In pursuing a dream home, the allure of a new build in 2024 is unmistakable. For prospective homeowners, choosing to buy a new construction home can offer an exciting and fresh canvas to begin their next chapter.

However, stepping into the housing market requires careful preparation, especially in a landscape that may be competitive and fast-paced. Here’s how to start your journey on solid ground so you can navigate the process with confidence and clarity.

Our guide outlines the key steps from the initial search to picking up the keys to your new home. Keep reading as we explore how to choose the right community, personalize your new home, and prepare for move-in day, helping you to truly “Live the difference” with Shea Homes.

What You Will Learn
Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes
8 Essential Timelines for Every Step in the Home Buying Process

As you continue exploring the prospect of purchasing a new construction home in 2024, it's crucial to understand each phase of the journey and establish realistic timelines. By setting clear steps, and timelines for those steps, you can manage your expectations and ensure that every stage progresses smoothly.

Step 1. Organize Your Finances

Start by assessing your current financial situation. This includes reviewing your income, existing debts and understanding your credit score. A comprehensive look at your financial landscape will help determine how much you can comfortably afford to spend on a new construction home. Consider factors like job stability, potential future expenses, and your savings. Knowing where you stand financially will help you make informed decisions and set realistic expectations.

A good credit score is another critical factor in securing a mortgage under favorable conditions. Your credit score affects the interest rates you qualify for, which can significantly impact your monthly payments and overall loan cost. To maintain or improve your credit score, regularly monitor your credit activity, manage your finances responsibly, and promptly address any discrepancies in your credit report. Ensuring your credit history is accurate and error-free will place you in a better position to receive the best possible mortgage terms.

When applying for a mortgage, you must provide comprehensive financial documentation. Organizing these documents beforehand can significantly streamline the mortgage approval process.

Here’s a checklist to help you prepare:

  • Tax Returns: Lenders may request the last two years of your federal tax returns to verify income stability. This typically applies if you are self-employed and/or own rental properties.

  • Pay Stubs: To demonstrate current earnings, collect your most recent paystubs, enough to cover a full 30 days of earnings.

  • Bank Statements: Lenders generally review your 2 most recent months of bank statements to understand your savings, spending habits, and cash flow.

  • Proof of Additional Income: If applicable, include documentation for any additional income such as bonuses, alimony, or freelance work.

  • Investment Accounts: Statements from investment accounts can be helpful, especially if you intend to use these assets for your down payment or closing costs.

Step 2. Calculate Your Budget 

Setting a realistic budget is crucial when buying a newly built home. Start by determining how much you can afford to spend. The down payment, often the largest upfront cost, greatly affects your mortgage terms. Typically ranging from 5% to 20% of the home's price, a larger down payment can lower both interest rates and monthly payments, making it an important factor in your budgeting process.

For many, accumulating enough for a down payment can seem daunting. Fortunately, various down payment assistance programs, grants, and other financial resources are available, particularly for first-time homebuyers or prospective home buyers in specific demographics. These programs can offer low-interest loans, grants, or tax credits to help reduce the financial burden of the down payment. When setting your budget, consider all costs involved in purchasing a home. This includes:

  • Down Payment: The initial sum paid upfront to reduce the amount financed.

  • Closing Costs: Fees associated with finalizing the mortgage, typically 2-5% of the loan amount.

  • Moving Expenses: Costs to physically relocate to your new home.

  • Ongoing Homeownership Costs: Monthly mortgage payments, property taxes, homeowners insurance, potential homeowners’ association (HOA) fees, and maintenance.

Next, consider creating a dedicated savings plan for your down payment. Here are some practical steps:

  • Open a Dedicated Savings Account: This helps you track your progress and prevents you from tapping into these funds for other expenses.

  • Cut Unnecessary Expenses: Review your monthly spending and identify areas where you can save, such as dining out, subscriptions, or luxury items.

  • Increase Your Income: To boost your down payment savings, consider taking on freelance work, asking for a raise, or starting a side hustle.

  • Understand Your Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio: Your DTI ratio is the percentage of your gross monthly income that you use to pay your debts. It plays a critical role in determining the loan amount you qualify for.

Developing a realistic budget for these expenses will help ensure that your new home purchase aligns with your financial capacity and long-term goals. Planning effectively makes you one step closer to securing your dream home and ensuring financial stability in your new living situation.

Step 3. Get Pre-Approved for the Right Mortgage

When purchasing a new construction home, choosing the right mortgage is crucial. Common options include fixed-rate mortgages, which offer stability with consistent interest rates, and adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), which usually start with lower rates that adjust over time.
Government-backed options like Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are ideal for first-time buyers or those with lower credit scores due to their lower down payment requirements. VA loans provide excellent terms for veterans and active military, including no down payment or private mortgage insurance. Each type has pros and cons, tailored to different financial situations and long-term goals.
Getting pre-approved is an essential step in the home-buying process. Select a lender that aligns with your financial needs and submit the necessary documentation, such as income verification and credit information. Pre-approval involves a detailed credit and background check, clearly showing what you can afford and significantly strengthening your bargaining position in competitive markets. During the pre-approval process, a lender will assess several crucial factors:

  • Your credit score, which influences the interest rates and loan terms you receive.

  • Your income, ensuring you have the means to meet monthly payments.

  • Your Debt-to-Income Ratio which represents how much debt you have compared to your income.

Step 4. Select the Right Loan

Selecting the right loan is a critical step in homebuying, as it can significantly impact your long-term financial health. With various mortgage loan choices available, take time to learn about the similarities and differences of each option. Then, you can confidently select the mortgage that best fits your financial situation and goals.

  • Understand Your Long-Term Goals: Consider how long you plan to stay in your home and your future financial plans. Fixed-rate mortgages offer long-term stability, while ARMs can be more cost-effective if you plan to move within a few years.

  • Consult with a Mortgage Advisor: A professional can help you navigate the complexities of different loan types and find the best fit for your financial situation. They can also provide insights into current market conditions and interest rates.

  • Get Pre-Approved: Pre-approval gives you a clear picture of your budget and makes you a more attractive buyer. It shows sellers that you are serious and financially prepared to purchase a home.

  • Compare Loan Offers: Don’t settle for the first offer you receive. Compare multiple lenders' rates, terms, and fees to ensure you get the best deal possible.

Selecting the right loan involves careful consideration of your financial situation and long-term goals. By understanding the various mortgage options and following these steps, you can secure a loan that supports your homeownership dreams and financial well-being.

Step 5. Go New-Build House Hunting!

With your financial groundwork set and pre-approval in hand, it's time to dive into home hunting. Start with a clear list of priorities—location, size, amenities, and specific features—to narrow down your search. Organize your home viewings by grouping them based upon location and showing times.
During visits, thoroughly inspect each property, ask critical questions, and take detailed notes or photos. This focused approach helps you track and compare each option, ensuring you make a well-informed decision.
Exploring new builds offers distinct advantages. New construction homes provide the latest in energy efficiency, modern design, and building technology. They often come with personalized options that allow buyers to select finishes and additional features that match their preferences, making the home feel like their own from the start!
Quick move-in and under-construction homes are excellent for buyers looking to shorten the home-buying timeline. These homes are either move-in ready or nearing completion, eliminating the usual wait times associated with many new builds. Although personalization options might be more limited with quick move-in homes, they offer the same modern amenities and efficiency as any other newly built home.

Step 6. Finalize the Details

Ready to move forward on buying your new build dream home? While you’re so close, there are still some important things to consider before making it official.

For one, don’t expect to negotiate. Typically, a new build home’s listed price is the final price, as are the costs of any add-ons and personalization. If negotiations are accepted at all, they will likely be limited. That said, many buyers love the ease of paying a set price for a home. However, if you were expecting room to negotiate, don’t be surprised if the builder stands firm.

Also, find time to explore any additional expenses that could be attached to the final home price, including a down payment to start construction, additional building costs, landscaping expenses, or contractor fees.

Lastly, ask the Community Representative any questions you might still have. It’s essential to feel confident and informed before making such a huge life decision. If everything looks great, then you’re ready to take the next step and put in an offer!

Step 7. Close on Your New Build Home

Closing on your home is the culmination of your home-buying journey, marking the transition from prospective buyer to new homeowner. This process involves several key steps, including the final submission of your documents, the underwriting process, and securing homeowner’s insurance. All these prepare you for the closing meeting, where ownership officially transfers.

Be prepared for various closing costs, including lender fees, title insurance, appraisal fees, escrow charges, and property taxes. These expenses are often summarized in a closing disclosure, which you should receive a few days before the closing meeting. Reviewing this document in advance allows you to prepare for these financial requirements and ensures there are no surprises on closing day.

On closing day, expect to sign a series of legal documents that finalize the mortgage and transfer the property ownership. While the process can be extensive, once the paperwork is completed, you will receive the keys to your new home. Congratulations!

Step 8. Move Into Your New Home!

Welcome to a new and exciting chapter in your life! You've navigated the complex path to homeownership, a significant achievement that should bring you a profound sense of accomplishment. From organizing your finances, securing the right mortgage, and finally closing on your new home, each step has been crucial in shaping your journey.

Shea Homes invites you to utilize the My Shea Home portal for your new build home buying experience. This innovative tool is designed to streamline the process, allowing you to save and manage your favorite home searches, keep tabs on preferred communities, and stay updated on upcoming events. The portal offers secure access to store essential documents, and it keeps you informed with reminders and notifications about important milestones.
The My Shea Home portal enriches your experience by providing real-time updates on your new home's construction progress, complete with detailed photos. It simplifies scheduling service appointments and offers direct access to warranty details and utility information. With a comprehensive resource center at your fingertips, you can easily find tips and advice on home care and maintenance, ensuring you're well-prepared to take care of your new residence.

A beautifully decorated white living room with a white couch, hardwood floor, and colorful artwork on the walls

What is the importance of a credit score in buying a home?
Your credit score is critical in securing a mortgage with favorable terms. A higher score can mean lower interest rates, translating to significant savings over the loan's duration. To improve your credit score, pay bills on time, reduce debts, and regularly check for and rectify errors on your credit report.

How much can I afford to spend on a new home?
Determining your budget for a new home involves balancing your income with debts and regular expenses. A general guide is that your monthly house payment does not exceed 28% of your gross monthly income to maintain financial health

What should I consider when choosing a location for my new home?
Choosing the right location for your new home is essential for both lifestyle and investment reasons. Consider factors such as proximity to work, quality of local schools, access to amenities like shopping, healthcare, and recreation, and the overall safety and appeal of the neighborhood.

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