Learn About Buying

Step 1: Defining What You Want

 Before deciding which house to buy, consider your lifestyle, current and anticipated housing needs and budget. It’s a good idea to create a prioritized list of features you want in your new home; you'll quickly discover finding the right house involves striking a balance between your "must-haves" and your "nice-to-haves. 

"If you love to cook, you'll appreciate a well-equipped kitchen. If you're into gardening, you'll want a yard. If a home office is a must, you’ll need a room that will provide you adequate work space. If you have several cars, you may require a larger garage. Use this list as your search guide. 

Next, think about what you might need in the future, and how long you are likely to live in this particular home. If you're newly married, you might not be concerned with a school district right now, but you could be in a few years. If you have aging parents, you may want to look at homes that offer living arrangements that could accommodate them as well. 

It’s important to think about your new home’s location just as carefully as its features. In addition to considering the distance to work, evaluate what matters to you in terms of services, convenience and accessibility, such as shopping, police and fire protection, medical facilities, school and daycare, traffic and parking, trash and garbage collection, even recreational facilities. 

Be sure to talk to your real estate professional about where you want to live and what’s most important to you. While buyers frequently use the Internet to gain access to listings or available properties for sale, an agent brings value to the entire home buying process. He or she is available to analyze data, answer questions, share their professional expertise, and handle all the paperwork and legwork that is involved in any real estate transaction. CENTURY 21® professionals can help their clients narrow their choices by sharing market trends and local information. 


TIP:  It’s also important to consider the type of home that suits you best. Is it a condominium or a co-op? A townhouse or detached single-family home? Do you want brick, stone, stucco, wood, vinyl siding, or something else? Do you prefer a new home or an older one? 

Step 2: Figuring Out What You Can Afford

 Now that you know what you're looking for, the next step is figuring out what type of home you can afford. A review of your income, savings, monthly expenses and debt will be necessary. 

Early in the process, you'll want to get pre-qualified for a mortgage loan. It enables you to move swiftly when you find the right home, especially when there are other interested buyers. It also indicates to the seller that you are serious and can afford to buy the property. A pre-approval is a simple calculation done by a mortgage lender that tells you the amount you'll be able to finance through a loan and what your monthly payment will be. 

The price you can afford to pay for a home will depend on several factors, such as:

  • Gross income
  • The funds you have available for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender
  • Your debt
  • Your credit history
  • The type of mortgage you select
  • Current interest rates

Another figure that lenders use to evaluate how much you can afford is the housing expense-to-income ratio. It is determined by calculating your projected monthly housing expense, which consists of the principal and interest payment, property tax payments and insurance premiums on your new home loan (also known as PITI). 

Each buyer is unique, and a mortgage professional can help you find out just what you can afford. Your income and debts will typically play the biggest roles in determining your price range. It's simple to make an estimate – just run the numbers for yourself using our Affordability Calculator

Step 3: Shopping For Homes

 When you buy a home, you're investing in a community. You'll spend a significant amount of time and money supporting the schools, community organizations and commercial centers in the area. Before you make the final decision, take a good look at the location and make sure it fits your lifestyle. For example:

  • Evaluate the property’s proximity to other important locations in your life. How long will your commute time be? Is there a hospital or doctor's office nearby? What about schools, childcare, shopping, family and friends?
  • Consider all of your transportation options. A new home could lend itself to public transportation options or carpooling. Depending on the type of community, you may be able to find alternative methods of transportation. Take the time to drive from the new home to your commuting destinations, to get a sense of what your daily life will be like.
  • Make sure you feel comfortable in the area. Drive around the neighborhood at different times of the day and night on multiple days of the week to observe activity and noise levels. An educated buyer is a happy one!

CENTURY 21® Princeton Properties real estate professionals are a tremendous resource. Ask your agent for a list of schools, shopping centers, parks or other amenities that are important to you. Buying a new home is about more than the structure and property. It's about your new lifestyle as well. 


TIP: Visit and understand the school district. Even if you don't have children in the school system now, you may some day. The district reputation could positively or negatively impact the selling price of your future home as well. 

Step 4: Making An Offer

 Once you’ve found your ideal house, it’s time to get started with the financial and contractual side of the purchase. Let your CENTURY 21® Princeton Properties professional guide you through this process. Purchase contracts vary in length and terms from state to state, and sometimes within a state. 

Multiple offers on the same home are not uncommon, so you may only get one chance to make an offer that the seller will consider. That's why it's important to think carefully about your strategy. In most cases it is better to have your real estate professional present the offer. If you have any personal interaction with the homeowner, avoid sharing any information about your move, your current housing status, financial status or your feelings about their property - positive or negative. This could work against you in future negotiations. 


TIP: You and the seller have different goals, so it’s important to consult with your CENTURY 21® Princeton Properties Agent. He or she can bring order to the process, and will know what questions to ask to help you reach a desirable outcome. 

Step 5: Inspection & Insurance

Congratulations! You've made an offer, and reviewed all the documents the seller has provided regarding the condition of the home. But, one important step before you finalize your real estate offer could help you avoid costly home buying mistakes. Hire a professional home inspector to give the house a standard inspection that includes:

  • Room-by-room review
  • Exterior home components
  • Electrical systems
  • Foundation and structural components – both interior and exterior
  • Heating/air conditioning systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • Attic/basement/crawl spaces

Once you have arranged for a home inspection, plan to accompany the inspector for the entire procedure. You have the right to be there, and leading home inspection companies will encourage your presence. It helps you to better understand the findings in the report and will reduce post-closing surprises. Don't forget your list of questions and items of concern. 

A thorough home inspection covers more than 1,000 items, everything from foundation to roof, and takes two to three hours depending on the size and age of the property. The report should reflect the condition of about 400 items. A typical inspection can range from $300-$600 

Some common items a home inspection could uncover are:

  • Maintenance problems such as rotting decks, paint chips, water damaged ceilings, etc.
  • Electrical problems (even faulty fuses can lead to bigger difficulties in the future)
  • Drainage problems, which could include water intrusions below the home
  • Roof leaks and defects from aging
  • Poor ventilation, especially in an attic; this is the time to assure that all vents are clean and working properly
  • Excess air leakage due to poor weather stripping and subpar caulking around fixtures
  • Failed window seals, which are routinely found with dual pane windows
  • Environmental contamination caused by asbestos, mold, formaldehyde, lead paint, radon, soil contamination and/or water contamination
  • Faulty lines in water heaters, overflow piping and/or hazardous flue conditions

TIP: Structural damage caused by water seepage into the foundation, floor joists, and door headers should be discovered at the source, and can be easily identified with a home inspection. 


 Protecting your new home with insurance is a must. How well you do that depends on the details of your policy. And while you are not required by law to have homeowners' insurance, mortgage lenders require that you do. 

A standard policy will suffice in most instances. It protects against several natural disasters and catastrophic events. However, it will not guard against earthquakes, floods, war and nuclear accidents. The policy can be expanded to include these disasters as well as coverage for such things as workers' compensation. In fact, the lender may require that you purchase flood or earthquake insurance if the house is in a flood zone or a region susceptible to earthquakes. 

You can also cover the depreciated value of personal property, such as televisions and furniture, by purchasing a replacement-cost endorsement. This is an extension of coverage that can enable you to replace the item with one of comparable material and quality. 

Step 6: The Final Closing

 Closing can also be referred to as settlement or escrow. Your CENTURY 21® Princeton Properties Agent will guide you through the closing process, since local/state laws vary. 

In general, ownership of the home is officially transferred from the seller at the closing meeting. Most of the people involved with the purchase of your home will attend your loan closing. 

In advance, a title company is usually hired to conduct a search for any recorded documents that affect the deed to the property. Examples include easements, liens, tax assessments, covenants, conditions and restrictions, and homeowner association bylaws. The buyer and lender must approve the preliminary title report prior to closing. 

Once the conditions of sale have been met and the preliminary title report has been approved, all parties will agree to sign closing documents. The preliminary title report then becomes the final title report, on which any applicable title insurance is based. 

If everyone agrees that the papers are in order, the buyer submits payment to cover the closing. If the lender will be paying your annual property taxes and homeowners' insurance for you, a new escrow account (or reserve) is established at this point. 

Finally (and here’s the best part) you receive the keys to your new home! 


TIP: After the documents have been signed, notarized copies will be forwarded to the lender, funds will be released, and the sale will be recorded at the local recorder's office. This legal transfer of the property may take a few days. It is at the point of deed recordation that you become the official owner of the home. 

Tools for Buying

Affordability Calculator

 Each buyer is unique, and a mortgage professional can help you find out just what you can afford. Your income and debts will typically play the biggest roles in determining your price range. It's simple to make an estimate – just run the numbers for yourself.

Finding Your Dream Home or Property

Search from thousands of homes for sale online. Find a local Centruy 21® Professional. Buying a new home or investing in properties? Our professionals are ready to meet your real estate needs. 

Moving & Relocation of Your Home

 6 to 8 weeks prior:

  • Purchase or rent moving supplies: tape, markers, scissors, pocketknife, newspaper, blankets, moving pads, plastic storage bins, rope and a hand truck. Free boxes can usually be obtained at a local supermarket, but consider purchasing wardrobe boxes for clothes.
  • Have a garage sale to clear out unwanted items and plan accordingly. Consider donating unwanted items.
  • Keep a detailed record of all moving expenses. Your costs (and donations) may be tax deductible depending on the reasons for your move.

2 weeks prior:

  • Hire a reputable mover or rent a moving truck. Be sure to get referrals or references, check with the Better Business Bureau, get estimates and purchase moving insurance.
  • Two weeks before moving day, contact your telephone, electric, gas, cable/satellite, refuse and water companies to set a specific date when service will be discontinued. Contact utilities companies in your new town about service start dates, including Internet and telephone services.
  • Notify healthcare professionals (doctors, dentists, veterinarians) of your move and ask for referrals and record transfers.
  • Register children for school and ask for school records to be transferred.
  • Notify lawn service, cleaning and security companies when service should be terminated.
  • Advise the post office, publications and correspondents of change of address and date of move.
  • Check your homeowners’ insurance and make arrangements for new coverage.

Moving day:

  • Have tools handy for breaking down beds and appliances.
  • Give every room a final once over. Don't forget to check the basement, yards, attic, garage and closets.
  • Have the final payment for the movers and money for a tip.
  • Don't forget to check in with your local CENTURY 21® Agent – he or she may be able to provide useful local advice and/or referrals.

TIP: Move valuables (jewelry, legal documents, family photos and collections) yourself – don't send them with the moving company. Make sure you have a complete home inventory of all your possessions. 

Mortgage Calculator

Would you like to get an estimate of the monthly mortgage payments on a property? It's simple - run the numbers for yourself.