The Home Buying Process
Buying a home will likely represent the largest investment you will ever make in your life and the largest debt you will ever have. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned veteran, it’s normal to feel nervous about the home buying process.
The chart below will help you see how the process flows from the very beginning to the moment you receive your keys at the closing table. You may be surprised to learn that there are several steps that need to occur before you begin viewing properties.
SELECTING A BUYER’S AGENT
When you are driving around a neighborhood and see an agent’s name on a for sale sign, that is the listing agent. They represent the seller. As a buyer, you need to work with your own agent. A buyer’s agent will represent you and has a fiduciary responsibility to look out for your best interests.
The best news is that the listing agent shares their commission with the buyer’s agent so you get full representation without having to pay the commission! When selecting a real estate agent, talk to several and choose the one you feel most comfortable working with.
Ask your agent for a referral to a lender or mortgage broker. Your lender will go over the various loan programs available to you, verify your income, look at your credit report, and provide you with a pre-approval letter showing the maximum amount you are approved to borrow. Being pre-approved gives you an advantage when dealing with potential sellers, as they will know your offer will be less likely to fall through due to financing contingencies.
At Realty Executives Associates, we have representatives from Mortgage Investors Group right inside our office. MIG is Tennessee’s largest provider of single-family residential mortgages. Our partnership with MIG allows our clients to speak with a real estate agent and obtain financing in one spot.
The buyer consultation is designed to significantly reduce the amount of time and frustration that many buyers experience during the home search phase. In the buyer consultation, we will zero in on your wants and needs, then use the MLS to narrow your search to only those available homes that most closely match your desired criteria. This short process can eliminate dozens of hours of time wasted looking at homes that don’t meet your needs.
During the buyer consultation, we will work together to create a list of the top five homes currently on the market that match your wants and needs and are most likely to be your perfect home. We will then schedule appointments to go view each of those homes.
You’ve just selected your top five candidates and now it’s time to see them in person. Together, we will tour each of these homes. You will then decide if one of them is indeed your perfect home. If so, we can proceed to making an offer. If not, we may need to readjust your criteria or wait until additional homes come on the market.
WRITING AN OFFER TO PURCHASE
Now that you’ve found your perfect home, it’s time to make an offer. But how much should you offer? Sometimes homes are overpriced. Other times, sellers are more motivated and price their homes appropriately. Without current market information, it’s impossible to know if the seller’s asking price is reasonable or not.
We will provide you with MLS data showing recent sales of comparable homes in the area. Together, we will use this data to determine an offer price that will be most likely to get you into the home of your dreams without overpaying for it. We will write up your purchase offer including the price and any other terms or special requests and present your offer to the listing agent, who will then present your offer to the seller.
Your offer may be accepted, rejected or countered. In the case of a counteroffer, the negotiation process begins. You can accept, reject or counter the seller’s counteroffer. When a counteroffer is presented, we will work together to review each specific area of it, making sure that we move forward with your goals in mind and ensuring that we negotiate the best possible price and terms on your behalf. We will continue negotiating with the seller until a mutual agreement is reached or the negotiations break down.
ACCEPTING THE CONTRACT
Once an agreement has been reached and both parties have signed the purchase offer, you are now under contract. Along with accepting the contract, you will submit an earnest money deposit, which is money that goes into escrow as a sign of good faith to the seller. We will write your purchase offer so it includes contingencies that will return your earnest money if, for example, there is an issue with the home inspection or you are unable to obtain financing.
After signing the contract, a period of time will begin to remove all contingencies. These typically include an inspection contingency and a financing contingency but other contingencies may be included as well. All contingencies need to be removed in order to fulfill the contract and close on your new home.
If, for some reason, a contingency cannot be removed, further negotiations may be required or the contract may be canceled. For example, if an issue arises from the home inspection and the seller is not willing to fix the issue or offer concessions, you may choose to cancel the contract and receive your earnest money back.
OBTAINING FUNDS FOR CLOSING
Once all contingencies have been removed and you have finalized your mortgage details with your lender, your lender will make funds available for closing. You will be required to obtain funds to cover such items as a downpayment, closing costs, legal fees, and taxes. Prior to closing, you will receive a settlement statement outlining any expenses which may apply to you.
Closing day is finally here! You will meet with a representative from the title company to verify and sign all the paperwork required to complete the transaction. You will pay your downpayment, closing costs, and other required fees. Title to the property is transferred from the seller to you. The seller receives payment for the house and you receive the house keys! Finally, the title company will officially record the deed, mortgage and other documents with the local county courthouse. You now own your new home!
You’re done with the home buying process and it’s time to move in! Start unpacking and enjoy your new home!