Congratulations! You are finally ready to purchase your first home. I bought my first place a year and a half ago, before I became a RE/MAX agent, so I know EXACTLY how you feel!
Buying a home is daunting. I had no idea who to contact, what my price range was, or what areas I was most interested in. I DID KNOW, however, that I was not going to throw my hard earned money down the drain by renting. The good news is, in most cases, a buyer who uses a real estate agent does not need to pay them anything. The seller is responsible for paying the buying and selling agent’s commission.
As a Real Estate agent now, and a recent first time home buyer, I can help guide you through this process step by step.
1. To begin, find an agent you trust: I advise against using friends and family members. A lot of emotion is poured into this process and you wouldn’t want to chance ruining a great relationship. Also, a lot of personal financial information is revealed in this process that you may not want a friend/family member to know. The real estate agent you choose should know the area you are looking in, work full-time (versus part-time) as an agent so you know they are fully aware of the latest market trends and home inventory, and have your best interest in mind.
2. Next, you need to go to a lender and get pre-approved. This is completely FREE! Getting pre-approved allows a lender to assess how much money you can afford to spend on a house. This is VERY helpful for you and your real estate agent so you both know which properties are within your budget.
3. Begin house hunting. Talk with your agent about various properties, search online (try: www.brokercandice.com) and look at pictures! When you are ready to preview, arrange a time with your agent.
4. When you find a home you like, you will make an offer. This means you will sit down and sign a purchase and sale agreement, and a number of applicable addendums (attachments). At this point you will need to bring your Earnest Money check. You Earnest money check is your way of placing the house on hold until the deal closes. I typically advise my buyers to write a check for 1% of the total offer price. If you offer $400,000 on a house, you would write a $4,000 check on the day you sign the offer. However, the stronger your earnest money check, the more the seller realizes you are a serious buyer. You can get this money back if you decide to back out of the deal by 1.) if you are unsatisfied with what you find at your inspection, 2.) if you are unable to get financing for the property.
5. Once signing is completed, a few things can happen. The seller of the home can accept the offer (ideal situation), reject it (not ideal situation), or counter (reject your current offer and come up with a different offer you have the option to accept).
6. Once your offer is accepted, you will have quite a bit of time before you are given the keys. One to two months is typical on a home that is not bank-owned, a short sale, or a foreclosure. Those types of homes often take longer. Most of the work from this point forward happens between your agent and the seller’s agent. ATTENTION: Buyer’s remorse is VERY typically during this time. Buyer’s often second guess their decision after their offer has been accepted. This is typical and a part of making such a large life investment.
7. If you have a home inspection, and I strongly recommend this, you will go to the house with your agent and your desired home inspector and walk through the home in detail, checking for problems. Your agent will know the time frame this inspection needs to be done based on the purchase and sale contract. This process on a standard size home takes between 3 and 4 hours. Inspections are paid for by the buyer, not the seller. A rough inspection estimate on a standard size home is $450.00.
8. After you get the inspection report (takes anywhere from 1-3 business days), you have the option to go back to the seller and ask the seller to correct the problems found in the inspection. The seller has the right to accept or reject your requests. Most requests that are structural are corrected without having to fuss with the seller. Problems that are functional, most of the time are corrected. Problems that are cosmetic may be more difficult. You should expect to not get all your requests fulfilled. If you do though, fantastic! If you and the seller can’t come to an agreement on what is going to be fixed, this is one way for you to back out of the offer and get your earnest money back.
9. During this whole process, you should be talking to your real estate agent and your lender regularly.
10. About a week before the deal “closes” (the house is yours and you get your keys), you will set up a time with the Title company and sign final documentation. This is when you will review closing costs and write another check. Unless specified in your purchase and sale agreement, the buyer (you) is expected to pay their own closing costs. Your lender should have already provided you with a “Good Faith Estimate,” so you should already have a good idea of how much that is going to cost. Closing costs typically come out to 2-5% of the purchase price. Closing costs will include items like: loan processing, appraisal report fee, credit report fee, government recording charges, title services and lender’s title insurance fee, underwriting fee, etc…
11. THE DAY! This is the day everything is officially recorded and the title is transferred over to your name. When your real estate agents gets word that documents are recorded, they will CALL YOU and hand over the keys IN PERSON. NOTE: Make sure you get ALL your keys. When I moved in to my place I got the key to my condo but didn’t realize I never got the electric garage door opener or mailbox key. Yes, I did get them eventually but it was a bit of a hassle.
Disclaimer: This is a general home buying timeline and may not include the many hiccups that can arise during the process.