Homebuyers Guide (Part 5 of 5)

Click here to read Part 4 of 5

The Steps: start to finish

Research: You’re taking the time to do your homework and learn about home ownership. Excellent. We commend you.

The most important thing? You need to get all the information available to make the right decisions. And here’s where that experienced, knowledgeable, honest agent is invaluable. They will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you, personally making sure that your questions are answered. They will help provide the perspective and clarity you need to get you through this important decision. You’re going to be learning a lot about the community you’ve chosen—neighborhoods, schools, architectural styles, social resources—and about financing options and the realities of home ownership.

Select your team: We can’t stress this enough: your agent and real estate company will make all the difference between a fantastic and rewarding experience and one that’s, well, not so much. The great agent you choose is just the beginning of the story. Behind the scenes is a support staff, a mortgage broker or a bank official, an escrow or title officer, transaction coordinators, property and pest inspectors, energy or green living consultants, home designers—even feng shui consultants if that’s how you roll.

Your agent will coordinate this army of professionals, ensuring a smooth, hassle-free transaction.

Choose a financial consultant and knowing the financial options: This should really be Job One. You’d be surprised how many people skip this step. You don’t go to the grocery store without knowing how much you have available to spend on food…right? The home buying process will be much more satisfying if you take the time up front to determine what the right financing options are for you. Knowing what to expect, what you can afford and what you’re most comfortable with will greatly simplify and narrow your search for the perfect home.

Find the property that’s right for you: You’ve got your team. You’ve got all the data you need. You’ve got your financing. Now for the fun part: Looking at property online. Going to open houses. Imagining what your furniture would look like in that living room…that bedroom…that den. Discovering more about the neighborhoods, schools, community resources and amenities like stores, restaurants, social venues, kid’s activities, hospitals.

You’ll learn a lot about houses and property: structural differences, roofing, heating, plumbing and other systems, landscaping, remodeling opportunities, homeowner’s associations.

Your agent and the army behind them will help you sort all this out, help you decide what’s important and what’s not, provide a sounding board for your questions and concerns and help you find the place that’s just right.

When you do, it’s time to get down to business.

Negotiating a deal: Here’s where all that homework pays off. When you and your team put together everything you’ve learned, found a place you love, know what you can pay for it and are ready to move forward, your agent will work with you to prepare an offer to present to the seller.

Lots of details go into an offer: Why is the seller selling the home? Is the seller an individual? A couple? A bank? An investor? Is it a resale or a new development with a specific type of contract? In addition, there are local, state and federal regulations that govern how offers are presented. Your agent will discuss these—and other—variables with you in order to write an offer that will be agreeable to all parties.

But there may be counter-offers and further negotiating before an agreement is signed. Sometimes this can take several revisions, and can be time-consuming but your agent will work with you, negotiate on your behalf and guide you through the process.

Opening escrow—or, getting into contract: Once you and the seller have agreed on and signed a contract, the escrow process begins. The length of escrow is negotiated as part of the contract. This period gives you time to get to know the property through general, pest or other inspections, and allows the title company to make sure there’s nothing that might interfere with a smooth transition of ownership. You will be working with your lender to solidify your financing and to provide proof to the bank that you can afford to buy the property. The seller and their agent will also provide you with disclosures about the home, neighborhood and community.

Once again, this can get complicated. But your agent will break it down for you and explain every step along the way.

Finalizing the contract and closing: After all the inspections and any repairs or modifications are finished, after you’ve reviewed and approved all disclosures, after your financing is rock solid, it’s time to sign documents with the title or escrow company. These documents will be filed with your city or county on the closing date and will officially register you as the new owner of the home. They also release the seller of any obligations and give you clear title to the property.

Congratulations!

Move in: Time to hang the family pictures, place the furniture and put your stuff in the closet. Call friends and family for a housewarming party and pop the cork on some bubbly. You deserve it.

This was meant as a basic overview of the home buying process. Of course, we’ve simplified it; there are important details you’ll learn along the way—and many things to consider before making the big step of becoming a homeowner.

We have additional resources and information for buyers we’re happy to provide to you at no cost. As we said at the beginning…we’re here to help you when you’re ready to buy. Regular updates on the real estate market in the area you’re interested in are available to you free of charge as well. Just drop me an email or call. Anytime.