For most of us, buying a home is one of the most pressure filled financial/ personal decisions we make as adults. Some of us buy and sell many homes in a lifetime but most of us rarely buy and sell our primary residence. I always try to take the emotion out of this discussion (when possible) in hopes of demystifying the process. It is really worth the time of any home buyer to understand these steps and what they represent as expectation setting and practical guideline tools.
10 STEPS TO BUYING A HOME
1. EXPLORATION – Use the web, word of mouth, social media, and most importantly your Realtor’s resources to explore and familiarize yourself with specific homes in specific areas.
2. SECURE FUNDING – Pre-qualify, pre-approve, or identify the sources of funds for a cash purchase. Knowing your budget will allow one to properly set expectations. Having a relationship with a mortgage vendor is critical in this process. It is really helpful to have a mortgage professional who can work well with your Realtor. Although homes are bought and sold many times daily this is a detailed and regulated process and transaction. Identifying your loan officer and your funding limits will set you up for a successful home search!
3. IDENTIFICATION – Your pre-qualification or other funding determination should make clear your budget. Find homes or areas that you like! Narrow down the list to highly valued communities, homes, and desired features (how many bedrooms, garage, pool, etc.). Available inventory in the areas which you have selected will determine how broad or specific you can be.
4. COMPARISON – Narrow down the list to favorites and possible best fits.
5. EVALUATION – This is where the Realtor’s access to recent comps (comparable homes that have been sold) allows us to fully evaluate your target list or home. Use the information gathered (how many possible fits, recent home sales, boxes checked on wish list etc.) to identify a realistic value and price limit for each targeted home.
6. OFFER – Develop an offer strategy with your Realtor. Have proof of funds or pre-approval documents ready to accompany the offer. Have a clear understanding of make or break items or amounts for each property. Choose an opening offer based on where you want to finish your price negotiations. Remember, flexibility on closing dates or length of inspection period can help you with price. Everything is in play right now!
7. NEGOTIATION – Unfortunately most opening offers are not accepted. This is a result of most buyers not offering full price. Getting a counter offer on your opening offer is a good thing. It means that the seller wants to make a deal. Now we walk the fine line of evaluating the components of the offer that require agreement. If changes, other than price, were made to the contract a conversation between you and your Realtor will determine the outstanding items for agreement and if you believe you can come to agreement on these terms. This last step will be repeated until you finally come to terms with your seller.
8. ACCEPTANCE – We are not finished yet! Once we have a fully executed contract we have to know and understand the important dates and agreed upon terms to be fulfilled. When are deposits due? When does the inspection period terminate? Are there items that require a specific action by the buyer or seller? We are now counting the days until closing and home ownership!
9. INSPECTION/CONTINGENCIES – Now that we have a list of open items and a timeline to follow it is all about execution. There should be an inspection period in your contract. It is critical to have a licensed home inspector inspect the home. At minimum one should have a termite and home inspection. The home inspection should be a “four point” inspection. A four point inspection covers:
- HVAC (heating and air conditioning)
- Electrical wiring and panels
- Plumbing fixtures and connections
This inspection is your opportunity to understand the true condition of the home. Some buyers choose to have air quality, swimming pool and other evaluations done during this period. I always suggest that all questions or concerns about the purchase be addressed as early in the inspection period as possible. Under the FAR BAR (Florida Association of Realtors and the Florida Bar Association) AS IS contract, the inspection period is your opportunity to take a look and decide if you are comfortable going forward with the deal as it is written. Similarly, all contingencies must be worked to resolve during their allotted time periods. Communications with mortgage underwriters, and any other contacts involved in resolving contingencies should be documented.
10. CLOSING – This is the big day! In addition to funding, all HOA (Homeowners Association), survey, and other documents are in order. In Florida we do a walk through prior to closing. The purpose of the walk through is to insure that everything in the deal is in the home prior to closing. Is the property in the same condition as the day of the contract? Are all of the appliances and fixtures in place? Mortgage regulations require that the HUD 1 (closing statement) be delivered to a buyer 24 hours in advance of closing. This statement should have been reviewed and approved by the buyer, mortgage contact and Realtor. Now that all paperwork is signed and money has been transferred the buyer gets their keys.