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A Guide to Buying Your First Home

What to Expect on the Road Ahead

This is the start of something bigger: your next exciting life chapter.

You’ve decided it’s time to make the move into a house that’s all yours. ESL expert guidance and our wide-range of mortgage solutions will help open the door to a positive experience throughout your journey. Here’s a step-by-step plan to help you prep, beginning to end:

1: Start with your budget

This is the most important step in preparing to buy your new home. Budgeting is the best way to get a solid handle on what you can truly afford. Budgeting helps you accomplish two goals: staying in control and seeing the big picture.

Factors like debt ratio and credit score affect how much you can borrow, so knowing that amount ahead of time will give you a realistic idea of what you can afford. Also, ensure you have enough saved to cover all the initial costs of buying a home, including the down payment, appraisal, inspection, taxes, and closing costs.

2: Build your dream team

Homebuying can seem like you’re on a confusing, complex roller coaster. Choosing a trusted support network is key to planning a smoother ride. Now is when you should have conversations with lenders (meet the ESL Mortgage Lending Team), realtors (remember there’s a difference between a buyer and seller agent), and housing agencies. Organizations like the Housing Council, NeighborWorks Rochester,® and CCCS of Rochester are smart resources to tap.

3: Get pre-approved & search

Understanding the early steps in the mortgage process as you house hunt will help keep your focus on neighborhoods and listings within your budget. A pre-approval, which is valid for up to 90 days, indicates the actual amount you’ll be able to borrow. Awareness of the current local real estate market will also reduce some of the unknowns and benefit you in your search.

4: Make an offer

When you find a house that checks the boxes on your home wish list, you’ll want to be ready to make your offer rise to the top. Market competitiveness, home inspection, and appraisal contingencies and pre-approved financing are all factors that may affect whether your offer is accepted. The art of successful negotiation involves being objective, informed, quick, and calm as your realtor works to seal the deal.

5: Apply for a mortgage

If your offer gets accepted, go ahead and celebrate. Now you can officially apply for a mortgage, being mindful to compare loan types, interest rates, and concession costs to select the one that’s right for you. One benefit of choosing ESL is that we service the mortgage for the entire life of the loan. Expert mortgage guidance is available and your mortgage account is accessible in mobile and online banking.

The internal mortgage processing and securing your mortgage commitment typically takes between 45-60 days, during which time you’ll need to provide proper documents and files (e.g., pay stubs, W-2s, income tax, asset/debt statements, credit verification, etc.) and obtain homeowners insurance.

6: Close on your house

You’re almost in, but there are several details to finalize before the keys are yours. Your realtor can advise on rounding out your team to include an escrow officer, home inspector, real estate attorney, and title company. This is the time you’ll review the contract and closing contingencies to ensure everything (home inspection, appraisal, loan documents, title, and homeowners insurance is in order before you do the final walkthrough. After any issues are resolved, closing day will be confirmed. At your appointment, you’ll need to bring a photo ID, any outstanding mortgage/title paperwork, and a certified or cashier’s check for closing costs not deducted from the home’s sale price. Be ready to sign lots of papers and for the title company to register the deed in your name.

Finally, move-in day can happen!

7: Welcome home

Congratulations, new homeowner! All your hard work has paid off and you’ve reached this momentous milestone (that also comes with upkeep and renovations). As your homeownership evolves, the equity in your house can be used for a loan or line of credit to tackle projects on your ever-changing to-do list.



If you have mortgage and equity loans with ESL, the balances qualify for an annual Owners’ Dividend payment. In time, you may also consider refinancing your mortgage for greater savings going forward.

This is the start of something bigger: your next exciting life chapter. ESL is a reliable financial partner ready to help you navigate the twists and turns of first-time homebuying with steady support and smart solutions. Learn more about ESL mortgage solutions and apply today.