Steve Smith | Groton Real Estate, Dunstable Real Estate, Westford Real Estate, Nashua Real Estate


Do you ever wish that they taught a class in high school called, “Things You’ll Actually Need to Know In Life?” You’d learn how to prepare your taxes, what investing is, and how to buy a home.

Unfortunately, all of these important life lessons tend to be self-taught; you pick them up along the way and learn from your mistakes.

However, it needn’t be that way. Our goal today is to give you an accurate idea of what to expect when you’re buying your first home. We’ll go over a typically home buying timeline and discuss how long each step can take. This will give you a better idea of how long it will take to close on your first home.

Step 1: Build credit and save for a down payment

Estimated time: 2+ years

The first step of buying a home is to make sure you’re financially secure enough to do so. While there are ways to purchase a home with low or no down payments (See FHA, USDA, and VA loans), generally it’s wiser to wait until you have a sizable down payment saved. This will save you money in interest and mortgage insurance in the long run.

Next, you’ll need to start working on your credit. If your credit score took some hits due to late payments when you were younger, now is the time to start fixing those mistakes by making on-time payments and paying off outstanding balances.

Step 2: Have a plan for the next phase of your life

Estimated time 6+ months

One of the most important, and least talked about, parts of buying a home is understanding what it means to own a home. If you have a spouse, partner, or family, you’ll need to be in agreement that you’re prepared to stay in one place for the next 5 or more years.

Buying a home is expensive and you won’t want to go through the process of closing on a home if you aren’t sure you’ll stay. This means making sure your career won’t bring you elsewhere in the near future.

Step 3: Get prequalified and preapproved

Estimated time 1-3 days (depending on how much initiative you take)

Getting prequalified for a mortgage takes minutes. You simply fill out an online form and the lender will give you an idea of the type and size loan you could qualify for. Be forewarned: they’ll also use this information to call and bother you about getting a mortgage from them.

Once you’re prequalified, it’s just a matter of working with the lender to provide the correct documentation for pre-approval.

Getting preapproved takes a bit longer (1-3 days), since it requires a credit check and some work on your part--namely, gathering and sending income verification.

Once you’re preapproved, you can safely start shopping for homes without worrying that you’re wasting time looking at homes that are overbudget.

Step 4: House Hunting

Estimated time: 30+ days

It’s a seller’s market. So, if you’re buying a home right now there is competition out there. You’ll need to dedicate a substantial amount of time to researching homes online, contacting sellers’ agents, and following up on calls. Like before, the amount of effort you put into this process determines how quickly and smoothly you’ll get through it.

Step 5: Making an offer and closing

Estimated time: ~50 days

Average closing times for buying a home has grown to 50 days according to a recent study. However, by securing financing ahead of time and acting quickly, you can drastically cut down the time of these process to as little as two weeks.


The rent vs buy dilemma is something that Americans have been facing for decades. Both options have their benefits, and it’s really a matter of timing and preferences when it comes to choosing which is best for you.

However, there are a lot of things to consider before making this decision. So, in today’s post we’re going to break down some of the benefits of renting an apartment and of buying a home. That way you can make your decision with a clearer picture of what each situation looks like.

One thing to note first, however, is that it isn’t always as simple as buy vs rent. Some living situations draw on the pros of each type of living. For example, living in a condo might be a good option for people who want the privacy and independence of owning their own home, but who also don’t have the time or desire to keep up with maintenance.

So, as we compare buying and renting, keep in mind that the features of each are not mutually exclusive.

Renting an apartment

Most people who are living on their own for the first time start off renting. For younger people just out of school, renting offers the first taste of independence without the prerequisites of homeownership.

When you rent your first apartment, you’ll learn the skills associated with budgeting for your monthly expenses, making your rent payments on time, and will start learning some of the skills that it takes to run a household.

In terms of monthly costs, apartments can vary greatly. Depending on where you live (and how luxurious the apartment is) you could end up having rent and utility payments that are much lower or much higher than mortgage payments for a house.

However, apartment leases often come with the benefit of utilities, trash removal, and other expenses built in. They also typically require the landlord to maintain the apartment and the land it sits on.

Live in the northern part of the country and hate shoveling snow? Make sure your lease specifies that your landlord will provide snow removal.

One technique that many renters take is to find an apartment that is small and affordable while they save up for a home. In this case, it’s worth living with fewer amenities if your end goal is saving for a down payment.

But, what if you want to own a home someday but haven’t quite decided where you want to settle down? Maybe your work keeps you moving from place to place or you’ve always wanted to move away to somewhere new.

Renting is typically a better option for those who aren’t quite sure what their plans are for the next coming years. They can have a stable place to live while they figure things out and plan their next move.

Buying a home

Once you’ve rented a home for a while, you might become increasingly aware that you want more space and more control over your home.

You’re also likely noticing how much money you spend on rent each month that is essentially a net loss.

When you buy a home, your mortgage payments might be going to the bank, but someday the money you’ve paid toward that home will be yours in the form of equity. You can then use this as a down payment for another home.

This financial benefit cannot be understated. Since house values dependably increase over time, owning a home is a great investment toward your future.

So, those are the main pros and cons of renting vs buying a home. Think about your circumstances and determine which one makes the most sense for you right now. Then, start planning for the future.


Let's face it – the mere thought of informing family members about your decision to pursue a new home may cause your blood pressure to rise. However, there are many reasons why it often is beneficial to notify family members about your decision to kick off a search for a new residence. These reasons include:

1. You can identify and address potential homebuying hurdles.

Your family typically has your best interests in mind. As such, family members can help you plan ahead for the homebuying journey and resolve any potential conflicts.

For example, family members can help you analyze prospective home financing options. They may even be able to put you in touch with local banks and credit unions that can help you get pre-approved for a mortgage. Then, once you have home financing in hand, you can enter the real estate market with a homebuying budget at your disposal.

2. You can gain homebuying insights that you may struggle to obtain elsewhere.

Family members who previously bought homes may be able to provide you with property buying insights that you probably won't receive elsewhere. With these insights, you'll be better equipped than ever before to understand the housing market and make the best-possible homebuying decision based on your individual needs.

Of course, family members may be able to keep you informed about new houses that become available in your preferred cities and towns too. Because if family members know where you want to find a home, they can help you accelerate your property search.

3. You can receive plenty of support throughout the homebuying journey.

Your family is there for you during good times and bad. If you inform family members about your decision to pursue a new home, they can provide you with comprehensive support throughout the property buying journey. As a result, family members can work with you to help you achieve your desired homebuying results in no time at all.

When it comes to getting help in your quest to discover your dream house, you may want to hire a real estate agent as well. If you have a real estate agent at your side, you can receive expert assistance as you proceed along the homebuying journey.

A real estate agent is committed to helping you find a great home at a budget-friendly price. First, he or she will meet with you and learn about your homebuying criteria. A real estate agent next will craft a personalized homebuying strategy and notify you about new homes that become available that match your property buying criteria. And once you discover your dream residence, a real estate agent will help you put together a competitive offer to purchase this house. Lastly, if your homebuying proposal is accepted, a real estate agent will help you finalize your home purchase so you close on this residence and move into your new house.

Take the guesswork out of buying a house – hire a real estate agent today, and you can seamlessly navigate the homebuying journey.



 Photo by 200 Degrees via Pixabay

The gig economy has exploded over the past decade. Today, around 36% of the US workforce is freelancing and many more or self-employed small business owners.

While being your own boss does afford you great freedom to set your hours and often work where you want, you may face extra scrutiny when trying to get financing to buy a home.

Because your income comes from many sources and you may do your own bookkeeping, it's more challenging to prove your income. But fear not. Freelancers can get financing. You just need to be prepared.

Note that every lending institution may be a little different. But here's your quick guide for home financing for freelancers and other self-employed professionals.

1. You may need to work at freelance a little longer

If you just left a nine to five and started freelancing six months ago, you do not yet have the track record of consistent income that a loan officer will be able to see. The loan officer needs to know that you have the money coming in to pay this loan.

In most cases, loan officers like to see applicants who've been successfully freelancing for at least two years.

2. Clean up your bookkeeping

Are you the kind of person who pulls out a box of receipts on April 14th and then scrambles for the next 18 hours trying to account for last year? You may struggle with a loan officer. They need to see well-organized records of incoming and outgoing, just like any business.

You don't have to take an accounting course. But anyone should be able to follow behind your numbers on a spreadsheet to see exactly how you reached the figures that went on your tax return. 

3. Get a CPA signature

You may need to get the signature of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) on your books for at least the last six months. But please don't do this before they ask for it because it will cost money. The more disorganized your financial records, the more it may cost. 

If you'd be embarrassed to show your bookkeeping to a CPA, please see the tip immediately above.  You can do this. 

4. Make your case

If your income fluctuates wildly or has dropped in the most recent year, that may be a red flag for a loan officer. Even if they don't ask about it, make sure they know why that dip occurred.

Perhaps you were taking care of an aging parent or a sick child. Some of your income may have been delayed for some reason. Be prepare to explain the ebb and flow of your income.

Don't appear to be a victim of circumstance. But do communicate irregularities that don't reflect the success you're experiencing as a freelancer.

5. Have a strong savings

Freelancers' income varies from month to month, but your mortgage payment does not. Show that you're stable and have a backup plan. These savings should be in addition to a down payment.

For more smart home buying tips, follow our blog.




The homebuying journey may prove to be long and complex, particularly for an individual who fails to plan ahead. Fortunately, there are lots of things that you can do to get ready to pursue your dream house, such as:

1. Make a Homebuying Budget

A homebuying budget will give you a good idea about how much money you have at your disposal to find your ideal residence. Thus, if you craft a homebuying budget, you can hone your house search to residences that fall within your price range.

As you craft a homebuying budget, you should consider both your house mortgage and closing costs. That way, you can prepare for myriad costs that you may encounter as you try to acquire your dream house.

You also may want to meet with various banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can help you budget for a home purchase. Perhaps best of all, they can help you get pre-approved for a mortgage.

2. Narrow Your Home Search

You know you want to purchase a house, but it usually is beneficial to understand what you want to find in your dream residence. If you put together a list of home must-haves and wants, you can narrow your house search accordingly.

Consider your short- and long-term aspirations prior to launching a home search. For instance, if you need a home that is close to your office in the city, you may want to check out residences in or near the city itself. On the other hand, if you aspire to own a residence that includes a state-of-the-art heating and cooling system, you should explore homes that offer this feature.

3. Hire a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a must-hire, especially for an individual who wants to seamlessly navigate the homebuying journey. Because if you have a real estate agent at your side, you can take the guesswork out of finding and purchasing your dream residence.

Typically, a real estate agent learns about a buyer's goals and crafts a personalized homebuying strategy based on his or her aspirations. If you want to purchase a budget-friendly house as quickly as possible, for instance, a real estate agent will help you accomplish your goal. Conversely, if you are operating on a tight homebuying budget, a real estate agent will do everything possible to help you find a first-rate house that won't put you in the red.

Let's not forget about the homebuying expertise that a real estate agent possesses, either. A real estate agent understands all aspects of the homebuying journey and will share his or her industry insights with you. Therefore, if you ever have concerns or questions during the homebuying journey, a real estate agent will respond to them at your request.

Those who understand what to expect during the homebuying journey can boost the likelihood of finding a terrific house at an affordable price. Thanks to the aforementioned tips, you could reap the benefits of a successful home search.




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