Buying a house can seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you think about it as a series of simple steps. Anyone considering a move to a new home can benefit from understanding the process, from start to finish.
- The decision. The first step, of course, is deciding that you’re ready to buy. Part of that decision is knowing what sort of home you want: what features, what location, what price range.
- Window shopping. This really refers to starting to look at what’s available, which many people do online. Browsing through real estate websites can help you understand what’s on the market and what your options include.
- Your mortgage and your budget. Contacting a mortgage professional lets you figure out what you can afford. A lender or mortgage broker will want to know about your income, expenses and debts. Often the initial application can be finished in a 30-minute phone call. I have several mortgage professionals I regularly refer clients to because I know they are good about meeting deadlines and handling all the necessary paperwork without any hassles.
- Your wish list. When you know what you can afford, it’s time to think about what’s most important to you in your new home. How big? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Do you want a big yard, or something compact you won’t have to maintain? Need to be near a particular school, or close to your job? Want a water view, or a house on a golf course? Do you want something that’s move-in ready, or suitable for renovations that will let you personalize it?
- Your agent. One of the first things an agent will do is help you with your wish list. A good agent will ask questions to make sure you both have a good idea of what you want – and just as important, anything you don’t want. Hiring an agent can be a simple matter of an oral agreement to represent you or a formal written document.
- The short list. Using your budget and your own criteria as a guide, your agent will use the Multiple Listing Service to narrow the field and present you with a selection of available homes to review in detail. You’ll get a list of the best prospects that match your wishes. The size of this list will depend on your preference. Some buyers want to see every possibility; others don’t want to be overwhelmed with too many choices.
- The visits. Your agent will take you to look at the homes that you pick from that suggested list. If you’re focusing on a particular area, you might be able to look carefully at half a dozen or more houses in one day. When I’m working with someone new to the area, we might cover a lot more territory, maybe ranging as far as from Topsail Beach to Brunswick County. That may require more than one day to see all the best prospects.
- The offer. When you’ve decided on the house you like best, your agent will help you prepare an offer. The recommended offering price will be based on a careful review of what similar properties have sold for recently. Your agent will pass your offer to the seller’s agent, who may come back with a counter-offer.
- The negotiation. Sometimes the negotiating process can take days or weeks. But if the buyer and seller can quickly agree on price and other terms, it sometimes is just a matter of hours to reach a deal.
- The contract. This spells out all the important details: the price, of course, as well as when the sale will occur. It also allows time for the buyer to take such steps as home inspections, a survey, title searches, insurance applications or a review of homeowners’ association rules.
- The loan. The mortgage professional will finalize the financing. This requires documents such as tax returns, bank statements and pay stubs to make sure the buyer can afford the home.
- The final walk-through. Usually the day before the closing, the walk-through lets the buyer take a last look at the property to be certain nothing has changed since the offer was made.
- The closing. This typically takes about an hour, usually around a conference table in a lawyer’s office, where all the necessary paperwork is reviewed and signed.
- The celebration. Now it’s time to pop a cork or otherwise savor this exciting fact: you are now the owner of your new home, ready to start this new phase in your life.
No matter where you find yourself in this process, one piece of advice applies. Don’t panic! If you need advice or reassurance on anything, your agent is there to answer your questions and help you stay focused on your ultimate goal.
Have a question about buying, selling or any other real estate matter? Let me know and I’ll address it in a future article.
Michelle Clark is a broker with Intracoastal Realty, based at the Wrightsville Beach office. She is an Accredited Luxury Home Specialist, ALHS and also a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource. Whether you are buying, selling, or investing, know that Michelle and her team will go the extra mile for you. To learn more about Michelle and Intracoastal, go to www.intracoastalrealty.com. You may contact Michelle at [email protected] or 910-367-9767. Like Michelle’s team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleClarkTeam.