Finding the perfect house on your own is not easy - choose the agents you can trust.
So, you want to buy a house—now what? The first time buying a home is an emotional, exciting, and also exhausting experience. You may also be wondering along the way—what am I missing? This is a common question. Here’s how the buying process works from start to finish.
Do some preliminary online searching. Check into what homes are selling for in the areas you’re interested in to give you an idea of what you’re looking for. This will help later on when communicating your wish list with your agent.
Take care of the budget. Use a mortgage calculator to determine your total monthly payment (mortgage, taxes, insurance and any association dues). Make some additional estimates for utilities and see if this comfortably fits into your ideal budget.
Get pre-approved. To get pre-approved for a mortgage you’ll need to get some paperwork ready: pay stubs, W-2s, bank account statements, tax returns for the past two years, any credit lines, and names and addresses of your landlords for the past two years. Start with your current bank, but make sure you check out competitor banks as well – you might get a better mortgage loan rate by shopping around. Also, do consider the fact that the amount your lender approves you for as a maximum – is by no means what you should spend. Leave yourself room to bid as properties at times will receive multiples offers and they're may be a need to escalate your offer to compete and outbid other offers to win your dream home.
Find an agent. A good agent will help you navigate the process every step of the way. Your friends and family will be great sources—see if any of your trusted contacts have someone they recommend.
Look at homes. Be patient at this stage. Your agent may show you a variety of homes to get your reaction on features they think you’ll like. Give your agent detailed feedback so they can show you homes that are perfectly suited to you. Sometimes, this process can take months or years—So be patient.
Make an offer. Once you’ve found your dream home, you may want to move quickly. Your agent will guide you on a reasonable first offer to start negotiations based on market conditions. Also, consider closing costs which can be 2%-5% of the sales price.
Negotiate. Prepare to go back and forth with the seller a few times on price and selling conditions. Your real estate agent will be your advocate here and try to get you, their client as much as possible for your money while being fair and respectful to the seller and their real estate agent.
An accepted offer. Pop the champagne! If you reach an agreement, you’ll make a deposit to an escrow account to show good-faith. Escrow is usually 30 days where the seller takes the house off the market with the contractual expectation that you’ll purchase the house - provided you don’t find any serious problems during the inspection.
Do a home inspection. A home may appear flawless but there’s no substitute for having a professional inspector review the property for quality, safety, and it's general overall condition. This way, you can avoid unwanted surprises and unexpected repairs. If the inspection reveals undisclosed serious defects, you can negotiate further to have the seller make repairs or discount the selling price. Or withdraw your offer and get your deposit money back.
Closing. When your negotiations with the seller are successful, and the inspection came back clean, you should be ready to close. At your closing, you’ll spend a little over an hour signing lots of paperwork and then will be handed the keys.