1. Decide to buy.We call home ownership the best “accidental investment” most people ever make. But, we believe when it is done right, home ownership becomes an “intentional investment” that lays the foundation for a life of financial security and personal choice.
Base your decision to buy on facts, not fears.
- If you are paying rent, you very likely can afford to buy.
- There is never a wrong time to buy the right home. All you need to do is find a good buy and make sure you have the financial ability to hold it.
- The lack of a substantial down payment doesn’t prevent you from making your first home purchase.
- A less-than-perfect credit score won’t necessarily stop you from buying a home.
- The best way to get closer to buying your ultimate dream home is to buy your first home now.
- Buying a home doesn’t have to be complicated – there are many professionals who will help you along the way.
2. Hire your agent.The typical real estate transaction involves at least two dozen separate individuals whose actions and decisions have to be orchestrated to get a home sale closed:
- insurance assessors
- mortgage brokers and underwriters
- escrow officers
- buyer’s agents
- seller’s agents
- title researchers
- and many more
It is the responsibility of your real estate agent to expertly coordinate all the professionals involved in your home purchase and to act as the advocate for you and your interests throughout.
A Buyer’s Real Estate Agent:
- Educates you about your market.
- Analyzes your wants and needs.
- Guides you to homes that fit your criteria.
- Coordinates the work of other needed professionals.
- Negotiates on your behalf.
- Checks and double-checks paperwork and deadlines.
- Solves any problems that may arise.
3. Secure financing.Many first-time home buyers start out confused about the process or nervous about making such a large financial commitment. There are six steps that are easy to understand in securing the financing for your first home.
Six steps to Financing a Home:
- Choose a loan officer (or mortgage specialist).
- Make a loan application and get preapproved.
- Determine what you want to pay and select a loan option.
- Submit to the lender an accepted purchase offer contract.
- Get an appraisal and title commitment.
- Obtain funding at closing.
4. Find your home.Driving around looking for your home is fun for only so long. If weeks go by without finding what you’re looking for, the fun can fade pretty fast. That’s why we say that looking for your home begins with carefully assessing your values, wants, and needs, both for the short and long terms.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What do I want my home to be close to?
- How much space do I need and why?
- Which is more critical: location or size?
- Would I be interested in a fixer-upper?
- How important is home value appreciation?
- Is neighborhood stability and priority?
- Would I be interested in a condo?
- Would I be interested in new home construction?
- What features and amenities do I want? Which do I really need?
5. Make an offer.You need to approach this process with a cool head and a realistic perspective of your market. The three basic components of an offer are price, terms, and contingencies (or “conditions” in Canada). Price – the right price to offer must fairly reflect the true market value of the home you want to buy. Your agent’s market research will guide this decision. Terms – the other financial and timing factors that will be included in the offer.
Terms fall under six basic categories in a real estate offer:
- Schedule – a schedule of events that has to happen before closing.
- Conveyances – the items that stay with the house when the sellers leave.
- Commission – the real estate commission or fee, for both the agent who works with the seller and the agents who works with the buyer.
- Closing costs – it’s standard for buyers to pay their closing costs, but if you want to roll the costs into the loan, you need to write that into the contract.
- Home warranty – this covers repairs or replacement of appliances and major systems. You may ask the seller to pay for this.
- Earnest money – this protects the sellers from the possibility of your unexpectedly pulling of the deal and makes a statement about the seriousness of your offer.
6. Perform due diligence.Unlike most major purchases, once you buy a home, you can’t return it if something breaks or doesn’t quite work like it’s supposed to. That’s why home owner’s insurance and property inspections are so important.
A home owner’s insurance policy protects you in two ways:
- Against loss or damage to the property itself
- Liability in case someone sustains an injury while on your property
The property inspection should expose the secret issues a home might hide so you know exactly what you’re getting into before you sign your closing papers. Your major concern is structural damage. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Things that are easily fixed can be overlooked. If you have a big problem show up in your inspection report, you should bring in a specialist. If the worst-case scenario turns out to be true, you might want to walk away from the purchase.
7. Close.The final stage of the home buying process is the lender’s confirmation of the home’s worth and legal statue, and your continued credit-worthiness. This entails a survey, appraisal, title search, and a final check of your credit and finance. Your agent will keep you posted on how each is progressing, but your work is pretty much done.
You just have a few preclosing responsibilities:
- Stay in control of your finances.
- Return all phone calls and paperwork promptly.
- Communicate with your agent at least once a week.
- Several days before closing, confirm with your agent that all your documentation is in place and in order.
- Obtain certified funds for closing.
- Conduct a final walk-through.
On closing day, with the guidance of a settlement agent and your agent, you’ll sign documents that do the following:
- Finalize your mortgage.
- Pay the seller.
- Pay your closing costs.
- Transfer the title from the seller to you.
- Make arrangements to legally record the transaction as a public record.
As long as you have clear expectations and follow directions, closing should be a momentous conclusion to your home-searching process and commencement of your home-owning experience.
8. Protect your investment.Your relationship with your agent doesn’t just end one the deal is done. Agents would like to keep in touch with you and make sure things are running smoothly.
Even after you close on your house, you agent can still help you:
- Handle your first tax return as a home owner.
- Find contractors to help with home maintenance or remodeling.
- Help your friends find homes.
- Keep track of your home’s current market value.
Attention to your home’s maintenance needs is essential to protecting the long-term value of your investment. Fixing small problems early can save you big money later.
Home maintenance falls into two categories:
- Keeping it clean: Perform routine maintenance on your home’s systems, depending on their age and style.
- Keeping an eye on it: Watch for signs of leaks, damage, and wear.