Buying a home is a series of steps, each one building on the last. If you’re buying your first home, or if you’re a seasoned homeowner but would like a refresher course, we’ve outlined the general process. Understand, every home buying experience is unique and there are a variety of ways to get to the finish line with new keys in hand, but hopefully, this gives an overview of the general path toward becoming a new homeowner.
Choose a Real Estate Agent. They will be your partner throughout the entire home buying process. They’ll be your resource for any questions you have, they’ll help target neighborhoods and homes for you to see, they’ll line up private showings as well as let you know of open houses, they’ll be your representative during negotiations so that you get the best deal, and they’re a wealth of information to help you through the process.
Get Prequalified for a Mortgage. How much house can you afford? In order to determine that, you’ll visit with your choice of mortgage loan officers. Based on your income and savings information, they’ll provide you with an amount you can afford for a home.
Begin Looking at Homes. Your realtor will begin setting appointments so you can start touring homes in your price range. Because you’ll likely view many homes, it’s helpful to take photos and make notes of pros and cons. It can be difficult to remember everything about them. Now is the time to open the closets to see how much space and shelving is available, test the water to see how long it takes to get hot, flip the light switches to see if they all work. These things will be done in more detail later during the home inspection, but this information will give you an idea of the overall condition of the house. Observe the neighborhood, notice traffic, noise level, and accessibility to areas you frequent such as schools, church, shopping, and restaurants.
Everyone has a different way to know when they’ve found “the one”. Perhaps stepping into the house simply took your breath away and you could visualize your family there for years, or maybe the pros outweighed the cons on your spreadsheet; whatever way resonates, you generally know when you’ve found it.
Make an Offer. Once you find a home you’re happy with, it’s time to make an offer. Your realtor will be your best guide in knowing how much to offer, the timeframe for when the sellers must respond, and when it is worth negotiating and when it is best to walk away. You may get a simple acceptance or they may counter-offer. This can be the most nerve-wracking part of the home buying process, but this is also when your realtor’s expertise will shine. The negotiations can go back-and-forth a few times and that’s normal. If you get a solid “no”, then you regroup and begin looking again. If you get a “yes”, it’s time to celebrate!
Get a Home Inspection. Your realtor will structure the offer to be contingent on the home inspection. This means if significant problems are uncovered by the independent home inspector, the offer can be renegotiated. The inspector will thoroughly review the home, from attic to flooring, and give his or her unbiased opinion.
At this time, you and your realtor will discuss the findings to see if there is anything you’d like to ask the seller to repair. The seller can agree or refuse; this is all part of the negotiation process. Once the offer is accepted by all parties, the home is taken off the market.
Have the Home Appraised. The mortgage lender will require an appraisal to determine the value of the home. If the value is less than the asking price, the buyer and seller will need to renegotiate the price of the home as the bank will not lend more than the home is worth.
Closing the Sale. The mortgage company will arrange for the title to be updated and will prepare all documents for the closing of the sale. Your realtor will be present as you sign the documents (there are many!) and you’re free to ask any questions at any time. Once all paperwork is signed, the home is sold!
Again, your realtor will be your best resource for navigating through these steps. Buying a home is usually both an emotional and logical process, so it’s nice to have someone on your side who can give guidance and support. Once you’ve gone through the steps, it’s time to celebrate being a new homeowner!