My First 7 Steps Toward Buying My Dream Home

The act of buying a home can truly feel like you’re scaling a mountain.

I know because I just went through it — successfully — and lived to write this blog!

Although it isn’t my first time buying a home, it was my first time buying one all on my own.

As a seasoned mortgage broker, I knew all about the loan process, from getting pre-qualified for a home loan to applying for the loan, securing the financing, and moving through to the closing process.

What I wasn’t that familiar with, however, was what a lot of my clients consider the sometimes grueling, but really fun part! SHOPPING for a home!

Along the way, I gained a window into what my clients experience after they get pre-qualified with me and hit the listings.

I began journaling about my home-buying process, and I realized that sharing it might be valuable advice if you’re looking to become a homeowner in 2021.

This month, I’m sharing the first 7 steps I used in my recent home-buying experience.

If you’re looking to get on a path to homeownership this year (or anytime!), these steps can help give you the roadmap you need to get on your way.

#1: Set Your Goal

When you know you want to buy and own a home, the only natural place to begin is by setting your goal. But setting a goal is one thing, figuring out how you’re going to achieve your goal is quite another.

For me, thinking about my goal and working toward achieving it was all about transforming my mindset. Once I decided I wanted to become a homeowner again, I did a few things that would help me naturally keep my goal in the forefront of my mind.

I made a vision board that illustrated my goal of being a homeowner and helped me feel empowered to go the distance in the process. Here’s a great resource on how to make a vision board for your goals.

I came up with personal affirmations I could repeat to myself when I needed to and help myself become more confident in making my homeownership goal a reality. Some of these included:

  • I am a happy homeowner. 
  • I do not blow money on things I do not need. 
  • I am a great budgeter. 
  • I save money. 
  • I am debt-free. 
  • I am responsible with my money.

To help with my affirmations, I even changed some of my passwords to remind me of my goal (i.e. “Homeowner2021,” “SavemoneyNow2021,” “DoIReallyNeedThat2021,” and others). These especially came in handy to stave off online shopping!

I also let trusted family and friends know that I was saving to buy a home and asked them to be my accountability partners, which helped me stay on track in my savings.

#2: Make Your Plan

Setting your goal is a great first step. But as we’ve all likely heard at least once in our lives:

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

It was time to dig deep and make a PLAN for achieving my goal. This included:

  • Making a plan to pay off debts
  • Making a plan to make more money
  • Making a plan to save

I had to get real about what I was doing or else this really would just remain a wish.

I began budgeting. I tracked my income, my bills, my discretionary income, and how much I planned to save week to week and month to month. I used a simple notepad to write down all of my spending down for 2 weeks and when I was done, I took a hard look at it and found areas to trim down.

This step is hard, but it’s about getting real with your income and expenses. When you’re tempted to buy something, ask yourself “Do I really need this? Or do I just want it?”

And if you put the money you were planning to spend into your home savings account, how much closer to your goal would you be?

For budgeting, you can use my personal monthly budget worksheet to help make sense of your dollars in and dollars out. There are also tons of planners and worksheets out there you can customize and make work for you.

#3: Stay Flexible 

Just as you’ve heard “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” You might have also heard this quote:

“Be stubborn about your goals, but flexible about your methods.”

There will be setbacks on your path toward homeownership. This is almost certainly a given. The key is not letting them crush your goal and adjusting your plan when the unexpected happens.

Two years ago, my Grandmother became ill and passed away. I was very close with her, so this was a big change in my life and in my plan. I had to re-adjust.

The COVID-19 pandemic was most definitely not in my plan. But I had to learn how to adjust.

I began using DoorDash a LOT, which as you can imagine, was not good for my budget. I had to re-adjust.

It’s important to maintain focus on your goal of homeownership and on doing the things you need to do to get there while staying flexible in how you get there.

#5: Get Pre-Qualified

Before you even begin looking at home, it’s important to get pre-qualified. This helps you understand how much house you can afford.

The pre-qualification process involves:

  • Verifying pay stubs, W-2s, credit, and bank statements
  • Completing a 2-year job and address history
  • Filling out a loan application

Getting pre-qualified also naturally aligns with your budgeting and financial preparation steps to purchase a home. It’s important to stop and review where you are now financially, fix any credit issues, make budget adjustments, and save before you begin shopping the market for a home.

#6: Find Your Trusted Advisor, Your Realtor

Next, it was time to find my trusted advisor who could help me through the process of finding the home that would become the largest purchase of my life. It was time to find my realtor.

Now, there are lots of realtors out there. And, in fact, you might even have a friend or a family member who is a realtor. That’s great!

BUT...it’s important to remember that you need an expert in your corner.

Buying a home is an emotional process and you need someone who can take out the emotions and bring logic into the process. You need someone who can help you make a smart choice. Your realtor can also help you understand the real estate market in your community, knows the neighborhoods, understands your wants and needs in a new home, and is committed to helping you find what you’re looking for.

If this person turns out to be your family member or friend who is a realtor, excellent! But don’t be afraid to go with someone who has more experience, is a known real estate expert in your community, and has a great track record of fighting for his or her clients. This choice may strain some relationships, but in the long run, you need to do what is best for you on your path to meeting your homeownership goal.

#7: Get Clear About What You Want and Start Touring Homes

As you begin working with your realtor, you’ll no doubt discuss your wants and needs in a home. Go a little deeper and define what that looks like.

Are there features you want that are “must-haves?” Features that would be “nice to have?”

Describe your vision in a home for your realtor. Help them picture what you picture when you think about your dream home.

Having these conversations will ensure your realtor knows exactly what you’re looking for and how to prioritize your wants and needs along the search.

When you’re ready to start touring homes, keep these tips in mind:

  • Photos May Outshine the Listing - A great photo filter may make a less-than-desirable room look amazing when, in reality, it’s not. See the homes in person!
  • Bring a Notebook - Take notes and, better yet, bring the listing information sheets along to each home you’re touring. Take notes of pros and cons with each home you tour to keep your feedback organized for reference later.
  • Take Photos - Take your own photos to have a clear record of homes you toured. If there’s extra special features you want to keep in mind, be sure you shoot those as well!
  • Rate Your Homes - Rate each home you see from 10 (your DREAM home!) to 1 (not so much) and rank them in a group. This will help you in your decision-making.
  • Lean on Your Realtor - Eventually, home-shopping can get frustrating, especially when you feel like you’re not finding what you’re looking for. Lean on your realtor who has an excellent idea of what you want (if you’ve had the right conversation) and has insider knowledge on homes not yet listed, but may be coming available.

These were the first 7 steps I used — and found success with! — on my path toward owning my dream home.

Next month, I’ll share my tips and experience from the time I submitted the offer on my dream home (it was accepted!), secured my loan, survived inspections and the appraisal process, and made it to closing!

Searching for Your Dream Home? I Can Help You Secure Your Loan!

Is 2021 your year to buy? If you’re on your path toward homeownership, I can help you get pre-qualified and secure a loan for your dream home. Reach out to me anytime at 480-313-7103 or sam@mindfulmoneyusa.com.