Homebuyer’s Guide

You need to live somewhere, right?

Of all of life’s choices, where we decide to live is perhaps the most basic—and essential. We’ve gotta live somewhere. So where’s that going to be for you?

Every state, every city, every town, every neighborhood offers its own combination of elements that create community and lifestyle. There are places in the country where you, your family and pets can run free. In the suburbs, services, schools and shopping are convenient and neighborhoods are tight knit—where people gather to socialize and interact. Cities offer compact, denser living but much more access to culture, creature comforts and shopping.

Sure, renting has some advantages: you can experience the lifestyle of a community by renting a place with all the comforts of a home but with a little less hassle and responsibility in maintaining the condition of that home.

But sometimes buying is the correct choice. And the decision to buy a home, purchase a piece of a community and stake your personal flag in the ground is an important one. Once you’ve made it, it’s vital that you have experienced, honest agents ready to focus on your needs every step of the way. But if you’re not sure—or not ready—and want to test out a new community by renting, we can help you with that too. Either way we make sure you get settled into your perfect home.

So let’s explore why, how and when buying a home is right for you.

The American Dream can be yours.

The first time you turn the key in the front door of a home you own, you open the door to a whole new life chapter. An entirely different lifestyle, one in which you create your own environment, decorated and customized to your taste. Where you decide what to plant in the garden, what color to paint the walls, what pets you choose to share your life with, what curtains to hang, what flooring to pamper your toes with.

It’s a special place. Family birthdays. Movie nights. Getting together with pals for the big game. Holiday dinners. Kodak moments with the kids. Romantic evenings by the fire. Raucous patio parties with friends and neighbors. And it’s all yours.

Whether you choose to buy now or buy later—whenever it’s right for you—it will be a pivotal moment. The moment when you choose your lifestyle and what community to become part of. Owning your own home is truly a dream. The uniquely American Dream. And it can be just right for you.

Building your financial legacy

Sure. Owning your own home has fantastic lifestyle benefits. But there’s more to this picture. Becoming a homeowner is a sound financial decision. One that gives you opportunities to make your income work for you and help plan for your—and your family’s—future.

Where would you prefer to put your hard-earned dollars? Someone else’s pocket? Or your own? No brainer, right?

One of the key parts of home ownership is that you’re making your money work for you. Your happiness. Your future. No one else’s. Buying a piece of property gives you control. You can improve it. You can decide if and when to sell it. Or to pass it on to later generations to enjoy.

It’s essential to plan not only for day-to-day living, but also for retirement. And experts agree that a key part of maximizing return on investments is diversification. For generations of Americans, that’s included one significant option to building wealth: the ownership of real property.

And like they say on TV: “But wait…there’s more.” Homeownership offers tax benefits. You can deduct the amount you spend on mortgage interest from your income taxes on your primary home. That frees up more of your income for saving, for your kid’s college fund, for retirement, for home improvements…or maybe for a little fun. Believe it or not, in some communities, depending on current real estate values, owning a home is actually less expensive than renting one.

Lastly, owning your own home has long-term benefits that may extend beyond your lifetime. When you stake out your piece of the American Dream, you’re building the secure foundation of a legacy that your children—and your children’s children—will thank you for. You’re giving them the gift of financial, personal and community security for generations to come. And just think of the family memories and stories that will be created in your home.

So…what’s next?

There’s definitely a right time and place for choosing buying as your best option. Since it’s not something you do every day, you’d be wise to consider enlisting some help. Time to call in a professional. Someone with the knowledge and experience of the area you’ve chosen can save you hassles and help smooth the way forward. The purchasing process is complex and varies from place to place. A qualified agent who knows the ins and outs of the local market is an invaluable asset and can help you develop a game plan that will save you time, money and aggravation.

Everybody says this, but we sincerely mean it: the right agent makes all the difference in the world. They are your partners in this journey. They’ll help you make sense of what can be a confusing and intricate process. You want someone you know is on your team, who knows and understands your lifestyle, interests and financial goals…someone who gets you.

Honesty is key here. You need to know that your agent and real estate company won’t be afraid to tell you if they think you’re making a mistake. Competence is important too: it’s a litigious world and real estate contracts and files can be inches thick and bewilderingly intricate. You need to know that your representative has the experience and know-how to navigate those tricky waters and ensure smooth sailing ahead.

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.