling your current house, listing your home for rent, relocating, and of course, physically moving all of your belongings.

Moving can be a daunting process. Get a jump on moving while you’re still looking for a home by preparing yourself to move.

To get yourself ready, start researching movers, purge items you aren’t using anymore, donate things you don’t need, and clear out some of the clutter you don’t want to pack.

Doing a little extra work ahead of time will make moving a lot easier. You’ll be able to fully pack and organize yourself that much faster after a good purge.

Get Your House on the Market

If you are selling your home, it is important to get it on the market even while you search for a new home. You probably want to list it before you start house hunting, especially if you will need the money from the sale of your home in order to purchase your new home.  Don’t ever assume that your home will sell quickly.  Doing so can potentially put you in a position to have to settle for less that full market value on the sale of your home.

Work with your realtor on when the best time is to list your current home. In some areas of Long Island, your home might sell quickly, in others, it may take longer.  Ask your realtor what the average time on the market is for homes in your area, and with similar size and ammeneties. Get a jump on preparing for your new house hunt before listing your current home.

In the meantime, get your house ready to sell by making it show as well as possible.  

Hit The Pavement

One way to ensure you are actively trying to find your new home is by getting out and seeing houses. You may see twenty houses before finding the one for you. 

In order to find your dream home, you’ll need to get out with your realtor and start looking in person at homes that interest you. 

While browsing the internet is helpful, you’ll never fully get a sense of the house unless you get to it in person. 

Check Out Different Areas

There is a lot of ground to cover in the surrounding Nassau County area different areas are better suited for different homeowners.

Sometimes you might not know what area is best for you until you get out and see the city for yourself. Go walk the streets, take public transportation, check out a restaurant, and people watch.

The best way to learn about an area or know if it is the best fit for you is to get out and experience it for yourself. 

Friends, family, and neighbors are also great resources when trying to decide where to live. If you need help narrowing down a search area, talk with your realtor about what areas on Long Island might be best for you and why. 

Keep Saving

While you’re house hunting, one the of most important things you can do is to save money. Save, save and save some more.

To avoid paying private mortgage insurance also known as PMI, you’ll typically need to put 20% down on a house. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau defines private mortgage insurance as a protection for the lender in case you stop paying the loan. 

The longer you save, the more you’ll have to put down. A bigger down payment may put you in a much better position financially and could help keep your monthly mortgage payment down. 

Make An Offer

Once you’ve found the house for you, it is time to make an offer. Making an offer on a home is a big step. Out of all the homes on Long Island, you found the best option for you, or for you and your family.

While this is an exciting time, when you’re still in the offer and negotiation time period, remember that nothing is done yet. You and your realtor will need to come up with a fair offer price for your home. 

To get your offer price, your realtor will look at the value of the home, the home inspection, and comparable homes that have sold or are currently on the market. 

During the offer process, the seller may counter your offer. Know that this is normal and it doesn’t mean the deal won’t go through. You and your realtor will once again work together to come back with a number you’re comfortable with.

Negotiation time is also when contingencies for selling other properties are included, clauses regarding closing dates, or items that are or aren’t included in the home are noted.

Contingencies, Inspections, Clauses

During the offering process, you will likely also have your home inspection. During this time, you will have a professional home inspector come through the home and check for any major problems or damage. 

If this is your first time buying a home, don’t worry if even a new home comes back with a ten-page inspection report. It is the home inspector’s job to point out and go through everything thoroughly in the home.

Your inspection report will usually show items grouped by their importance. If a light switch isn’t secured all the way, for example, this is noted but it won’t be a deal-breaker.

If you’re looking at an older home, however, the inspection might reveal things you aren’t comfortable fixing such as bigger structural issues.

It is up to you how you handle the home inspection results. Some items you might be expecting while others may come as a shock.

During the negotiation process, you can typically ask for a credit to repair anything you’d like within reason. While you may not get everything you ask for, it might make you feel more comfortable if you ask. 

Close the Deal

Once your offer is accepted and you’ve worked out all of the details, it is time to close the deal. 

One of the most fun steps in getting your new house is getting the keys at your closing. When you buy your new home, you’ll officially be the homeowner of the home you’ve been searching for and working towards over the past weeks, months, or even years.

Your closing day is a big deal. While it is a time for celebration it’s also a time to buckle down and make sure everything is in order.

From home inspections, home repairs, legal documents, and mortgage paperwork, there is a lot that can go into that final closing on your new home.

Typically, you’ll have your down payment, your mortgage, your insurance, and all of your mortgage documents prior to closing.

Once you’re at the closing table, prepare to sign a lot of documents. The seller may or may not be present but both of your real estate agents, real estate attorneys, and the title loan officer will be there.  

If you don’t know anything about closing on a home, don’t panic. Your realtor, your lender, and your real estate attorney will walk you through everything you need to know to prepare for your closing.

Steps to Buying a House 101

There may be a lot of steps to buying a house but there is also a lot of fun and excitement along the way. From starting your journey shopping online to finally getting your new set of keys, home buying is one of the big milestones in life. 

Touring homes, going to open houses, saving money, getting a loan, and making that first offer is all a part of the home buying journey.

The Long Island real estate market is a busy one.

If you’re ready to call Long Island, New York home, fill out the contact form here to start working with a professional realtor and take the first step towards your new home. 

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