Lifetimes: Home Sweet Home

Can’t imagine using the new linens in your husband’s former bachelor pad? It may be time to find a new place together.

Pre-qualify for a mortgage Pre-approval can make all the difference in a bidding war. Ask a real estate agent, family or friends to recommend a mortgage company. “Online mortgage companies are here today and gone tomorrow,” says Maureen Ingelsby, an agent with Century 21 Alliance in Drexel Hill.

Find an agent you trust In addition to showing homes, agents guide first-time buyers through the steps to finding the perfect house, including all the paperwork. Open houses are a great way to meet real estate agents, says Laurie Phillips, an agent with Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, in Philadelphia.

Make an offer When you find your dream home, your agent can advise you on a reasonable bid. It’s a good idea to find out what other houses in the neighborhood have sold for recently.

Have the home inspected After your offer is accepted, schedule a professional home inspection. “Not only is the home inspection the time to see what needs to be fixed, it’s also a good lesson on how to care for the house,” says Phillips. The home inspector should show you the basics of maintaining your water heater and working your fuse box and heating system.

Take a final walk-through The day before or morning of the closing, walk through the home and check on any repairs you requested after inspection. Now is the time to speak up if something was not completed.

Close the deal. “If everyone does what they’re supposed to do, the closing is the culmination of a happy event,” says Ingelsby. After signing your name to countless documents, you’ll finally receive what you’ve been working toward since the beginning of your hunt—the keys to your first home.