WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE HOME BUYING PROCESS
Purchasing a home is wonderful, exciting, stressful, confusing, and a whole range of other emotions. The process can seem long and overwhelming at times. The key is to take it one step at a time and let us handle the big picture. Below is an overview of what to expect.
INITIAL BUYER CONSULTATION
Even before you are ready to jump in the car and start looking at houses, it’s important that you sit down with your agent to prepare for this journey through a Buyer Consultation. Prior to this first meeting, you should complete our Ready to Buy Survey. When we meet, we will review that information including your timeframe, wants and needs, and finances. We will set up a search for you in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) which will email you new listings as soon as they hit the market. We can also view some of the online listings together so you can get a feel for what information is provided in the listing and your agent can get a feel for what property features you like and dislike. You and your agent will also review the Agency Disclosure Pamphlet and the Buyer Representation Agreement.
Either immediately before or after the Buyer Consultation, you will need to contact a lender to get pre-approved for a loan. Ideally, this should happen before we meet so that we have all the information we need for your home search. Nearly all sellers will request a pre-approval letter (or proof of funds if paying cash) to be submitted with your offer. Sometimes we can’t even get a showing appointment without submitting this document first. Since we are still in a strong seller’s market, it’s important that we are ready to move fast on the house that you choose. Having the pre-approval letter ready to go is key. We can provide a list of our preferred lenders before our meeting. Be prepared to answer questions about your finances, debts, and income. You will also be asked to provide at least some basic paperwork up front such as tax returns, paycheck stubs, and credit scores.
THE HOME SEARCH
As mentioned above, your home search begins with an online search in the MLS. Your initial search will produce results that include everything already on the market in your target areas. Often these may not be exactly what you are looking for and that’s okay. Remember that in a seller’s market, the best properties will receive offers as soon as they are listed. The good news is that once your search is set up, you will receive instant notifications of new listings and you can let us know right away when you want to see a house.
MAKING AN OFFER
When we find a home that fits your needs, you should be ready to move quickly. Many areas are seeing houses go under contract in a matter of days, so if you want to wait and think about your decision for a while, you need to understand that it may not be there when you come back to try and make an offer. The reason we spend so much time preparing at the beginning of the process is so that you feel knowledgeable about the process and comfortable enough to make a decision at the appropriate time. When making an offer, we will review data with you including comparable recent sales, seller disclosures, neighborhood list to sell ratios, and whether or not it is appropriate/typical to ask for seller concessions. We will work to find the balance between getting you the best deal and getting the home you love.
The inspection period begins the day after your offer is accepted. During this time, we can schedule any type of inspection you wish. Typically, buyers get a general home inspection, termite inspection, and a video pipe inspection. We strongly recommend you have these three inspections done on any house. Additionally, you may want to have someone check the HVAC or pool (if applicable) or have a more specialized professional look at something the home inspector finds. This period is also your opportunity to research flood zones, insurance, school districts, or anything you may have concerns about. We do have the opportunity to submit repair requests or possibly credits from the seller within this period. These items are completely negotiable and if you are not satisfied, you may cancel the contract within the allotted timeframe.
Once we are through inspections, your lender will order the appraisal to be done. The appraiser will contact the listing agent to gain access. We will not have any direct interaction with them. The appraisal will be submitted directly to your lender for review and approval and you will be notified of the results. Usually the property appraises with no problem. In the event that the appraisal comes in lower than the contract sale price, we will inform the seller and find out how they want to proceed. You can’t be forced to pay more than the appraised value for the property as long as our offer is contingent on an appraisal.
FINAL LOAN APPROVAL & FINAL WALKTHROUGH
The final steps in the home buying process before closing are receiving final loan approval (“clear to close”) from your lender and then performing our final walkthrough inspection. Typically, we will be given the clear to close and see the final Closing Disclosure 2-3 days before the scheduled closing. You will have a chance to review all of the numbers and ask questions before we get to the closing table. Then, the day before or the day of closing, we will do our final walkthrough where we verify any repairs have been completed and that the property is in the same or better condition as it was when you made your offer.
You made it to the closing table! We are crossing the finish line!! The title company will prepare you for what you need to bring to the closing. Remember you will need to show ID before they will allow you to sign. Also be aware that you can have your closing funds (downpayment, closing costs) wired to the title company ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about getting a cashier’s check from the bank that day. You will have a lot of documents to sign. The attorney or notary will quickly review the documents with you at the closing table, but if you plan to read everything, you will need to make arrangements to do that ahead of time. There won’t be time at the closing table to read every page. Your agent and lender will also be available either in person or by phone to answer any questions that come up.
Congratulations homeowner! You did it. Now for the best part – handing over the keys and welcoming you to your new home.