So you found the home that fits your criteria, and you’re ready to buy it. Home buying can be a long and complicated process that requires research, planning, and strategy. Here’s what to do after you’ve found a home you love.
Research the home and neighborhood
Buying a home is probably going to be the largest purchase you’ll make in your life. So it’s vital to diligently research not just the home itself but the neighborhood as well. You can do a lot of research online by calling the seller’s agent or the current owners. You can find out what year the home was built, any upgrades or additions from previous owners, and amenities it comes with, such as a pool, shed, or backyard. Some properties, especially condominiums and gated communities, may have HOA (homeowners’ association) fees, which must be paid monthly and are something you need to factor into your costs.
In regards to the neighborhood, you need to know what’s located nearby, if there are good schools within the district, and available daycare if needed. Again you can do this online by researching the area by zip code, reading area guides, and finding community groups on social media. You can also reach out to a neighborhood committee, if there is one, and ask them what it’s like living in the neighborhood and how long they’ve lived there. Longtime residents are usually a good sign of a good community.
Schedule an in-person showing
So you found your dream home after hours and hours of browsing and researching online. While online showings have come a long way and vastly improved, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s still important to see the house in person. Video tours, 3-D graphics, and high-quality photos can’t always tell the whole story. Nothing compares to seeing the entire property for yourself. This way, you’ll get a real sense of the layout and how much room you have. You can inspect the bedrooms, bathrooms, family room, and kitchen. You’ll know how much natural light flows into the home, assess the storage space, and see what condition everything is in. You could also get whatever questions you have answered by asking the seller or current homeowners in person.
Keep in mind that most sellers will have their own agent, and may not want to communicate with homebuyers directly. So you may need to get an experienced real estate agent
who knows the local market. They’ll be able to provide more insight into the home and the neighborhood.
Have your financial documents ready and get preapproval for a loan
Mortgage lenders will request numerous documents to assess your financial situation before deciding whether to give you a loan or not and for how much. These documents include payroll stubs, tax returns, bank statements, car loans, and renting history, which will show whether you have been paying for your housing on time. Two of the most important factors lenders take into consideration are your credit history and any other debt you might have. Lenders will ask you how much down payment you’ll have to put down and take a look at your debt-to-income and debt-to-credit ratio. This process is called underwriting and will help lenders determine how much mortgage you can afford and if you can afford the closing costs, appraisals, property taxes, and other costs that come with buying and owning a home.
If the lender decides you are a good candidate to qualify for a loan, get a preapproval letter. Sellers will consider preapproved buyers more seriously. Interested buyers without preapprovals may not be able to get financing, and sellers will have to take a step back. This delays the whole process.
Get a home inspection
According to Forbes, a home inspection is one of the most important things you need to do before buying. No matter how good a home looks, you should never skip a home inspection. It will reveal the true condition of the home and its systems, such as the plumbing, electrical wiring, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) unit. A home inspector can identify structural problems and major repairs that may be needed. They can also advise on preventative measures to avoid costly major damages that may occur in the future. In addition, the home should be tested for mold, carbon monoxide, and other dangerous chemicals.
It would be best if you also made sure everything in your home was built following all the building codes and that there were no illegal or unapproved additions or alterations because they will affect the cost of home insurance. Any mandatory adjustments will be your financial responsibility in the future. With a home inspection, you, as a buyer, can factor in additional costs that will come with your new home and factor that into your offer and negotiations. You don’t want to be stuck with major repairs and expenses.
Make a competitive offer and follow up on the status
An experienced local real estate agent can help you make a competitive offer. They’ll have all the data on the market and comparable sales, or “real estate comps” in the area. These are similar houses that have sold and the range of prices they have sold for. If you really love the home, you don’t want to make a low bid. Instead, you need to come up with a strong offer to help make sure other potential buyers don’t beat you to it.
Once you make an offer, follow up on the status of your offer and the status of the sale altogether. Even if another buyer beats your initial offer, you can always make a higher offer, or there’s always a chance that the initial deal doesn't go through.
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