10 Important Steps To Buying a Home in 2024

June 20, 2024 min read

A home is one of the most significant purchases you’ll ever make and one that most people will only achieve a few times in their lifetime. Before you start shopping, you’ll want to know what to do, when you should do it and what to expect along the way. If you’re looking to purchase a home in the near future, here are 10 simple steps to guide you through this exciting journey.

Step 1: Decide Why Now Is the Right Time To Buy a House

The best time to purchase a home depends on several factors unique to your situation — current financial status, desired pricing, lifestyle, future plans and more. The current housing market condition is an important factor for prospective homebuyers to consider as well. While mortgage rates may not be at the historical lows they were at a few years ago, purchasing a home in this economy will help you start building equity immediately. Plus, if you’re currently renting, keep in mind that inflation and economic changes typically impact rent prices as well.

If you have a down payment (as little as 3%), strong credit, solid savings and are ready to settle down in a single location for a few years, buying a house in 2024 may be the right decision for you.

Step 2: Understand Your Credit Score and How It Impacts Your Rate

Though it’s possible to buy a house with cash, most homebuyers do so with the help of a mortgage. There are various mortgage types available — loans with different interest rates, down payment options and terms to consider. Your FICO score will impact the type of loan you qualify for, so getting your credit into good shape is an investment that can offer great returns.

By law, you’re entitled to one free credit check per year per reporting agency, so obtaining your current score should be the first step in the home buying process. With a credit score of 720 or more, you should easily qualify for a great mortgage rate, but home loan options for those with scores as low as 580 are also available.

Step 3: Determine Your Budget

Your budget for buying a home is determined by your household finances and the market you’re searching in. You may have the opportunity to settle on an ideal housing price that grants you an affordable monthly payment and a wide range of homes to choose from. To determine your estimated monthly payment amount, select a few sample home listings you like and run them through a customizable loan calculator.

Step 4: Get a Pre-Approval for Your New Mortgage

Once you have an idea of your budget, it’s time to find a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage to finance your new abode. A mortgage Pre-Approval is written verification from a lender that shows you qualify to borrow a designated amount. You are able to obtain it prior to finding the home you wish to buy, without a purchase contract in place. Getting pre-approved will ensure that you’re on the right track with your plans and will save you a lot of time and worry. Once you know your financing limit, you won’t fall in love with a home only to realize that you can’t get the loan you need to buy it.

Several steps are involved in becoming pre-approved for a mortgage, but it is a straightforward process that your lender will guide you through. Getting this first step in the loan process completed before you start looking at homes will ensure that you are ready to make an offer (and have a better chance of succeeding with that offer) when you find your ideal home. Plus, some sellers will only consider offers from buyers pre-approved by a lender for a specific loan amount, so it’s best to set yourself up for success with this important move.

Some lenders, such as Pennymac, will also allow you to lock in your home loan rate at this stage in the process. This can enable you to protect yourself from rising rates while you shop for your new home. Ask a Pennymac Loan Expert about the Lock & Shop program* and how to get started on your Pre-Approval.

Step 5: Find the Right Real Estate Agent and Begin Looking at Homes

The guidance provided by a real estate agent or realtor can be priceless, particularly for first-time homebuyers or those searching in an unfamiliar area. From negotiation experience to location knowledge, the right agent can successfully guide you through one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. Pennymac Home Connect** powered by HomeStory can help you connect with a top real estate agent in your area.

Despite the value they can offer, homebuyers are not required to use a real estate agent. Some buyers choose to handle the process on their own, but be sure you’ve done your research before opting out of this opportunity.

Now that you’ve done your research and prepared financially, it’s time to start the fun and exciting process of looking at homes.

You will most likely start your house-hunting process with a list of must-have features. Once you find several homes that pass the first test, it’s time to evaluate and compare them individually. Here’s what to consider while searching.

What to look for inside of a potential home:

  • Plumbing: Run the showers and sinks to observe the water pressure. You should also look under sinks and appliances for leak evidence and check the age of the hot water heater.
  • HVAC: How old are the heating and air conditioning units? When was the last time they were serviced? Would you have to add ductwork or remove extensive old systems to install the features you want?
  • Exterior: What is the age, condition and composition of the roof, siding and windows? These are expensive items to replace, and unexpected issues like siding tear-off or the presence of asbestos can make them even more costly.
  • Electricity: Are there switches and light fixtures where you want them? Fixtures are easy to update, but running new electrical wiring in areas where it doesn’t exist yet can be a much bigger project.
  • Appliances: Are they included in the home sale? How old are they, and how well do they work? A set of new appliances for a home, even on the low end, can run $3,000 or more.

What to look for near a potential home:

  • The street: Is it noisy? What about on weekends or at rush hour? If you or your guests need to park on the street, is enough space available?
  • Your new neighbors: How do the other homes on your potential block look? Are they updated and well-maintained? Does the neighborhood seem safe and friendly?
  • The location: How close is the home to your job, schools, shopping, public transportation and other important places you will need to visit frequently?

Step 6: Make Your Offer on a Home

Once you’ve found a house with your desired location and features, it’s time to make an offer. Each home and market are different, but your agent should be able to guide you toward a reasonable offer. Not all offers are accepted on the first go-around. The seller may counter, and you may counter again in return. Once you’ve mutually agreed upon a price, you and the seller will be under contract, also known as being in escrow.

Step 7: Schedule a Home Inspection (and Other Tests)

The escrow period is a time for you to get more information on your potential new home, including consulting with various experts. The first thing that most homebuyers do is schedule a home inspection. During an inspection, nearly all features and systems of the home will be checked and evaluated, with both you and the seller receiving a report on the home inspector’s findings. The results of these findings can trigger additional negotiations, especially if repairs or updates are needed.

Step 8: Lock in a Rate and Term With Pennymac

Most homebuyers have multiple options to compare when shopping for a mortgage. Whether your priority is a low down payment, a great interest rate, or a particular loan term, a Pennymac Loan Expert can explain the different home loan choices available and how each one impacts your monthly budget and long-term financial goals. Mortgage rates can fluctuate fairly quickly, and since no one can predict what rates will be for the remainder of 2024, locking in a competitive rate when you see it is a smart move.

Step 9: Get Your Home Appraised

You have already negotiated a price with the seller and completed an inspection, so why do you need an appraisal? This step of the home buying process may seem redundant, but it’s essential to protect both you and your lender’s investment. An appraiser uses data from comparable property sales and key features of the house you’re looking to buy to determine a value for your potential home.

Because the appraiser is a member of a third-party company (not directly associated with you, the seller or the lender), their home value opinion remains neutral. This ensures that you are not paying too much and that your lender is not lending you more than the home is actually worth.

Step 10: Nail Your Paperwork and Close the Sale

Once you have fulfilled all of your lender’s documentation requests, it’s time to close escrow on your loan. The paperwork you’ll need to complete and sign will vary based on your loan type and the location of your home. Your Pennymac Loan Expert, agent and title company will guide you through the entire process. In most cases, people walk out of closing with the keys to their new home and step into an exciting new chapter in their life.

Get Started on the Path to Your Ideal Home Today

Ready to start the home buying process? Chat with a Pennymac Loan Expert to get started on your Pre-Approval or use one of our mortgage calculators to begin your journey today.

*Lock & Shop Program allows consumers with a purchase mortgage Pre-Approval from Pennymac to lock a rate prior to locating a property. The program requires a non-refundable fee of $595 due at the time of the rate lock. Consumers with a purchase mortgage Pre-Approval from Pennymac must meet appropriate underwriting conditions to obtain a mortgage loan. Consumers may choose between a 60-day, 75-day or 90-day lock period. Consumers must initiate a mortgage loan application for a specific property and be under purchase contract for the property at least 30 days prior to lock expiration in order to extend the locked rate. All rate lock extensions are subject to Pennymac’s standard rate lock extension fees. After the rate lock and subject to favorable market conditions, consumers may be eligible for a one-time reduction in rate once the loan application for a specific property has been initiated (0.50 % maximum reduction in interest rate allowed). Eligible loan products are Conventional Fixed, Conventional ARM, FHA Fixed and VA Fixed. Program excludes Jumbo, refinance, third-party and in-process loans. Program subject to termination in Pennymac’s sole discretion and without notice.

**Pennymac Home Connect is offered in partnership with HomeStory Real Estate Services, a licensed real estate broker. HomeStory Real Estate Services is not affiliated with PennyMac Loan Services, LLC, and PennyMac Loan Services, LLC is not responsible for the program provided by HomeStory Real Estate Services. Obtaining a mortgage from PennyMac Loan Services, LLC is optional and not required to participate in the program offered by HomeStory Real Estate Services. The borrower may arrange for financing with any lender.

Qualifying for the reward requires using a real estate agent that participates in HomeStory's broker to broker agreement to complete the real estate buy and/or sell transaction. You retain the right to negotiate buyer and or seller representation agreements. Upon successful close of the transaction, the Real Estate Agent pays a referral fee to HomeStory Real Estate Services. All Agents have been independently vetted by HomeStory to meet performance expectations required to participate in the program. If you are currently working with a REALTOR®, please disregard this notice. It is not our intention to solicit the offerings of other REALTORS®. A reward is not available where prohibited by state law, including Alaska, Iowa, Louisiana and Missouri. A reduced agent commission may be available for sellers in lieu of the reward in Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Oregon and should be discussed with the agent upon enrollment. No reward will be available for buyers in Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Oregon. A commission credit may be available for buyers in lieu of the reward in New Jersey and must be discussed with the agent upon enrollment and included in a Buyer Agency Agreement with Rebate Provision. Rewards in Kansas and Tennessee are required to be delivered by gift card. In Kansas the reward is set to $1,000 regardless of the sale price of the property.

HomeStory will issue the reward using the payment option you select and will be sent to the client enrolled in the program within 45 days of HomeStory Real Estate Services receipt of settlement statements and any other documentation reasonably required to calculate the applicable reward amount. Real estate agent fees and commissions still apply. Short sale transactions do not qualify for the reward. Depending on state regulations highlighted above, reward amount is based on sale price of the home purchased and/or sold and cannot exceed $9,500 per buy or sell transaction. Employer-sponsored relocations may preclude participation in the reward program offering. PennyMac Loan Services, LLC is not responsible for the reward. The reward is valid for 18 months from the date of enrollment. After 18 months, you must re-enroll to be eligible for a reward. Offer subject to change or cancellation without notice.

PennyMac Loan Services, LLC ( Lender NMLS 35953 ) does not perform any activity that is or could be construed as unlicensed real estate activity, and PennyMac Loan Services, LLC is not licensed as a real estate broker. Agents of PennyMac Loan Services, LLC are not authorized to perform real estate activity.

PennyMac Loan Services, LLC loans subject to credit approval. Offer subject to change or cancellation without notice.

The trademarks, logos and names of other companies, products and services are the property of their respective owners.



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