This is a very good question. It’s really hard to know all the details and steps involved in purchasing a home, if you are not involved in real estate on a daily basis – and most of you are probably not. Based on my many years helping people to buy houses, I’ve distilled the process down to seven simple steps. Each buying situation will have its own unique fine points, but these seven steps are crucial in most situations.
So, let’s get started:
Proof of Financing. It is crucial that you can show a prospective seller that you either already have the cash to buy a home, or that you can obtain a large enough mortgage loan. Otherwise, you should not be house hunting in the first place. A letter from your bank stating that you have sufficient funds available will suffice, as would a pre-approval letter from a lending institution.
List of Requirements. Make a list of all the features you want in a home, including its general location, school district, square-footage, finished basement, garage, yard space, etc. Also it’s very important to list the price range of home you can afford. Then drive around the neighborhood and get an idea what properties are available. Take down the addresses of all the properties listed for sale.buy houses
Work with a Real Estate Agent. It is best to work with a full-time realtor. This will not cost you anything, by the way. Your realtor’s commission will be paid by the seller upon closing of the property. You want to find a realtor who has been successful at closing transactions in the past and who specializes in representing buyers. Beware engaging the services of someone who works in real estate as a hobby, even if it’s a family member or friend. If you don’t have a realtor yet, give me call and let’s talk.
Looking at Houses. Give your wish list from Step 2 to your realtor. Based on your preferences, she will locate a number of properties that fit your list, and send you their addresses. Go online and look at them. Most listings these days come with pictures, and some even offer virtual tours. Choose the 5 you like most, and then ask your realtor to set up showings for you. Bear in mind that this first round of showings will probably not be the only properties you’ll tour. It often takes 15 viewings to find the right home. If the home you want is out of your price range, consider making some concessions for a good lower-priced home.
Make an Offer on the Property. After a couple of house hunting trips, you will usually find one or two houses you like. If you can yourself imagining living there, then that’s a good sign that this is a property you should write an offer for. Work with your real estate agent to come up with a good asking price. Your agent will also have a standard Purchase Agreement to fill out, and will talk with you about any terms you might want to include in the offer, such as contingencies, inspection terms, etc. Typically, your realtor will submit your signed offer to the seller’s realtor.
Property Inspection. Once a contract is signed you will go back to your lender and submit the final paperwork to get you loan approved. The bank will order an appraisal, survey, and a title policy – you won’t have to worry about that. However, you should schedule a property inspection to make sure there are no hidden defects in the house. Your real estate agent can help you find an experienced inspector and schedule the inspection with the seller. A good realtor will be at the inspection with you. It usually takes 2 to 3 hours, but it’s definitely worth your time. You will learn a lot about your new home when you walk through it with the property inspector. You will get the inspection report a couple days later. Your realtor should review it with you and may recommend to ask for remedies from the seller, if there are safety concerns.
The Closing. The last step in the home buying process is the closing. Your agent or mortgage lender will schedule the closing with a title company, which handles all the paperwork between you, the seller, your mortgage lender, tax offices and the realtors. The closing is a meeting where all necessary paperwork will be signed. The title company makes sure that the property you are buying is free and clear of any liens. They will also record your deed to the home with your county’s Auditor’s Office. Most closings take 30-60 minutes, but you can speed it up if you read through the documents the day before. The title company will provide you with a copy of the documents 24 hours before the closing.