Buying a Home...Where to Start?
March 20, 2017
We get calls every day from consumers in the marketplace interested in the homes we have listed. They ask the price, they ask about the square footage, the bedrooms, the baths, and the lot. Then, more often than you would think, sometimes with a shaking voice, sometimes almost in a whisper, they ask the question they've been afraid to ask all along...
How do I do this? How do I get started? What are the steps to buying a home?
The first thing we say is "Remember to breathe. It's okay. That's why we're here, to help you through the process."
It's really incredible how many people out there want to own their own home, but they don't know how.
While I can't write a step by step guide for every situation, I can hit the highlights for most buyers.
1. Get Pre-qualified
Most people want to find a house, fall in love and then talk about how they're going to pay for it. Unfortunately, in today's market that doesn't work. You really can't make an offer without a pre-qualification letter and if you wait until you're ready to put an offer in to get qualified, someone could purchase the home before you get your PreQualification Letter.
Besides, getting pre-qualified takes all the guess work out of it. Don't settle for a $75,000 home you don't love, when you might qualify for your $150,000 dream home. Or don't fall in love with a $200,000 home with all the bells and whistles when you really only qualify for $150,000 home with a few of the bells and a handful of the whistles. Just because you qualify for a $200,000 purchase, doesn't mean you have to buy a $200,000 home. But isn't it nice to know that you could?
How do you get pre-qualified? Just speak with any mortgage lender...they'll ask about your finances, and frankly, some of the questions may seem personal, but they need to know in order to process your pre-qualification. Trust them. They are bound by licensing law and ethical constraints.
How do you find a mortgage lender? Ask your friends who they used when they bought their home. Ask your mom. Ask your boss. Ask somebody you trust. If you're already working with a REALTOR, your REALTOR can give you sound, experienced and educated references.
If you're not already working with a REALTOR, that takes us to Step 2...
2. Find a REALTOR
Find a REALTOR the same way you'd find a lender. Ask your friends who they used when they bought their home. Ask your mom. Ask your boss. Ask somebody you trust.
There's only one caveat to this...be sure to get a REALTOR and not just a licensed real estate agent. REALTORS are bound by a Code of Ethics. Real estate agents are not.
Between your new REALTOR and your new lender, you have an amazing amount of resources and knowledge at your disposal. Ask the questions!
3. Go shopping!
Pre-qualification letter? Check! REALTOR ready to show? Check! Lender at the ready? Check!
Excellent! Start looking at homes that meet your needs in your price range...your REALTOR will provide you with a list or "search results". You can eliminate the ones that you don't want to see and then take a look at the rest.
There is no "average" for how many homes buyers look at prior to buying. Unless you're under a time constraint, then you can look at anything in your price range until you...
4. Fall in love & make an offer
"Making an offer" is just that...you are making the seller an offer based on the price of the home and the current market conditions.
If you're in a buyer's market, that's to your advantage and there is probably a little more room for negotiation, depending on how long the home has been on the market and the type of situation the seller is in. Some sellers will negotiate, some sellers will hold firm and...
Some sellers in a seller's market you will likely pay close to or over the list price.
It's the basic economics of supply and demand. Rely on your REALTOR's expertise when negotiating. They can help you a lot.
5. Executed contract and other documents to your lender
Once you've come to terms with the seller, the contract will need to be completely executed, also known as ratified. Once your REALTOR provides you with a completely executed copy of the contract, make sure to get it to your lender as soon as possible.
While there's still much to do (choosing an inspector, picking closing attorney, having inspections, getting a survey, making moving arrangements), as long as you follow the steps your REALTOR sets out for you and you get your lender everything they ask for as soon as they ask for it, it won't be long before you're a homeowner.
Let me be the first to say: Congratulations!