1. Start with your credit.Credit reports are kept by the three major credit agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.  A low credit score may hurt your chances for getting the best interest rate, or getting financing at all. So get a copy of your reports and know your credit scores.   Applying for credit, even if you don’t use it can also hurt your score, so try not to apply for any additional credit for at least 6 months before purchasing a home.  Be sure to address any errors on your credit report and document any efforts that you have made to correct those errors as a mortgage officer will want that paperwork.
  1. Set your budget. Next, you need to determine how much house you can afford. Meet with a Mortgage broker or a loan officer to be pre-approved by a lender. They will look at your income, debt, and credit to determine the kind of loan and what type of payment you can afford.  The size of your down payment will also determine how much you can afford.
  1. Save your pennies.You’ll need to come up with cash for your down payment and closing costs. Lenders usually like to see a minimum 20% of the home’s price as a down payment. If you can put down more than that, the lender may be willing to approve a larger loan or provide you with a better interest rate.  If you have less, there are various private and public agencies — including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration and the and the Department of Veterans Affairs that will provide low down payment mortgages through banks and mortgage companies. If you qualify, it’s possible to pay as little as 3% up front.  Once you’ve considered the down payment, make sure you’ve got enough to cover fees and closing costs. These may include the appraisal fee, loan fees, attorney’s fees, inspection fees, and the cost of a title search. They can easily add up to $5,000 to $10,000 — and often run to 5% of the mortgage amount.
  1. Find an agent: Most sellers will list their homes for sale through an agent.  But be aware that those agents work for the seller, not you. You need a buyer’s agent.   Get in touch with a Real Estate Agent that you are comfortable with and that can help you find the home that is best for your personal situation.  A buyer’s agent has the same access to homes for sale that a seller’s agent does, but their loyalty lays with you, not the seller.
  1. Search for a home. Your first step here is to figure out what city or neighborhood you want to live in. Try also to get an idea about the real estate market in the area. For example, if homes are selling close to or even above the asking price, that indicates a desirable area.  Consider house hunting in the off-season or during the colder months of the year. You’ll have less competition and sellers may be more willing to negotiate
  1. Make an offer. Once you find the house you want, it is time to make your bid. When working with a buyer’s broker, get advice from him or her on an initial offer. Try to line up comparable data on at least three houses that have sold recently in the area.  If you really want the house, don’t lowball the offer.   The seller may give up in disgust. Remember, that your leverage depends on the pace of the market. In a slow market, you’ve got muscle; in a hot market, you may have none at all.  Once you reach an agreed upon price, the seller’s agent will draw up an offer to purchase that includes an estimated closing date (usually 45 to 60 days from acceptance of the offer
  1. Enter contract. Have your buyer’s agent review this document to make sure the deal is contingent upon:
    1. your obtaining a mortgage
    2. a home inspection that shows no significant defects
    3. a guarantee that you may conduct a walk-through inspection 24 hours before closing.

You also need to make a good-faith deposit — usually 1% to 10% of the purchase price — that should be deposited        into an escrow account. The seller will receive this money after the deal has closed. If the deal falls through, you          will get the money back only if you or the home failed any of the contingency clauses.

  1. Secure a loan.Now call your mortgage broker or lender and submit your formal mortgage application.  Be sure to include the information from your preapproval as you want the process to be as streamlined as possible.
  1. Get an inspection: In addition to the appraisal that the mortgage lender will make of your home, you should hire your own home inspector. An inspection costs about $300, on average, and could cost up to $1,000.  Be sure that you ask to be there during the inspection.  This will allow you to learn a lot about your house.   If the inspector turns up major problems, like a roof that needs to be replaced, then ask your buyer’s agent to discuss it with the seller.  You will either want the seller to fix the problem before you move in, or deduct the cost of the repair from the final price. If the seller won’t agree to either remedy you may decide to walk away from the deal, which you can do without penalty as long as you have that contingency written into the contract.
  1. Close the deal. About two days before the actual closing, you will receive a final HUD Settlement Statement from your lender that lists all the charges you can expect to pay at closing. Review it carefully as it will detail all of the closing costs you will be required to pay at the closing.  It should also detail all expenses that you have already paid including inspections, application fees etc.  The actual closing is somewhat anticlimactic, but your buyer’s agent can brief you on the particulars.

Let your local Realtor at Thomas D. Brown Real Estate help you find and buy your dream home!

Information gathered from http://money.cnn.com/pf/money-essentials-home-buying/