Buying a home is a big move, literally and figuratively. Buying a house requires a serious amount of money and time. The journey isn’t always easy. It isn’t always intuitive. But when you get the keys to your new home — that can be one of the most rewarding feelings pretty much ever.
The key to getting there is knowing the home-buying journey. Knowing what tools are at your disposal. And most importantly creating relationships with experts who can help you get the job done.
With so many people looking to purchase a home this spring, it’s important to know the entire process.
I’ll show you some of the major steps you’ll take during the home-buying process, and explain the relationships and experts you’ll need along the way.
Ready to live the dream? Here we go.
Do Your Homework. Before you set foot into a foyer, you should identify your list of “musts” and “wants.” This list is an inventory of priorities for your search. And there’s so much to decide: Price, housing type, neighborhood, and school district — just to name a few. If you’re planning to buy a home with a partner you will certainly want to be on the same page. If you’re not, you’ll be less able to give Realtors or lenders the information they need to help you. And you risk wasting time viewing homes you can’t afford — or don’t even want in the first place.
Start Shopping. Once you know what you’re looking for, the next step is to start looking at listings and housing information online. (This part? You’re going to crush it.)
Find Your Realtor. Your relationship with your Realtor is the foundation of the home-buying process. Your Realtor is the first expert you’ll meet on your journey, and the one you’ll rely on most. That’s why it’s important to interview Realtors and find the one who’s right for your specific needs.
Choose Your Lender. Once you’ve found your Realtor, ask them to recommend at least three mortgage lenders that meet your financial needs. This is another big step, as you’ll be working with your lender closely throughout the home-buying process.
Pick A Loan. Once you’ve decided on a lender (or mortgage broker), you’ll work with your loan agent to determine which mortgage is right for you. You’ll consider the percentage of your income you want to spend on your new house, and you’ll provide the lender with paperwork showing proof of income, employment status, and other important financials. If all goes well (fingers crossed) you’ll be pre-approved for a loan at a certain amount.
Look Around. Now that you have both a Realtor who knows your housing preferences and a budget — and a lender to finance a house within that budget — it’s time to get serious about viewing homes. Your Realtor will provide listings you may like based on your parameters (price range, ZIP codes, features), and will also help you determine the quality of listings you find online. Then comes the fun part: Open houses and private showings, which give you the unique opportunity to evaluate properties in a way you can’t online.
Make An Offer. Once you find the home you want to buy, you’ll work with your Realtor to craft an offer that not only specifies the price you’re willing to pay but also the proposed settlement date and contingencies — other conditions that must be agreed upon by both parties, such as giving you the ability to do a home inspection and request repairs.
Time To Negotiate. Making an offer can feel like an emotional precipice, almost like asking someone out on a date. Do they like me? Am I good enough? Will they say yes? It’s stressful! Some home sellers simply accept the best offer they receive, but many sellers make a counteroffer. If that happens, it’s up to you to decide whether you want your Realtor to negotiate with the seller or walk away. This is an area where your Realtor can provide real value by using their expert negotiating skills to haggle on your behalf and nab you the best deal.
Get the Place Inspected. If your offer is accepted, then you’ll sign a contract. Most sales contracts include a home inspection contingency, which means you’ll hire a licensed or certified home inspector to inspect the home for needed repairs, and then ask the seller to have those repairs made. This mitigates your risk of buying a house that has major issues lurking beneath the surface, like mold or cracks in the foundation. (No one wants that.)
Ace the Appraisal. When you offer to buy a home, your lender will need to have the home appraised to make sure the property value is enough to cover the mortgage. If the home appraises close to the agreed-upon purchase price, you’re one step closer to settlement — but a low appraisal can add a wrinkle.
Close the Deal. The last stage of the home-buying process is settlement, or closing. This is when you sign the final ownership and insurance paperwork and make this whole thing official.