So, you’re thinking of buying a house? Owning a home is so grown-up and impressive. Your friends will blush and your parents will brag about you even more than they already do. You’re crushing life and if you’ve read our Home Buying Basics, you’re already up to speed on what you should know before you begin looking for that brownstone you’ve been dreaming about. If you haven't read it, go take a peek, or just check out this handy recap:
- Decide what you’re looking for
- Contact a real estate agent
Once you have checked these items off of your list, the next step is the hunt...
Ready to see what’s out there? Browsing online resources is a good place to start but a real estate agent can be really helpful. Buying a home is one of the most important decisions you will make, and there are so many things to think about. How many windows are there in the living room? How many outlets are in the kitchen? Choosing an experienced real estate agent who listens to you and understands your needs, and has detailed knowledge of the area in which you want to want to live is a huge benefit.
An agent can provide access to more home options than you’ll likely find on your own and take care of setting up viewing appointments. The agent can act as an intermediary between yourself and the seller. It’s nice to have some experience in your corner when you’re negotiating a price. Some agents work on behalf of the buyer, some work on behalf of the seller and some work as a disclosed dual agent representing both parties. Be sure to understand whose interest the real estate agent is looking out for.
Getting pre-approved will move the process along more quickly.
You fell in love with a home! Now it’s time to make an offer. You don’t want to lowball your offer and you don’t want to pay more than is necessary, so finding the middle ground is key to moving into that house. Do you need a negotiator? A real estate agent can be incredibly helpful during this process, bringing up factors important to the negotiation.
For example, it’s important to consider how long the home has been on the market. If the seller has had the listing on the market for a while, they may accept a lower offer. If the listing is new, the chances of that are slim. Also, consider the location. If homes tend to sell quickly where you’re looking, a higher offer may be a smart move. A real estate agent can be a huge help here because they know what homes have been selling for in your (dream) area.
Further factors to consider before making an offer:
- Is it a buyer's market or seller’s market?
- Avoid paying more than you can afford
Once you make an offer, you will likely have to put your preliminary deposit in escrow. Escrow is a service provided by a third party to hold funds until the buyer's broker and seller's broker have fulfilled each portion of their respective contracts. The escrow company watches over the deposit to ensure all contract elements have been completed, all banks have been paid, and protection is given to both the buyer and the seller until the completion of the transaction. This is standard practice so don’t let it scare you. It’s a good thing because it means you’re almost a homeowner.1
SIGNING THE PAPERS
The seller accepted your offer. Well done! Now the last step to ease your peace-of-mind is to get the home inspected. This service typically costs between $300-$500. If there are any material issues that come up during the inspection, you may be able to ask for a price reduction to cover repairs. Once this is taken care of, sign on the dotted line. You’ll never be prouder to show off those cursive skills.
Sealing the deal can take time, but don’t be discouraged. When the conditions of the sale have been met, the preliminary title will be issued. If everyone agrees that the papers are in order, the buyer will place closing costs as well as a deposit in an escrow account.
High five, homeowner! Now, pick a moving company or call some friends (that are good at carrying things) and move in. You’ve earned it, and like any process, once you begin, the grey areas evaporate and your path reveals itself. Follow these steps to ensure that path leads directly to your new home sweet home.