So, you are ready to buy a house. Here is a breakdown of the home buying process to make it stress-free…well, almost stress-free!
- Find a Realtor. You may already know a reputable Realtor to work with. If not, get online and start researching, this will be very important in the near future. This person will be helping you make a BIG purchase, so you need someone with experience.
- Talk to a lender. Local lenders are typically easier to deal with. If you don’t know a lender, ask your Realtor to make some suggestions. It’s always YOUR choice as to who you use. Getting pre-approved for a loan before starting your home search is a good idea. It lets you know how much you are able to spend and it also is very helpful when you write an offer – it makes you a “strong buyer.”
- Time to start looking. Make a list of your requirements (location, bedrooms, baths, sq ft, age, school district, price) and give them to your Realtor. They will provide you with a list of available properties. It’s a good idea to drive by the properties at different times during the day and evening to see how the neighborhood feels to you. This can eliminate some of your previous choices. Another thing, don’t look for the “PERFECT HOME.” They only exist on HGTV! I’ve been in 100’s of homes and I’ve yet to find the perfect one.
- Take notes. While looking take a notebook to make notes about each property, trust me they will all start running together. Pay more attention to the location and layout of the home than cosmetics. Paint, flooring, kitchens, baths can be updated in the future. While it would be nice to have a home with quartz countertops, custom cabinets, imported hand scraped Brazilian tigerwood floors! Remember the windows, HVAC, and roof. These are all expensive to replace. A bad roof can mean high insurance premiums. An inefficient HVAC system will lead to high energy bills. It’s sometimes easy to picture yourself in a home that is nicely decorated over one that’s empty. Do not purchase a home based on someone else’s decor. Remember their furniture and decorations will be removed. On the bright side, this gives you a blank canvas to work with. Be sure and ask for a Seller’s Disclosure on the homes you are interested in.
- Make an offer. Now that you have found the right property you can make an offer. Most likely you’re not going to get a $250,000 property for $215,000 with the seller paying all your closing costs and prepaids (taxes and insurance). Make the offer based on the condition of the property and the sales of comparable properties for the last year in that area. A low offer will most likely upset the seller and hinder your chances of securing a good deal. Remember, this has to work for you and the seller both. I’m not saying that you have to offer the full price unless the market calls for it. Often times the seller has a little wiggle room. If possible, it’s a good idea to give the seller a few days after closing to move out. There have been too many times that a seller has moved out before closing only to have the deal fall apart. Once the offer has been written your Realtor will submit it to the other agent or directly to the seller if representing both parties. You have already given personal information to the lender now you will give it to the title company. This would also be a good time to call your insurance agent and tell them you are in the process of buying a home.
- Inspection and Appraisal. You don’t want to end up like the characters from The Money Pit. We always recommend that you get a home inspection. This can be done with a home inspector, contractor, friend or relative. Typically it’s better to go with the first two choices. Most home inspections start at $250 and go up from there. The buyer is responsible for paying for the inspection and most inspectors want payment before or right after the inspection is finished. The Realtor can suggest some good home inspectors. In most cases, the inspection has to be completed within 10 business days of the offer being accepted. If any repairs are requested they will need to be given to the seller during that time period. The seller has 5 business days to respond. If the seller will not make the repairs, you can accept or walk away from the deal. The lender will order the appraisal soon after they receive the executed contract. Sometimes it’s a good idea to hold off on the appraisal until the inspection and repairs are agreed upon.
- Maintain good credit, no big purchases. At this time most of the work is being done by the lender and title company. While waiting you might as well get a credit card and start buying new furniture, right? WRONG!!!! DO NOT go out and buy anything big on credit! Also, don’t quit or switch jobs before closing. The lender will possibly pull your credit and check with your employer the day before or day of closing. Any surprises will put the brakes on the deal.
- “Who turned the lights out?” Moving day is a lot easier when you can see. Call the utility companies and tell them you are moving. Be sure and have the electric, gas, and water transferred for the day you take possession. Make sure the seller does not have the utilities turned off before they are placed in your name. It’s a good idea to have the locks re-keyed after you move in. There is no telling who may have a key to your new home.
- Get your money ready. Everything has been moving like a well-oiled machine. Closing is just up ahead and you are ready! The title company will call you a day or two before closing and schedule a time and tell you the $$ amount to bring with you. If possible, your Realtor will join you at closing.
- IT’S CLOSING DAY!!! CONGRATS ON YOUR NEW HOME!
These are the steps to buying a home in Arkansas, they may differ in other areas.
Check out http://www.remaxAR.com for more info on real estate.
Thanks for reading!