Financial Advice

Buying a Home: The Basics

Read our simple roadmap for buying your first home: how to prioritize the process, calculate what you can afford, work with real estate professionals and narrow down your search.

Published Dec 13, 2013 | Updated Feb 16, 2024

Involve the family

Long before you start driving neighborhoods and touring model homes, you should get input from everyone affected by the move. Begin with a family meeting to talk about everyone’s wants and needs. Discuss things like schools, neighborhood amenities, desired commute time, and proximity to shopping and doctors. What does each person like and dislike in the current residence? And, if you have to choose some things over others, what are the most important criteria to each person?


It’s the rare family that finds a home that fulfills every item on every family member’s wish list. It’s important to understand the difference between:

  • Needs: What are the non-negotiable items? The things we must have or we will not buy the house.
  • Wants: What are the things that would be nice to have, but we could live without?

This list will help you evaluate one home over another. If both have all of your needs, but one has more of the things you want, the choice is easier.

Know What You Can Afford

Before you spend a lot of time shopping, it makes sense to find out how much home you can afford. By getting pre-qualified for a loan, you know your budget and can make the most of your shopping time. In addition, sellers take pre-approved buyers more seriously when it’s time to make an offer. They don’t have to worry that, if they accept your offer, you won’t be able to qualify for a loan. Click here to spend less than 20 minutes to apply and receive a loan decision. You can check rates, learn about all our loan products, and one of our Loan Officers will contact you within 24 hours to discuss your needs and potential solutions

Start Shopping!

Driving around neighborhoods that appear to match your needs is the next step. Take a look at the condition of the homes and yards. Check out the area amenities. Playgrounds, pools, biking trails, traffic patterns and lot sizes should be discussed. The commute to work in both time and hassle should be considered. Talk next about the social aspects of the area. Are you interested in a close knit neighborhood with lots of interaction? Or do you hope to come home to quiet and solitude? What about children in the area: would you like to see playmates for your children, or are you at a point in life where you really don't want bicycles on the sidewalks? Does a new community with newer homes appeal to you, or do you want the settled feel of a more mature neighborhood? At this stage, the specifics of the home are not as important as determining the overall lifestyle you want to create.

Get Professional Advice

Buying a home without a real estate agent can be completely overwhelming. A real estate agent’s job is to help you find the home that best meets your needs, wants and budget. They guide you through the process, from comparing prospective properties, to negotiating the offer on your behalf, to making sure all the necessary paperwork is ready for loan closing.