Steps To A DC Home Purchase

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Ready to purchase your first personal residence in Washington DC but don’t know where to start? Here’s our ‘best practices’ list to set you on the path to home ownership.

1. Mortgage Loan Pre-Approval

Why do it first? 

  • Your agent will know you’re serious
  • You and your agaent will know your price point
  • If you find the right property quickly, you’ll have what you need to make an offer

DC real estate buyers should contact three lenders for mortgage pre-approvals and worksheets. You’ll want a pre-approval from a local, reputable lender to get started. You can get a pre-approval over the phone & online.

Review DC homebuyer programs for those that may benefit you. You may also qualify for down payment assistance, home buyer tax credits or DC tax abatement.

Don’t make a lender commitment until you’ve contracted on a home. DC condos, new construction, co-ops, and single family properties all qualify differently. Your priice point also makes a difference. Lenders offer a variety of programs. You’ll want to match your loan to the property you want to purchase.

2. Partner WIth A Realtor

Interview Realtors to find the professional best suited to your needs. Here are some questions you’ll be asked:

  • Do you have a pre-approval letter issued within the past 90 days? Who’s your lender?
  • Do you have any credit, tax or other issues that may affect your ability to obtain a mortgage loan? What type of financing will you use, or are you paying cash?
  • Do you have available funds for an Earnest Money Deposit?
  • Do you have closing costs worked into your budget?
  • What will be your downpayment amount?
  • Desired locations, “must-haves” & “wish list?”
  • Pets? Parking? Metro proximity?
  • What’s your timeline?
  • What else is important to you?

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Bullet Points

  • Get a pre-approval first
  • Partner with an experienced agent
  • Prioritize needs + wants before touring

Michael V

I went to The Isaacs Team after working with another realtor that wasn’t really delivering the level of detail on potential homes that I was seeking. Susan and Alex not only met, but exceeded my expectations in the level of knowledge I sought. Their level of professionalism has secured them a client in me, for all future property purchases.

3. Draft A Game Plan

Discuss your needs/wants list with your agent. Is it in line with market conditions?

Be transparent. Your agent is your transaction partner, not an adversary. Provide us with as much information on your financial limits,  preferred locations, and needs vs wants as possible. Include preferences on proximity to transportation, area amenities and other essentials, from number of bedrooms and baths to square footage, parking needs, stairs vs elevators, basement or terrace level preferences, area preferences, proximity to metro or other modes of transport, laundry facilities, pet restrictions and more. Communicate your timeline clearly because it will help determine how your property search progresses. The better you define and prioritize all your criteria, the more efficient we can be in identifying matches and helping you meet your goals in an efficient manner.

Narrow down neighborhoods, a price range and must-haves for your search. At this point, we create one to three Collections to start screening properties. We’ll discuss merits of each listing, create a short list and set up your first tour.

4. Identify A Property Of Interest

You’ve found ‘the one!’ Now it’s time to work out the details.

When you find a home you like, the next step is  to research its value and outline an offer strategy. We’ll create a CMA, comparable market analysis, and help you arrive at an offer price and terms. Strategy for making an offer differs with each property.

5. Contract Ratification & Contingencies

Once your offer is accepted, the contract phase begins. During this time, you’ll exercise your contingencies, if any, perform your due diligence and review any additional documentation required or provided. There may be some additional negotiation involved, for contingencies such as inspection and appraisal. Once all contingencies are satisfied, you’re on your way to settlement.

6. Settlement And Post-Closing

At settlement, you’ll take legal possession of your new home. Your title company will facilitate the closing, during which you’ll sign loan documents, if any, and other paperwork. At the end, you’ll be handed the keys to your new home.

Post-settlement, we’ll be checking in to make sure your move went smoothly and all is as expected with your home. Many clients appreciate having access to our contractor and vendors list for improvements and repairs.

We’ll continue to stay in touch, and we’re always a text or email away if you need anything!


Earnest Money

Earnest Money Deposits typically range from  3% to 20%, depending on the situation and price point. The lower end of 3% commonly represents an amount equal to a special mortgage program, or relates to a low-priced property. EMD at the higher end commonly relates to sums for cash transactions, high-value purchases and/or deposits relating to multiple offer scenarios. EMD is presented with your offer in the form of a photo of a check, and credited toward your downpayment if the contract goes to settlement.


  • EMD will be lost if you default on your contract.
  • EMD is held by the title company and deposited when a contract is ratified
  • EMD percentage affects the strength of your offer.



Down Payment amounts vary. In the DC Metro area, down payments typically range from as low as 0% down for qualifying VA borrowers, to 3.5% for FHA loans, 3% to 5% for specialized mortgage loan programs, 10% to 20% for co-ops, and conventional loan programs from 5% to 25%. In a multiple offer situation, down payment percentage affects the strength of your offer.


  • Downpayment amount can affect the strength of your offer
  • If in doubt of your down payment %, err on the conservative side. You can always increase downpayment, but reducing can trigger contract issues
  • Consult with a mortgage professional to determine your downpayment options. Always consult with a mortgage professional to determine your downpayment options.



In addition to down payment, you’ll pay for transaction closing costs, which can be estimated at approximately 3% to 3.5% of the purchase price of the home. Transaction costs vary based on loan product, type of home, and purchase price. Ask lenders for one or more worksheets detailing costs to make apples-to-apples comparisons.  Provide your lender with basic worksheet information such as top price (worst case scenario), condo fee if applicable, tax zip code and loan type.


  • Three pre-approvals from different lenders are recommended for best comparison
  • Be sure to use the same criteria for each pre-approval for best results in estimating closing costs.
  • Worksheets should be as close as possible to a Closing Disclosure.

Ready to make a new investment in yourself?

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