Where should I start my house research?
Visit real estate web sites, subscribe to real estate blogs, read newspapers and magazines that provide the most current information about real estate in your desired areas. This will give you a sense of the housing trends in specific areas.
If you have an idea of what kind of home you like but can’t quite convey this information, start looking at various home styles. If you see a picture of a house you like, save it, post it on a board or even create a Pinterest account and save it there. Once you are ready to begin your search in earnest, you can provide this information to your agent.
Should I get pre-qualified/pre-approved before looking at homes?
Getting pre-qualified is a simpler and less involved process. You provide a lender your financial information including your debt, income and assets — either over the phone or on the Internet. This usually does not cost anything. Once this is complete, a lender can provide a preliminary opinion regarding the appropriate mortgage amount for which you qualify. Note that this does not include an in-depth look at your ability to purchase a property, nor an analysis of your credit.
Getting pre-approved is a much more involved process. You will complete an official mortgage application (a fee usually is charged), and provide the lender with all requested documentation. Upon receipt of your documentation, the lender will perform an extensive check of your financials and current rating. You will receive a conditional commitment in writing with an exact loan amount. This loan amount will allow you to look at homes at or below that price point. At this time you will also have a better idea of the interest rate you will be charged on the loan.
The advantage of being pre-approved prior to looking at homes is you’ll know exactly how much house you can afford. You won’t waste time looking at properties that are beyond your means. And when you find that perfect home and present your offer, being pre-approved allows you to move quickly. In a competitive market this tells the seller that your offer is serious.
Should I use a real estate agent?
When you are looking to buy a home, a real estate agent can be an important partner. Agents will provide you with useful information about houses and neighborhoods; they have knowledge of the home-buying process, negotiating skills, and familiarity with the areas in which you are interested. And best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything to use an agent. They are compensated by the sellers, who pay the commission.
How should I start my home search?
Begin by searching for homes on the Internet. Stay on top of new homes as they hit the market by signing up to receive email alerts. Visit open houses and take notes. Make sure to check out the house. Do the windows and doors open and close properly? How is the water pressure when you turn on the shower and flush the toilet?
Check out the neighborhood and see if the houses on the block are well maintained. Is there a lot of traffic? Is the house conveniently located near places of interest to you such as shopping centers, restaurants, parks, schools and public transportation?
I want to make an offer; how do I decide on a price?
You are almost there! You found the right home for you and want to make an offer. Your agent will evaluate the real estate market in that particular neighborhood and help you determine a price that has the best opportunity of being accepted. Once you and the seller have reached an agreement on terms the house will go into escrow. This is the period of time it takes to complete all of the steps in the home-buying process.
Should I get a home inspection?
Typically, purchase offers are contingent on a home inspection of the property to check for signs of structural damage or things that may need fixing. Your real estate agent usually will help you arrange to have this inspection conducted within a few days of your offer being accepted by the seller. This contingency protects you by giving you a chance to renegotiate your offer or withdraw it without penalty if the inspection reveals significant material damage.
Both you and the seller will receive a report on the home inspector’s findings. You then can decide if you want to ask the seller to fix anything on the property before closing the sale. Before the sale closes you will have a walk-through of the house, which gives you the chance to confirm that any agreed-upon repairs have been made.
What happens at closing?
Get ready to sign a ton of paperwork! Become familiar with the documents, take your time and read them carefully. After all documents have been signed, the escrow officer will prepare a new deed naming you as the new owner. The deed will be sent to the county recorder’s office. You will have arranged either a wire transfer or present a cashier’s check for the down payment and closing costs. Your lender will wire the loan funds to escrow so that the seller’s lender may be paid.
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