Decide you are ready to buy your first place. You are not behind on your bills, have some money saved, and have a steady job. You are ready to start investing in your future and maybe plant some roots. Remember: to qualify for the 2009 first time home buyer tax credit, you must keep your home for 3 years.  

Talk to a lender to make sure you qualify for a home loan. There are many places you can get a home loan. Call your bank or a mortgage broker. If one company turns you down, don't get discouraged. All lenders are not the same and there are many different programs available. Don't give up! Once you are approved ask for a good faith estimate and pre approval letter. Some costs can be negotiated and it never hurts to ask.  

Search homes online and drive around neighborhoods. Your online home search will help you identify the area in which you want to live. Consider your lifestyle. Do you like privacy? How far is your commute to work? Will you want to live close to bars and restaurants? Do like new homes or the character of an older historic home? Do you want to maintain a lawn or garden? Is a community pool important to you?  

Find a full time Realtor, and become their client. It doesn't cost anything to enter into a client relationship with a Realtor but it provides you much. A Realtor will be able to further refine your home search and take you into the homes that are a good fit for you. By using a full time Realtor you will have an agent who can work when it's convenient for you, not them. A Realtor can advise you on the value of comparable sales and help you make informed decisions. A Realtor will provide all contracts and assist you in making an offer on a property. Your Realtor owes you the fiduciary duties of Obedience, Loyalty, Disclosure, Confidentiality, Accounting and Reasonable care and skill.  

Make the offer. You have found a property you love, now it is time to make an offer. Your Realtor will help you decide on a price and terms that suit your budget and the value of the property. Part of an offer to purchase, is earnest money. You need to be able to write a check for earnest money at the time of writing the offer. Usually 1% of the sales price is adequate. This money is held by your agent until you have a final contract and then must be put in an escrow account within 48 hours. It will come off the price of the house and lets the seller know you are a serious buyer. The offer is written up on a contract and your Realtor submits it to the seller.  

Getting a final contract. A final contract is the original offer after negotiations. The terms and price may be changed as needed for both buyer and seller to agree. All changes require the initials of both buyer and seller. This document will be signed by all parties and sealed by a Realtor showing date and time of final contract.  

Inspecting the property. Your final contract allows for a 10 business day inspection period from the final contract date. Your Realtor will help you order inspections and be sure you stay within your time frame. Typical inspections include a termite inspection, a heating/air inspection and a general home inspection. After you inspect the property, you can decide if you want to continue and purchase the home or terminate your contract.  

Obtaining your loan. Your lender will need documents from you supporting your income and other various documents. The lender will order a real estate appraisal for the property, order title work and get all the loan documents ready for a closing.  

The last step is the closing. In South Carolina a closing takes place with a real estate attorney. The attorney has all the loan documents and any other relevant documents that need to be signed. The buyer and seller attend the closing with their real estate agents. The buyer signs documents giving him ownership of the property. The seller signs away his ownership. Keys are exchanged, any monies due are given to the closing attorney in the form of a cashiers check.  

Enjoy. You are now a home owner. Sit back and enjoy. Always make your payments on time and begin building equity in your new home. This is the start of a lifetime of wealth and happiness!