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How do I buy a home?

The homeownership journey can look different for every household. Generally, the process follows six steps—prepare, search, offer, go under contract, go to settlement, and securing your home after you purchase. Regardless of whether you’re buying a house, condo, co-op, or apartment, the DC Government has resources to help you along the way. Each step involves different requirements: 


The Prepare phase: This phase helps you stabilize your finances so you are ready to buy a home. You could be working on managing your personal budget, saving for a down payment, or keeping an eye on your credit score. If you need help getting started, you can check out DC Government resources to help you get ready to buy a home.

The Search phase: This is when you'll figure out what you are interested in buying and what you can afford. You might begin to attend open houses, talk with a realtor, find a lender, or scroll through sale listings on your phone. If you need help, there are DC Government resources to help you buy a home


The Offer phase: You think you’ve found the perfect home! Make sure you review the homeowner association (HOA) bylaws (if you are buying a condo or coop) to make sure you know about any monthly fees you will need to pay in addition to your mortgage. Then, if all looks well, you make a formal offer to the current homeowner! Typically a realtor helps you prepare the offer paperwork. And then you wait for their decision… hopefully not very long!


The Under Contract phase: They said yes! The current homeowner has accepted your offer. During this period of roughly 30-90 days, you do things like have the home inspected, review condo rules, and move forward with securing your financing to buy the home.


The Settlement phase: You've made it! You go to a title company who walks you through the paperwork process with the bank and city to officially make the home yours. You’ve tied the knot and leave with the keys.

The After You Purchase phase: The home is yours! But the homeownership journey is only really getting started. You'll have to stay on top of mortgage payments and HOA fees (if applicable), as well as property taxes, save for home maintenance, address repairs as they come up, and complete estate planning. Luckily, the DC Government has resources to help you maintain your home, both physically and financially.


The full process is a little more involved than listed above. So, let’s get into the details. Keep in mind that we’re outlining the common steps of the home buying process, but your experience may be different. 

Keywords: home buying, homebuyers, settle on a home, close on a home, put an offer on a home, find a home, homeownership, getting a home appraised, getting a home inspection, choosing homeowner's insurance

This page was last updated January 2023.

Homebuying Explainer Translations
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