If you are planning on using mortgage financing...
1. Meet with a loan officer (this can be face to face or over the phone, I do not recommend solely done via email)
2. Loan officer will explain the process to the homebuyer, what will be done at each milestone, when out of pocket costs should be expected
3. Loan officer and homebuyer will verbally discuss the homebuyers situation, including financials, credit and any special circumstances the homebuyer is in (like getting gift funds, starting a new job in a new area, past employment, etc.)
4. Homebuyer will complete a loan application (this is recommended to do with the loan officer "live", not just simply filling out the application and sending it to the loan officer) and credit is checked
5. Homebuyer will provide loan officer documents the loan officer needs (paycheck stubs, W-2's, tax returns, bank statements, letters of explanation)
6. Loan officer reviews documents and contacts employers for any further required verification (for example averaging overtime, commissions, etc. and clarifying start dates if employment has been less than 2 years), including running the loan through the automated underwriting system (be it FHA, VA or conventional). If the loan is "borderline" then the loan officer should contact underwriting to get clarification on how any unique aspects of the loan will be handled, and may even go so far as to send the entire loan file to underwriting to have a conditional underwriting approval issued for a "TBD" property address.
7. Loan officer issues a pre-approval letter letting the homebuyer know they are pre-approved for a certain amount
8. Homebuyer makes an offer and it's accepted after attorney review (in attorney states)
9. Homebuyer or their real estate agent provides loan officer copy of contract terms
10. Loan officer re-runs actual terms/conditions through automated underwriting again
11. Loan officer/processing staff generates the loan application/disclosures for the homebuyer to sign/initial/date/return to the loan officer
12. Loan is sent to underwriting (sometimes the title report needs to come in, sometimes the appraisal needs to come in - YMMV depending on the lender - the title report is ordered immediately, the appraisal can be ordered when the application/disclosures are generated)
13. Underwriting reviews all documents and usually additional documents (called "conditions") are required, such as evidence of homeowners insurance, small items on the appraisal corrected (if needed), amongst a laundry list of possibilities (brace yourself for the underwriter to ask for small items so it doesn't come as a surprise, sometimes it isn't much at all, sometimes it can be a bit)
14. Conditions are sent in to underwriter and reviewed, final loan approval is issued
15. Loan officer informs homebuyer when documents can be prepared and delivered to title/escrow officer or closing attorney ("closing agent" is the generic term) for the closing (usually no more than 2 days from final approval)
16. Closing agent prepares the final settlement statement (called a HUD-1) for lender approval, lender approves, homebuyer goes in to sign final loan documents in front of a notary
17. Depending on the state you are buying in, it may fund/record the day you sign or there could be a few day period after you sign before it funds & records (rule of thumb is if you are east of the Rocky Mountains it's the same day, west of the Rocky Mountains usually there is a couple day delay - but vice versa can certainly be arranged ahead of time).