Whether you are a home buyer or seller, the real estate transaction can sometimes be tricky to navigate. Each step will get you closer to a successful home closing. Part 1 of our next two posts will dissect the real estate transaction from the buyer's perspective. Finding experienced and well-qualified real estate professionals will make the process much smoother. Often times, agents will specialize in working with those looking to either buy or sell. An agent who specializes in buyers, or an Accredited Buyers Representative (ABR) may be most appropriate for your transaction.
Begin work early in your process to speak with a mortgage lender and get pre-approved (Paying cash for a home? This step is not necessary). The lender will analyze your income, assets and debt then sharea list of paperwork to submit with your mortgage application. You will typically be pre-approved for a specific dollar amount. Your lender takes into account how much money you are using as a down payment, the interest rate, the price of the home, the taxes and the homeowner's association dues, if any.
Once you've identified an agent, set up a consultation. Your real estate agent will discuss with you the price of the home you are looking for, the size, how many rooms you need, the style, your needs and wants in a home, and much more. It is important to understand home values in the areas you are looking so you have an idea of what type of homes you can afford.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 97% of home buyers search online at some point during their transaction. This will give you an idea of what is available in your price range in the areas you are looking. Most sites allow you to set up the details of what type of home you're looking for in terms of size, location and price. You can then have automated emails sent to you once those home types come onto the market.
The Multiple Listing Service
Most real estate agents are members of a local listing service referred to as the multiple listing service (MLS). A clearing house of sorts of most all houses currently for sale. They can set you up with an automatic email system (similar to the sites mentioned above) which sends you properties as soon as they come on the market that meet your criteria. Take time to carefully look at these listings. Look at the photos, videos and virtual tours, and sort out which houses you want to see in person.
Visit Houses in Person
Once you have the list of houses you want to see in person, your agent will set up a "showing" for you to visit the houses you are interested in. This is the time to ask questions and take notes.
Write and Negotiate an Offer to Purchase
When you find the home of your dreams, it is time to write and negotiate an offer to purchase. Your agent will guide you through the process and present the offer to the seller's agent on your behalf. Be prepared to negotiate with the sellers to make the final contract a win-win.
Signed and Delivered
After you and the sellers come to an agreement on all terms, you will all sign the contract. It will be delivered to all parties and become a fully executed real estate contract. You will tender the earnest money (think deposit) check at this time.
The contract allows a certain number of days for you to have home inspections performed at your expense. These may include a whole house inspection, a radon inspection, a mold inspection, a pest inspection, a sewer inspection and a lead-based paint inspection.
Your lender will hire a real estate appraiser to perform an appraisal. Appraisals will determine the current fair market value of the house.
Clear to Close
Once the appraisal is done, your mortgage loan will go through the final underwriting process. Once you are fully approved for the loan, you will receive a clear to close.
Just before closing you and your agent will go to the house and do a final walkthrough. This walkthrough is to make sure the home is in at least the same condition it was in when you wrote the contract. Any inspection issues you negotiated to have repaired or replaced should be completed by the final walkthrough.
Finally, it's closing time. You will sign all the documents at closing which will make you the official homeowner.
You can find a real estate agent who specializes in buyers, or an ABR, on websites such as Zillow, Realtor.com, Remax and others. In our next post, Part 2 will navigate through the real estate transaction from the eyes of the seller.