Buying a home is exciting, but it can also be a complex and emotionally challenging experience, especially for first-time buyers. Needed paperwork, industry jargon, and the home search and buying process may be confusing and stressful. However, choosing an informative, experienced professional, like a Military Mortgage Advisor with AAFMAA Mortgage Services LLC (AMS), can help you navigate through the home buying and mortgage process.
To give borrowers’ confidence throughout this process, it is a good idea to allow plenty of time to prepare. That’s why we recommend starting six months before you plan to buy your home.
While the time frames are approximate and the steps may happen in a different order in your situation, we hope this checklist a handy reference when it’s time to buy your home. Knowing what you will need to do and when, should help you breathe a little easier.
_____6 Months Out
_____Contact AAFMAA Mortgage Services
_____ Contact Real Estate Agents
Before you do any house hunting, contact AMS. We’ll ask about your financial situation to advise you on how much you should spend and if you’re financially ready.
At this point you might also want to start working with a real estate agent. We advise meeting with a few to find one with experience helping buyers like you and with whom you feel comfortable.
You should resist moving your money around or applying for new credit until after you’ve closed on your home loan.
_____3-4 Months Out
Start saving monthly bank statements for all of your checking, savings, and investment accounts. Remember to keep everything, even those pages marked with “page left intentionally blank.”
Create an employment timeline covering the past two years. Documentation may include pay stubs, proof of direct deposits, tax returns, W-2s and/or 1099s for self-employed borrowers.
_____2-3 Months Out
_____Get Pre-qualified and/or Pre-approved
_____Receive Loan Estimate
AMS can pre-qualify or pre-approve you for a loan up to a certain amount. For a pre-qualification, you’ll tell your Military Mortgage Advisor about your income, assets, and debt. We often process pre-qualification decisions the same day.
For a pre-approval, you will need to complete a loan application and provide your documentation. AMS verifies your information and, if you are pre-approved, sends a letter with the amount for which you may qualify.
You’ll receive a Loan Estimate within three days of your completed application, which will include the terms of your loan offer. Note: the Loan Estimate doesn’t mean your loan is approved; you’ll still have to go through the underwriting process.
_____ 2 Months Out
_____ Shop for Homes
_____ Get Updated Pre-Approval Letter
_____ Submit Offer
_____ Schedule Home Inspection
Now’s the time to start the house hunt by touring neighborhoods with your real estate agent. Chances are you’ll discover some new things to love or hate that help refine your search.
When you’ve found THE ONE, we’ll customize your pre-approval letter with the property address so it can be part of your offer.
Your real estate agent will work with you to craft and submit your offer. When both sides agree on terms, you’ll schedule a home inspection (if that’s part of your contract) and work with AMS to get your loan approved.
_____ 1-2 Months Out
_____ Respond to Underwriting Requests
_____ Review and Sign Disclosures
Throughout the loan-approval process, we may request additional or more up-to-date information. You’ll want to respond as quickly as possible, ideally within 48 hours, to keep the process moving. Also, expect to review and sign a series of disclosures.
When we approve your loan, you’ll receive a commitment letter (if required by the sales contract). AMS will do a final pull of your credit report, and order an appraisal and title search. Once the underwriter gives the final approval, a closing agent will schedule the closing date, which is when you’ll sign the documents that transfer property ownership to you.
_____ 2-3 Weeks Out
_____ Check on Home-Inspection Repairs
_____ Contact Utilities
_____ Get Property Insurance
You may be negotiating with the seller at this point to make any final repairs, and you’ll want to give utility companies your move-in date to establish service. Also, if you’re putting less than 20% down, you’ll need to secure property insurance.
_____ 3-5 Days Out
_____ Review Closing Disclosure
You’ll receive a Closing Disclosure at least three business days before your scheduled closing date. Use this time to compare your final terms and closing costs to those from your Loan Estimate, and ask your Military Mortgage Advisor any questions you have.
_____ 1-3 Days Out
_____ Final Walk Through
A final walk-through can happen anywhere from a few hours to a few days before settlement. The purpose is to make certain that the property is in the condition you expect.
_____ 1-2 Hours Out
An escrow or settlement agent oversees the closing. Bring your ID and payment (often a cashier’s check) for closing costs or other fees.
Congratulations! Once you’ve signed all the paperwork, you’ve ended the adventure of home buying and started the adventure of homeownership.