There’s plenty to look forward to as a first-time home buyer, from browsing houses online to touring prospective neighborhoods. But after the initial excitement of deciding to take the plunge, what comes next? How long will it be before you’re picking out paint colors and introducing yourself to the neighbors?

first time home buyers checklist - couple

We have put together the infographic below to help you understand what to expect as you make your way from house-hunt to moving day. (You can click here if you want to jump to it right away.)

Here is the checklist for first-time home buyers in brief:

  • Determine how much you can afford
  • Get pre-approved
  • Search for a home
  • Find a real estate agent
  • Visit open houses and tour homes
  • Submit an offer
  • Get a home inspection
  • Get an appraisal
  • Renegotiate
  • Close the sale.

Navigating new territory

Purchasing a house is one of the biggest personal and financial decisions you’ll make, and often one of the most complicated. There are new legal terms to learn, like contingency and escrow, and people to meet, from mortgage lenders to real estate agents. Plus, there’s a seemingly never-ending series of steps to navigate. With so many parts, it’s no wonder many first-time buyers start out unsure about what lies ahead and how long it will take.

The best thing you can do is begin with a birds-eye view of the process. Understanding the basic steps will give you a sense of control from the start. Armed with your roadmap, you can relax and focus on each stage as it arrives.

Counting down to moving day

You can expect the entire home buying process take several months from start to finish. The exact speed will depend on individual factors like the local housing market. Planning for a longer journey means it will be easier to stay patient throughout.

Your first step, mortgage pre-approval, can take 30 days or more, according to Credit.com. That’s when the fun begins — and the searching. The National Association of Realtors reports that it takes on average 10 weeks for buyers to find the house they’ll likely buy.

When you find “the one,” the Home Buying Institute notes negotiation with the seller can take under a week, but with the emotional stakes at play it might well feel like longer. Once an offer is agreed upon, the closing process typically takes 30 to 60 days.

Although the road ahead may seem daunting, you’re not alone. The report by the National Association of Realtors suggests that more than a third of all American home-buyers are navigating the system for the first time.

The power of being informed

The smartest way to start your house hunt is with information. That’s why we’ve put together our “Essential checklist for first-time home buyers.” In it, we break down the stages that comprise the path to ownership, from determining how much you can afford to closing the sale. We’ve also included some extra tips and stats about the home buying process.

Think of it as a helpful resource to kick off your journey to moving day.

Checklist for first-time home buyers

→ Download infographic as .pdf

By Shannon Lattin

Sources and reference links used in the infographic:

Related guides and blog articles

→ How to buy a house
→ How much does it cost to buy a house?
→ How to determine how much home can you afford
→ How to make the most out of home tours