Guide to Buying a Home
- Guide to Buying a Home
- 7 Step Process
7 Step Process
Purchasing a home is one of the single most important investments you will make, the focus here is to give you some valuable information and tools to help you understand the fundamental workings of the real estate industry and to make this an exciting, happy event for you. Although some of the materials are directed to home buyers, many of the subjects will also apply to prospective tenants. For many of you, leasing is a short term transition before you buy your dream home.
The wonderful advantage of the internet is that there are so many sources of information. They can help you become much better prepared when you’re ready to begin your search. The more prepared you are and the more knowledgeable you are about the process, the easier and more pleasant the experience will be.
What are the most important things I need to know
before jumping into the real estate market?
How do I get started?
This is probably the most important step in the process. Buying a home is a very exciting but stressful event in your life – you will need to find someone that you can trust and can communicate with to help you find the right home and make the process a pleasant experience. Under the related section, How to Hire a Realtor, you will gain knowledge of your options when deciding how to conduct your search as well as some tips on interviewing Realtors – Questions You Should Ask When Interviewing a Realtor.
2. Perfect Home Buying Experience
Ideally the first meeting you have with your realtor should be a listening consultation. The 3 main goals of this meeting are:
- Get to know each other and understand how you will work together – including how each of you are available to look at homes, timing, how you’ll communicate (how often to be contacted and updated, calls, e-mail, etc.).
- Familiarize you with the process – walk through the steps, give an overview of all the paperwork that will be required; explain the agency relationships; discuss financing options and give references for lenders (see the next section).
- Fully define your goals for this move – determine your needs, locations or areas you prefer, your price range and timing for your move.
The lender you select and the preparation of a pre-qualification and pre-approval are very critical steps in a smooth transaction. Shopping lenders for the best rates is not generally the best route to take. Rates fluctuate daily. There are many mortgage choices and many options. Underwriting criteria vary with lenders. It is much more important to select a professional who can help you understand the process and obtain the best loan for your situation.
Pre-qualification or pre-approval are beneficial first steps before you even begin to look for your home. With a pre-approval your loan is actually approved pending the qualification of a house, appraisal and inspections. It puts you in a much stronger position with a seller and you and your realtor are very comfortable about your loan approval and house search.
These areas are discussed in greater detail under this related section How Much Can I Afford? which has helpful articles and checklists, a mortgage calculator, and links to other calculators related to home buying and selling.
4. Home Search
Before deciding which house to buy, think about your lifestyle, your current and anticipated housing needs, and your budget. Finding the right house involves striking a balance between your wish list and the reality of the housing market in the area you wish to live. The Home Buying Manual includes further descriptions and questionnaires to help you decide what type of home you are looking for – “My Perfect Home Buying Experience” and “Home Search and Lifestyle Questionnaire.”
When you go out to look at homes, review them with a notepad or checklist form to help you keep track of the properties and their differences. Limit the number of homes you look at in a day or it will be too much and you won’t be able to remember them. It’s important to talk openly with your realtor on what you like and don’t like and why. This way your realtor will get a better idea of what you’re looking for.
If you see advertised properties of For Sale by Owners (FSBO’s) or new home communities, call your agent to check them out for you. Most properties and new home projects will cooperate with agents, but only if the agent accompanies you on the initial visit and registration.
When you’ve narrowed down the homes to one or two that you like, your agent can do whatever research is necessary to help you make your decision. Information is available from school districts, local chambers, and planning and zoning offices. Your agent can do a comparative market analysis – a listing of comparable homes in the same area that sold, and those that are currently listed, and how they compare to the homes you have selected.
5. Offer & Negotiation
When you’re ready to make an offer, the final price you’re willing to pay will be based on what it’s worth or it’s fair market value. The value is what other buyers were willing to pay for properties similar to yours in the same neighborhood or area. It is best to have a good idea before you make an offer of what you’re willing to pay and at what terms. Negotiating strategy depends on the situation and parties involved and the current market.
A successfully signed contract is a balance between the parties of sale price and terms that are acceptable to each one. Determine ahead of time what items are important and not negotiable by you and which ones would be. Offers and counteroffers can go back and forth several times. It’s important to focus on your goal or Ultimate Scenario and not get upset or angry at the seller or the negotiations. Focus on the big picture and on what you want to accomplish.
6. Clauses & Contingencies
Once the terms are acceptable to both sides and all parties have initialed all the changes, the date of the last signature or initial becomes the effective date of the contract. This effective date is a trigger for many of the time frames in the contract, clauses and contingencies, which are deadlines that must be made. Contingencies can include loan approval, inspections, sale of property, receipt of acceptable condo or homeowners association documents, and many others. Several other items that must be obtained and reviewed are title insurance, survey (including elevation certificate if required), and property insurance (including flood insurance if required).
I like to recommend that all these items be taken care of as early on in the process as possible to avoid the last minute rush prior to closing. If a pre-approval was obtained prior to your home search, there is no need to wait for loan approval before you do them, thereby making it a much less anxious and frustrating process.
7. Closing & Moving
At least 10-14 days prior to closing arrange to have utilities transferred to your name as of the closing date. Many companies will require a deposit. Arrange for a mover as soon as possible to obtain competitive rates and reserve the date you want.
The last item prior to closing is the final walk-through inspection. You will be checking to see that all the items the seller agreed to fix or replace have been completed. Secondly, per the contract, all electrical systems, plumbing, appliances, heating and air conditioning need to be in working order at the time of closing.
At closing, you will be required to either bring a cashier’s check from a local bank made out to the title company or send wired funds. Personal checks are not acceptable. If your closing with a loan, the signing of loan documents can seem never-ending. Your title agent and realtor will help you understand everything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
As a member of the Multiple Listing Service, I have access to a database that covers from Boynton Beach south to the Broward / Dade County line. I also have developed my own database of properties that are not listed in the MLS system – new home communities, For Sale By Owner homes (FSBO’s), and also the major rental communities. Together we can select the homes that you would like to see. By setting appointments, you can see these homes in a short period of time and have a clearer idea of what is right for your needs.