The Buying Process
Buying a home can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor or it can be a stressful, even painful experience. You’re more likely to have a positive outcome if you use a knowledgeable real estate agent and have knowledge of the buying process in advance. Here are the A to Z steps of buying a property:
1. Receive a Pre-approval Letter from a Mortgage Specialist
Pre-approved home buyers receive preferential treatment when negotiating home purchases. Why? Because pre-approved buyers have proof they are financially qualified to purchase the home, sellers consider them more serious than buyers without a pre-approval letter. You don’t want to find the ideal home in the perfect area, and then not qualify for enough financing to close the deal. A Mortgage Specialist will help you figure out your price range.
2. Select an Ideal Real Estate Agent
This is one of the most important steps in the process. For all intents and purposes, you and your agent will be partners. You’ll confide in him or her on a business level and perhaps on a personal level. Your agent will be the person who deals with any problems that crop up along the way. A quality agent is the key to finding the right place in the right area for the right price. Be selective, look for someone you feel comfortable with and who’s trustworthy, knowledgeable, and experienced. Your agent should represent you exclusively.
3. Meet with your Agent for an Initial Homebuyer Consultation
This is the important step when you and your agent prepare each other for exactly what to expect. The following points should be covered and fully understood during this meeting:
Your exact needs (number of bedrooms, baths, etc.), where you’re looking, your price range, and your timeline. It takes generally takes 30 to 60 days from purchase to closing.
How often you are available to look at properties and what you expect from your agent in terms of availability and communication (e-mail or phone updates, daily or weekly).
Your agent should give you copies of all the paperwork you will be expected to sign throughout the process and briefly explain each form.
Your agent should explain buyer brokerage vs. seller’s representation, and the benefits of signing an optional buyer broker agreement.
Sign the Massachusetts Mandatory Agency Disclosure Form, which is required by law. Never work with an agent without signing this form first. This is not a contract. It requires the agent to disclose to you what his or her role will be in your transaction and how the agent’s firm will handle your transaction.
Be open to any suggestions that your agent may give you. Your agent may suggest a different strategy or type of property that might be more suitable for your needs.
4. Start Looking at Homes
This is the fun part. It is important to limit the number of homes you visit in a day. If you look at too many homes, details are lost. It’s a good idea to keep a checklist to help you track the properties you’ve seen. It is also helpful to narrow down the properties after each visit. Remember, communication with your agent is crucial. It’s important to let your agent know which houses you like and why, as well as which houses you don’t like and why. Sometimes looking one time helps you and your agent really know your exact needs. Ask your agents to research on any advertised properties that look interesting to you. That’s the agent’s role. If you should become interested in a for-sale-by-owner property, ask your agent to contact the seller first to see if the seller will cooperate (pay a commission) with a buyers’ agent.
5. Finding Your Dream Home or Ideal Property
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to one or two homes you really like, your agent will do research to help you make your decision, but the decision will ultimately be yours. And surprisingly enough, it’s going to be pretty easy to decide. Buyers can call the local Chambers of Commerce for any needed statistics. Local Zoning and Planning offices are a good source for future road plans, etc. Once you’ve selected a home, your agents will do a comparative market analysis on that property. This involves determining “fair market value” by looking at what other buyers were willing to pay for similar properties in the same neighborhood or area.
6. Making an Offer & Handling Negotiations
When making an offer on a property, it is important to decide ahead of time how much you are willing to pay and at what terms. You already know the fair market value from the information your agent provides from accurate data in the Multiple Listing Service. Now you have to decide:
Price you will offer
Personal property you wish to have included (remember, everything is negotiable)
Inspections you plan to conduct
When negotiating with any seller, it’s best to remember not to take anything personally. Put yourself in the seller’s shoes. Figure out what’s not negotiable to you, and be willing to give a little on the things that are negotiable. A good agent should be able to give you sound advice about how to structure your offer. Once your offer has been presented, the seller will accept your offer, reject your offer, or counter your offer. The counter process can go back and forth many times. It’s important for all parties to keep their cool and focus on the goal.
7. Arrange Inspections & Remove Conditions (Contingencies)
If, as part of your offer, you ask for time to be allowed to have inspections conducted on the property, you have written a Contingency Offer. Offers can be contingent upon:
Receipt of acceptable condo documents
The sale of property
It is important for all deadlines to be met and all conditions removed exactly as described in the contract. Agents are responsible for making sure this is done correctly and to file for extensions when needed.
8. Select an Attorney and Sign “The Purchase and Sale Contract”
If you do not have an attorney, then your agent or mortgage broker can help you find one specializing in real estate transactions at a reasonable price. The attorney’s job is to verify all legal documents and prepare your Purchase and Sale Agreement, which is your sale contract with the seller. This agreement will list all the items agreed upon and contain special riders, conditions, and much more. Skyline Realty agents do not handle the Purchase and Sale transaction. You are required to have an attorney around the time of your offer acceptance.
9. Conduct the Final Walk-through Before the Closing
Most sales agreements will give the buyer the right to one Pre-Closing Inspection. This is your last chance to find any problems and have the seller correct them. Read the contract carefully. Most contracts read that all electrical systems, plumbing, appliances, heating, and air conditioning need to be in working order at the time of closing. These are the items you check during walk-through. You also check for any other items the seller previously agreed to fix or replace. If anything is found to be defective or missing, you have several options. The seller can: remedy the problem prior to closing, credit you the amount of money it would take to hire someone to remedy the problem, promise to correct the problem, or place the amount of money you will need to pay someone else into escrow with the attorney. On new-home purchases, the process is a little different. The builder will generally do a walk-through with you approximately one to two weeks prior to closing, resulting in a “Punch-Out List.” Hopefully, they will get everything on the punch-out list completed prior to settlement. If not, most new-home contracts allow the builder to complete whatever minor items have been noted in a “reasonable” period of time. At Skyline Realty, we recommend that you conduct your walk-through immediately before or 24-hours prior to the closing.
10. Closing on Your Property
On the closing day, you will sign all of the mortgage documents, which can seem never-ending. The attorney conducting the settlement should be able to explain every document to you in a satisfactory manner. Do not ever feel intimidated. If you don’t understand, don’t sign. Your attorney’s job is to make sure you understand everything. You can request blank copies of the documents you will be signing in advance, so you have time to carefully review them. You will have to present all down payment and closing-cost funds. Bring a certified check; personal checks are usually not accepted.
11. Moving Day
This is the last (and probably the hardest step) in the home-buying process. A little bit of planning and forethought will make for a much smoother move. You will want to make arrangements with a moving company as soon as you can. Call at least two in order to get competitive quotes. They will usually ask to come to your home to get an idea of how much they will be moving and the distance they will need to travel. If you’re moving onto a congested street and don’t have a driveway, contact the city permit office to have them hold a parking space for you that’s the size of the moving truck. Be sure to change your address with the post office, your banks, and any creditors at least 30 days in advance. To avoid late payments, actually call and verify receipt of the address change whenever possible. Call to order your utility hook-ups approximately 10 days prior to your move. Be aware that some utility companies will keep you on the phone for a long time, so use an online option whenever possible.
© 2017 Skyline Properties, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Written by Alex Haidar, edited by Theresa Milstein.
At Skyline Realty, we minimize the stress of the buying process.