Buying a home is exciting but the process is often stressful and intimidating, even if you’re an experienced home buyer. Whether you are buying your first home or your fifth, an investment property or a vacation getaway, your success will depend on you preparation and the expertise of your real estate agent. Today’s real estate market offers many opportunities and risks so you want to work with a trusted real estate professional who understands the current market and has the resources available to help you make a great decision. We recommend the following steps when purchasing a home:
1.) DEFINE YOUR GOALS
The best place to start is with your finances. How much can you put down and what can you afford? How much of your income do you want to commit to a mortgage? Once you know this, you can begin to decide what kind of home you want to buy. You may want to consider:
- Square footage
- Number of Bedrooms
- Number of Floors
- Garage Space
- Outdoor Areas
- School District
- Convenience to Shopping, Parks, Other Important Resources
- Proximity to Work, School, Family
Knowing what you can spend and what you want will help focus your search. This process will save you time and help avoid frustrations and disappointments.
Now that you know what you want and how much you can afford to spend, even only tentatively, you can research your purchase and financing options more effectively. While you can take the next steps on your own, utilizing the skills and expertise of a real estate professional can help you streamline the process and get you from renter to owner faster than you expected.
2.) CONTACT A REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONAL
Home buying is complex and no two houses or sales are alike. A real estate professional can help you navigate these processes and are likely aware of opportunities or pitfalls you might not discover on your own. When selecting a real estate agent, consider:
- Their familiarity and understanding of your selected market.
- Their expertise in all areas of home buying, including mortgages and various types of sale options.
- Their track record for finding homes for buyers within your targeted market and client satisfaction.
Ask for referrals from people you know who were pleased with their home buying experience and ask for references from the agents you are considering. Talk to more than one real estate professional before signing a contract.
3.) GET PRE-APPROVED FOR A LOAN
If you are serious about buying a home, it is to your advantage to get pre-approved for a loan before you start viewing houses. The pre-approval process is straightforward and involves meeting with a lender and authorizing them to examine your current financial situation and credit history. Based on this information, the lender may provide you with a document detailing the amount you can borrow to buy a home. There are several places to go when seeking a lender including your bank, credit union and many reputable online companies.
The benefits of pre-approval include:
- You will learn if you qualify for special programs to help you afford a better home (particularly if you’re a first-time buyer).
- You know what you are eligible to receive and can direct your search to homes within a specified price range.
- You are taken more seriously when you make an offer which can shorten the negotiation process.
An experienced real estate profession can suggest lenders with a history of offering excellent mortgage products and services.
4.) VIEW HOMES AND SELECT THE ONE
Return to your list of goals and remind yourself of what you want in a home. Identify those things that are “must-haves” and those which are “like-to-haves.” There are certain facts we know about home buyers that may help you with the process of viewing options and selecting your home:
- 92% of buyers use the internet or mobile apps to search for homes.
- Typical buyers search about 12 weeks and view 12 homes.
- 97% of buyers view real estate agents as important in the home search process.
Utilizing real estate websites can be very helpful in narrowing your search and saving time. By viewing photographs or taking video tours, reviewing home details, and accessing neighborhood information, you can eliminate those homes which won’t meet your needs and spend your actual home visit time on those that are most likely to meet your needs.
Narrow your search and visit the homes in person as they make have different layouts, designs, workmanship or other details that weren’t obvious from the websites. Take an expert real estate agent with you as they have been in thousands of homes and are likely to notice things you might miss, provide expert analysis, and act as an impartial sounding board.
5.) MAKE AN OFFER AND NEGOTIATE WITH THE SELLER
When you’ve found the place you want to call home, you are ready to make an offer. Your real estate professional can help you understand the offer process and prepare you to sign the contract. Your agent will have contracts that are generally used for these transactions in your area. These documents will detail your requests and can include:
- The amount you are offering for the home
- Closing Dates
- Possession Dates
- Deposit Amounts
- Other Conditions (roof replacement, repairs, etc.)
Review the offer and its clauses with your real estate professional to assure that they accurately express your intended offer. Your real estate professional will present your prepared offer it to the seller and/or the seller’s representative. The seller can accept your offer, reject it, or counter it to initiate the negotiation process. If a counter offer is presented, negotiations begin and this is when your expert real estate professional can really help you get the best deal possible. The negotiations will either result in an agreement to sell/purchase or a rejection.
6.) SECURE THE FINANCING
Once you have a pending agreement to purchase the home, return to your lender and finalize the mortgage details so you can close on the house. At this time you will finalize the down payment amount, interest rate, payment schedule and other considerations.
7.) CLOSE THE DEAL
Before you receive the keys to your new home, you must finalize the purchase. This includes:
- A title search. Usually your closing attorney or other legal adviser conducts an historical review of all legal documents relating to ownership of the property to ensure that there are no claims against the title of the property. Most states also require or recommend that you purchase Title Insurance for protection in the event of errors in the records or mistakes in the review process.
- The final walk through. Before signing the purchase and mortgage documents, you will have the opportunity to walk through the home one more time to assure that it is in the same condition as it was when you signed the sale agreement.
- The settlement. This is the paperwork process that typically occurs on closing day. You will –meet with a lawyer, real estate professional, or escrow agent to verify and sign all the paperwork required to complete the transaction. The settlement will include paying your closing costs, legal fees, property adjustments and transfer taxes. At that point, you’ll receive the property title and copies of all documentation pertaining to the purchase.
At this point you will get the keys to your new home!