Once you’re aware of all the costs involved and have worked with your lender to determine what you can afford, it’s time to begin your search for a home.
Finding a Real Estate Agent
Your real estate agent is a valuable partner in the homebuying process. He or she will help you find your dream home and present the offer to the seller on your behalf. When looking for an agent, start by asking your lender, a friend, or a family member for a referral. Be sure to talk to a few agents before choosing one. Here are a few things to consider when looking for an agent:
Licensing: All agents and brokers are required to be licensed by the state in which he or she does business. Do a quick internet search to verify your agent’s license is in good standing and that no disciplinary action has been taken against them.
Experience: Has the agent been around for just a few years, or are they a seasoned professional? Do they have experience in your market? Are they unafraid to negotiate to get you the best deal? These are all important factors to consider to make sure you find an agent that’s right for you.
Reputation: One of the best ways to identify a good agent is by what past customers say about them, so be sure to read reviews online before choosing your agent. Doing so will give you insight into the opinions and experiences of other homeowners and will help you make a more informed decision.
Finding the Right Home
House hunting can be an exhilarating yet draining process. What should you look for, and how do you keep track of the features you loved, as well as the things you didn’t? Here are some things to consider each time you view a new property:
Local home values
Additional fees (like HOA)
Traffic and noise levels
Flooring, windows, and ceiling
Bathrooms and kitchen
Foundation, driveway, and pool
Landscaping and curb appeal
Making an Offer
Once you’ve found the home you love, it’s time to make an offer. The offer, or purchase agreement, is a legal document that outlines the terms and conditions of the sale. This may include but is not limited to:
Address and legal property description
Down payment amount
Earnest money that must be paid
Expiration date for the offer
A commitment by the seller to provide a clear title to the property
Target closing date
Target move-in date
Any contingencies the agreement is subject to, such as the buyer’s need to obtain a mortgage or get a home inspection
In some states, your real estate agent will prepare this document, or the state may require an attorney to draft it. Be prepared for the seller to come back with a counter offer before fully signing off on the deal.
What is Earnest Money? Earnest money is a deposit you put down when making an offer. It’s a sign of good faith to show you’re serious about the transaction. The amount varies, but it could be between 1% and 3% of the purchase price. The money gets held in an escrow account until the transaction is finalized, at which point it will go toward your down payment.
The Home Inspection
After both parties have signed the purchase agreement, it’s time to get a home inspection. A home inspection is not typically required to buy a home, but it is strongly recommended. In some cases, it may be a contingency on your purchase agreement, meaning it must take place, or the deal will be void.
Why You Should Get a Home Inspection
A home inspection is a thorough examination of the property that assesses the home’s structural and mechanical condition and points out any needed repairs. On average, an inspection costs between $300 and $500, although cost varies depending on the location, age, and size of the house. While a home inspection will cost you a small sum of money up front, it can help you know what you’re buying. For instance, if the property needs major repairs, an inspection will help you know ahead of time. Keep in mind, you may be able to negotiate with the seller to pay for repairs.