Home Buying: Step-By-Step Checklist for First-Time Buyers

When you’re buying a house for the first time, it’s crucial you do your homework and think things through. A house is a significant investment. More importantly, it will also be your future home. The place has to, ideally, be comfortable and have all the amenities you and your family need to thrive and be happy in.

All homebuyers in Georgia typically follow the same process – getting a mortgage, finding a house, and closing. The Rhonda Smith team breaks it all down for you here in a checklist format. You can follow this process to buy a new home (with some minor variations):

Are you prepared? 

First and foremost, ask yourself if you’re prepared to buy a new home. Being a homeowner is like holding down a long-term job. It requires commitment and dedication. It involves financial responsibility. You need a good credit score – 620 for conventional loans, according to Business Insider. You need to be prepared to maintain your home. You need to make regular payments.

Know how much home you can afford first

Instead of going house hunting first, know how much home you can realistically afford. Get an overview of your finances. Check your debt-to-income ratio. Your finances will determine how much mortgage you can apply for and, consequently, how much home you can afford.

Do you already have a dream house in mind? Or would you like to own a property in a particular neighborhood, say Lake Oconee in Madison, Georgia? With an online calculator, you can conduct an informal home appraisal and come up with a figure for how much that home (or a home in the neighborhood) might cost.

Create a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves 

All homeowners have needs and wants. Needs are amenities that you absolutely can’t do without – say a first-floor bathroom, an expansive kitchen, or a backyard. Wants are optional luxuries – think gourmet kitchens, fitness rooms, and guest bedrooms. Look for houses that tick the most boxes.

Get preapproved 

Getting preapproved, as Earnest can confirm, is a good idea. Not only does it give you a realistic budget, but it also helps you to stand out amongst other buyers who may be interested in the same house. It shows the owner you’re serious and can close quickly.

Start looking, based on your budget 

Next, it’s time to start looking. This can take a few weeks. Arrange a few house viewings, visit, and get a feel for the house owner.

  • Use experienced real estate agents: Good agents can help you find good houses quickly, within your budget, and with all the amenities you need. Finding houses yourself is also possible, but can take longer.  
  • Inspect and double-check: If you do like a house, it’s a good idea to double-check the home to see if everything is in order. Watch out for signs of disrepair, mold, or other problems you may need to fix later (out of your own pocket). You could do this visually. Consider organizing a second viewing if you have to.  

Follow the process

Think you’ve found the perfect home? Here’s what the purchase process will look like:

  • Make an offer and negotiate: Make an offer on the home. If it’s a buyer’s market, you may be able to negotiate a good price. Offer low and meet them in the middle. Research the market, keep the owner’s personality in mind, and ask your realtor for advice.
  • Get your loan processed: You will need to get your home loan processed. It takes a few weeks. Submit the documentation and wait for approval.
  • Have an official home appraisal and inspection: Home appraisals and inspections are part of the mortgage process. An official home appraiser will be appointed for you. They will check the property to see if it’s in good shape.
  • Get the title and insurance search done: A title and insurance search are also part of the process. This is to ensure everything is legal and above board.  
  • Negotiate repairs and upgrades: Depending on the appraisal report (and your personal preferences), some repairs or maintenance may be necessary with your new home. You may be able to negotiate these with the owner (or receive equivalent credits).
  • Close: Finally, it’s time to close the deal. There will be a great deal of paperwork. Hand over the down payment and pay closing costs. Last, but not least, get ready to move in!


Buying a house in Madison/Lake Oconee, Georgia can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. It takes a few weeks to find a home, have it appraised, and have the home loan processed. You will also need some cash on hand, both for down payments as well as incidental expenses. Experienced realtors from ​​the Rhonda Smith Team can answer pertinent questions you may have and guide you through the process.

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Madison, GA 30650

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