happy lady with keys in her hand having followed a home buying checklist

Home Buying Checklist: From Rookie to Pro

Ready To Buy a Home?

Get Approved to Buy a Home

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

You’ve hit the big leagues now. Batter, batter, you are up! But before you start sweating under the stadium lights, call a TIMEOUT. You’ll want to read this handy little home buying checklist before you take a swing.

Buying a home is exciting, but it takes some prep to pull off. Don’t dive into a house hunt without creating a home buying checklist. As you begin looking at properties, go through your credit report with a fine-toothed comb and step your best foot forward.

Play ball!

Dollar, Dollar Bills, Y’all: Look at What You Can Afford

It’s all about the Benjamins, right? Before you start looking at homes you need to consider:

  • Money coming in (income): Think about all the sources of money you have. This could be money from a job, a side-hustle or even regular contributions from the Bank of Mom & Dad.
  • Money going out (expenses): Look at what you’re spending and see what you can cut down – or out. At the very least, it’ll give you the excuse you needed to drop that barely used CrossFit membership like a kettlebell. No judgment here.
  • Savings: You’ll need to save for down payment and closing costs, which also include prepaid costs like escrow and home insurance. It can be a hefty chunk of change, so make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row before signing on the dotted line.

Your Housing Bestie: Pick a Good Real Estate Agent for Your Team

Real estate agents match their clients with properties that tick all the right boxes.

Do you have to use a real estate agent? In a word: no. But real estate professionals bring pricing, paperwork and negotiation skills to the table. In today’s busy housing market, hiring an agent is a smart move.


  • Real estate agents are experts in housing and can take on some of the paperwork you’d otherwise ask an attorney to do – saving you time and money
  • Local agents are knowledgeable in the area where you’re looking to buy, and they can get you the inside scoop on houses coming to market
  • The good ones will curb your enthusiasm to a reasonable level so you don’t end up house-rich and cash-poor

Get Valid, Get Approved: Preapproval Is a Must

In a nutshell, preapproval means that your lender has said “yes” to your loan – in principle. And that’s a good thing, fam.

If you’re preapproved for a mortgage and you make an offer on a home, it’s more likely to be accepted because the seller knows your finances are sorted out.

Preapproval vs. Prequalified

So, what’s the difference between being preapproved and being prequalified?

Type of ApprovalWhat It Means
PreapprovedPreapproval means that you’ve gone through the mortgage application process and, in principle, have an amount you can spend. While you haven’t officially applied for a mortgage loan, it’s worth getting preapproval over prequalification – especially if you want to be taken seriously in a hot housing market. 🥵 
PrequalifiedPrequalification tells you how much you can likely borrow, and how likely you are to get a loan. Prequalification isn’t as in-depth as preapproval.

Your next pro move is to find a mortgage pro who can set you up with that preapproval. Start with a reputable lender like our vetted recommendation below. You’ll be all set to look at homes and make an offer when “the one” comes along.

Find Your Crib: Look at Homes (The Fun Part!)

With your preapproval in hand, it’s time for the fun part: house hunting!

You can find homes online, at your local real estate agency or through the Multiple Listing Service. Stick to the homes you can afford. Make appointments to see them – and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

You’re the boss of your home buying experience.

Use viewings to examine properties in detail. Some homes are staged to look better than they really are, so do pay for a home inspection, even if you like what you see.

Avoid a Bidding War: Make Smart Choices

If you thought buying a house was stressful, welcome to “bidding wars.” Your heart will be set on your dream home, only to find out there are 15 other offers on it. Ridiculous!

Trust us, bidding wars are no fun.

Gauge the temperature of your local market before jumping into battle. Research your favorite properties to figure out what they’re really worth. Make your best offer first, including proof of your deposit and your mortgage preapproval. Whatever you do, don’t go overboard and exceed your budget. If you do, you could fall into the “house-rich, cash-poor” trap.

The Boring Legal Stuff: Get Your Papers in Order

To actually get your mortgage, you need to gather some paperwork.

Dig out the following:

  •  Your ID
  •  Last 2 years of tax returns
  •  A few recent pay stubs (or other proof of income)
  •  Bank statements
  •  Proof of down payment funds and anything else your lender needs

Cover your bases – ask about escrow requirements ahead of closing day, and don’t make any major financial changes that might affect your mortgage approval.

It’s the ‘Buying a Home’ For Me: You’re a Pro Now

Buying your first home is a VERY BIG DEAL on the big, shiny adulting checklist.

It’s important to prep well in advance to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Figure out a budget, get your down payment on deck and get preapproved before you step up to the plate.

You’ll have those keys in the palm of your hand before you know it.  🔑 🔑 🔑

Home is worth it.

The mortgage process can be exciting, and we’ll be with you all the way. Take the first step to owning a home. You’ll be glad you did.

The Short Version

  • View your credit report, figure out your finances and set a budget
  • Choose a lender and get preapproved for a mortgage
  • Look at houses, choose your favorite and make an offer
Back to top of page

You Should Also Check Out…

Our team of financial experts write, review and verify content for accuracy and clarity.