In our experience, a house is not a dream home because of its size or color. It’s about how you feel when you walk through the front door - the way you can instantly see your life unfolding there. This is about more than real estate - it’s about your life and your dreams.
To get the most of your time visiting homes, it’s helpful to keep the following in mind:
- Get an accurate idea of your price range, an estimate of your monthly payments and a pre-approval letter, so sellers will take you seriously when you make an offer.
- Work with your agent to hone your “wants” and “needs” list. Thing about what’s most important to you: the location or the house itself?
- Preview homes online or via apps to eliminate those you won’t need to visit in person.
- Plan an itinerary with your agent.
Set your expectations ahead of visiting homes:
- You and will agent will typically visit homes together
- Homeowners usually are not home, so feel free to spend as little or as much time as you want.
- Buyers often have a gut reaction to a home. First impressions count, but you can also consult your agent to learn more about home values and possibly to re-evaluate your priorities in the context of what’s available in your price range.
Sometimes buyers find their future home the first time out and others look at 50 homes before they see the one that checks all their boxes. It’s a good idea to see at least a few alternatives so you have some points of comparison, but sometimes you just know a place is where you want to live.
Things to look for when visiting homes:
- Look beyond the staging and decorative items to see the features and figures that convey with the house;
- Check the condition of the home;
- Keep track with photos and notes;
- Consider possible home improvements you might want to make so you can research costs later;
- Don’t forget to check out the outside of the property and the neighborhood. Your agent has access to neighborhood insights and data to help inform your decision;
- Locate your commuter route, schools, shops, restaurants, parks and other amenities;
- If the property is a condo or located in a homeowners association, find out the fees and rules to see if you can live with them.
Making an offer
Once you narrowed down your list and have a clear favorite, collaborate with your agent to make an offer on a home. Your agent will have the most recent standard purchase offer forms that comply with state and local laws.
Things to include in your offer:
- The price
- Terms, such as a request for closing cost help or that the offer is subject to your obtaining financing and a home inspection;
- Target date for closing;
- Earnest money deposit - your agent can advise you about how big your deposit should be based on local customs and current conditions;
- Request for final walk-through;
- Time limit for the offer.
- Financing - Unless you’re paying cash, it’s typical to write your offer with a contingency clause that lets you off the hook if you can’t finalize your mortgage within a certain number of days. Even though you have a pre-approval for a loan, it’s smart to protect yourself.
- Home inspection - Your offer can be made dependent on a satisfactory home inspection report within a certain number of days. This protects you if the inspection uncovers expensive necessary repairs.
In a competitive housing market, you may find yourself competing against other buyers. In that case, your agent is your best ally in strategizing for your offer to be accepted. With access to real-time market data, your agent will know how to best position your officer. If there’s more than one offer, the sellers can: Accept the best offer, counter all the offers to get a better price and terms, or counter one offer that’s close to what they want.
You and your agent can work together to find out what’s important to the sellers, such as a specific moving date, and to possibly waiving contingencies, adjusting your price or writing a “love letter” about the house.
Sellers can accept your offer as is, or they can make a counteroffer with an adjustment to some or all of your terms. You can accept or reject the counteroffer and make your own counteroffer. The contract is final once you and the sellers have agreed to all the terms. Your agent is essential when negotiating the terms of your purchase.
Execute the contract
The crucial period between an offer and a final contract is an important time to stay in close contact with your agent so you’re equipped with all the information you need to make smart decisions.
Your agent can explain the key points in your multi-page contract.
What to expect to see in the contract:
- Accuracy of information, including the correct spelling of your name and the property address;
- The effective date of the contract - important because your contingencies have time limits;
- A list of contingencies, such as that the same depends on financing, an appraisal, a satisfactory home inspection and perhaps the sale of your current home;
- Property disclosure information from the seller, depending on your state laws;
- A complete list of what conveys with the property;
- A list of required inspections, such as a home inspection and a pest inspection;
- Information about when you can move in;
- In some cases, such as if your offer is contingent on the sale of your home, the seller may add a “kick-out” clause, which means that the seller could accept another officer if one is made before your home is sold.
How do I know when to negotiate and when to let go?
Your agent can guide you, but you also need to decide how much you want a particular property and what you’re willing to accept to get it.
When to let go:
- A bidding war drives the price too high;
- The appraised value of the home is below your offer;
- A home inspection finds defects that would be expensive to repair;
- The sellers are unwilling to make reasonable repairs;
- You Learn about homeowners association rules that won’t work for you.
Things to watch out for:
- Unrealistic deadlines: you’ll need time to arrange a home inspection and receive the report, as well as arrange financing;
- Missing deadlines means you lose your chance to end the contract and keep your deposit;
- Items that don’t convey with the property; if you’re not sure, ask your agent to confirm;
- Communications from your lender.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the most common reasons for contracts to fail or to be delayed are home inspection problems, financing problems or an appraisal issue. Contact an agent to help you navigate the complexities of a real estate contract.
Schedule home inspection
As soon as your offer is accepted, you should schedule your home inspection. If you’re buying in a busy season, it may take time to find an available inspector, so rely on your agent to recommend trusted home inspectors.
Your home inspector will check a massive list (more than 1,000 items) of systems, appliances, and structures in your home to evaluate its condition. You’ll get a written report that identifies potential problems and future maintenance issues. It’s up to you to decide whether the report means you want to walk away from a house or ask the sellers to make repairs. You can also have an “information only” inspection, which means you’re buying the house as-is, but want to know its condition.
Things an inspector will check:
- Structural conditions such as the foundation, beams and floors;
- Roof condition;
- Mechanical systems such as heat and air conditioning;
- Appliances - to make sure they’re working;
- Plumbing - for leaks, rust and water pressure;
- Electrical systems such as grounded outlets and code violations;
- Safety issues such as stairs, handrails, mold or chimney maintenance.
You and your agent should attend the home inspection to learn about home maintenance and so you can see any potential problems yourself. The inspector can answer questions as you go, so if there’s anything you don’t understand or are worried could be a problem, just ask.
While you and your agent can decide whether to negotiate on anything in the inspection report, you can ask the inspector the following questions:
- Are the items you’ve flagged major or minor issues?
- What needs to be done to resolve any flagged issues?
- Can you give an estimate of the cost of any repairs?
- Is another inspection needed, such as an electrician or structural engineer?
- Are there things that need to be done upon moving in?
An experienced real estate agent can be the best adviser to help you understand the implications of the home inspection.
Get a home warranty
Some home sellers pay for a home warranty that covers them while their home is on the market and convey to the buyers after the sale. You can ask your real estate agent for advice about negotiating for the sellers to pay for a warranty or buying one yourself.
A home warranty policy, which typically lasts for one year and is renewable, provides coverage for some of your home’s systems and appliances. In return for the annual fee, the company will cover repair costs and arrange for contractors. You’ll pay a deductible fee and possibly service fees if you need to use the warranty.
If you’re buying an existing home, especially one with appliances that are more than four years old, a home warranty can give you peace of mind about paying for unexpected repairs and finding a reliable contractor. If you’re a first-time buyer, especially if you have limited saving, this can be particularly important. If you have plenty of emergency savings, you’re handy or know good contractors, you may not need a warranty.Your real estate agent can also be a good source of recommendations for contractors. If you’re buying a newly built home, structural defects are usually under warranty by the builder for 10 years and other items are typically covered for six months to two years, so you don’t usually need a home warranty.
To choose a good home warranty, you and your agent should review:
- The home warranty company’s license with your state’s real estate commission;
- The fine print - that’s where you’ll find exclusions and imitations;
- What’s covered and what’s not;
- The coverage limits - your repairs will only be paid for up to a specific level;
- Service fees and deductibles;
- How quickly service and claims are handled;
- How contractors are vetted and what happens if you use your own;
- Coverage differences between a basic warranty and enhanced warranty;
- Online reviews.
You can always ask your real estate agent for home warranty recommendations and advice.
While you may feel jittery before your closing, your agent and lender should have you fully prepared for the day. As the buyer, you choose the title company for your title search and the closing. Your agent and lender can recommend reliable title companies.
Things to do before the closing:
- Stay in close touch with your agent, lender and title company;
- Avoid lowering your credit score with a new credit application or late payments;
- Confirm that your contract contingencies are resolved, including the home inspection, an appraisal and your financing;
- Finalize your homeowner’s insurance policy;
- Gather your down payment and closing cost funds in an accessible account;
- Review your Closing Disclosure form, which you’ll receive three days before your settlement, and ask questions if you don’t understand something;
- Arrange a wire transfer or get a cashier’s check for the funds you need for the settlement;
- Schedule a walk-through of your new home within 24 hours before your closing to check its condition.
What to bring to the closing:
- A government-issued photo ID;
- Proof of homeowner’s insurance;
- Your copy of the contract;
- All paperwork associated with your loan and the home purchase;
- Your cashier’s check or wire transfer confirmation;
- Your checkbook for miscellaneous funds that weren’t included on your closing estimate.
You’ll be signing numerous documents, including a repeat of the documents you signed when you applied for your loan. The most important documents you’ll sign include:
- Promissory note to repay the mortgage;
- Deed of Trust, which gives the lender the right to foreclose if you don’t repay the loan;
- What’s covered and what’s not;
- Initial escrow disclosure, which outlines the funds on deposit for your property taxes and homeowner’s insurance bills;
- Right to cancel form, which states that you have three business days to cancel the transaction.
After the closing:
- Keep all your signed documents in a safe place;
- Avoid lowering your credit score with a new credit application or late payments;
- Change your address;
- Change the locks and security codes on your home;
- Review your due dates and new budget.
Information provided by http://www.kw.com/guide/buying