Deciding What You Need And Want
Here are some suggestions to help you prepare for your search.
Needs and Wants List
Make a list of your needs and wants.
Do you need an extra bathroom, a garage, a fenced backyard, lower utility bills?
Do you want a fireplace, a short drive to work, a lakeside view, or maybe minimal yard work?
Once your list is made, go back over it and decide what is most important to your lifestyle. It may be privacy, creativity, or recreation.
Decide which items are musts and which you are willing to give up. Assign each item a priority so that you will know what to look for as you begin house hunting.
Deciding where you want to live may be the single most important factor in choosing a home.
Location affects your day-to-day living. Proximity to employment centers, shopping centers, schools, major traffic arteries, and other attractions may be important. Evaluate location carefully. Location of a property is one of the most significant influences on value.
Your choice of location may be limited somewhat by the price you can afford. Even so, make sure you consider such things as:
Type of Home and Lot
A single-family detached home is attractive to a lot of people because it typically provides more living space and land area than other types of living units. Typically the detached structure permits you greater freedom (less restrictions) on remodeling, expanding, painting, and altering the appearances of the structure.
If you don't like spending leisure time on yard work, consider garden or patio homes. These homes are set on small lots. Many garden home developments share common garden areas. A condominium is another option. Condos and patio homes often offer shared greenbelts or membership in private recreational facilities such as swimming, golf, and tennis.
New vs. Older Homes
In selecting the type of home you want, consider new versus pre-owned homes. Pre-owned homes usually have established yards, and usually the neighborhood or subdivision is built-out. On the other hand, older homes may require more maintenance and need some repairs.
New homes are not without problems. Although they require less maintenance in the first few years, you may have to put in landscaping and call the builder back to correct faults. If home building is still active in the area, you may have to endure nearby construction.
Finally, consider size and style. You may already have in mind a wood-and-glass contemporary lodge with sun decks or a two-story Victorian mansion with a cozy attic. On the other hand, you may not know what you like until you see it. Either way, your REALTOR® will listen to your preferences and help you find the right home.
Making An Offer
What to Offer
A REALTOR® can help you find your perfect home, but only you can decide how much you’re willing to offer for it. The REALTOR® can supply you with information about the selling prices and marketing time of other houses in the area.
Once you have determined the amount you are willing to offer, the REALTOR® will help you prepare a written offer. In most transactions you will offer to deposit earnest money with the escrow agent. Earnest money manifests your sincerity in making a reasonable offer and abiding by the terms of the written contract.
Your REALTOR® will help you prepare an offer using standard forms. The offer, if accepted, will become a binding contract. This document is the most important paper you will sign because it lays out all the terms of the transaction. It will contain such things as:
- a legal description of the property
- any property that will be transferred with the home, (blinds, curtains, fireplace screens, etc.)
- the price
- financing conditions and contingencies
- amount of earnest money deposit
- name of the escrow agent and title company
- proration of insurance, taxes, and interest
- fees to be paid and who pays for which
- rights to inspect the property and for repairs to be made
- dates of closing and possession
- what happens if either party defaults on the contract
Inspections and Warranties
Before signing the contract, take precautions to protect yourself against unseen defects in the home. An inspection by a qualified inspector or other professional can provide you with unbiased opinions about the condition of components and systems in the property such as the foundation, mechanical systems, plumbing systems, appliances, etc.
If you can, accompany the inspector at the time the inspection is conducted. When ordering the inspection, ask the inspector the approximate time needed to complete the inspection so you can reserve sufficient time from your schedule. Be sure to ask the inspector to detail the scope of the inspection. Not every inspector inspects every component in a house. For example, does the inspector inspect foundations, air conditioning and heating units, roofs, swimming pools, septic tanks, etc.? The cost of home inspection will depend on the size of the home. It's also a good idea (and usually lender required) to get a termite inspection.
You may also want to investigate the possibility of buying a residential service contract. Such a contract is an agreement with a residential service company that certain items will be repaired by the company if such items fail to function after you move in. If you buy a new home, the builder may offer a warranty as well. Whether you buy a residential service contract or receive any other warranty, find out how claims will be processed and how any necessary repairs will be made.
The REALTOR® working with you will present the contract to the seller's agent or seller. The seller has three options: accept, reject or make a counter offer. A counter offer is a rejection of the offer with a simultaneous offer from the seller to the buyer. If a seller makes a counter offer to you, you then have three options: accept, reject, or make another counter offer. Whoever makes an offer or counter offer is giving the power of acceptance to the recipient of the offer or counter offer.
Once you and the seller unequivocally agree to the written terms and both have signed, the document becomes a legal binding contract.
As part of the contract you may have the right to have the property inspected. Certain repairs may be specified in the contract. Be sure that you pay close attention as to when certain items must be completed. Otherwise, you may waive some contractual rights. For example, the contract may provide for you to deliver a copy of the inspection report to the seller within a specified time, and to deliver a list of the items you require to be repaired. If you fail to provide the information within the specified time, the contract may provide that you waived certain rights.
The contract may also set out other contingencies that have to be satisfied. We cannot address all conditions and contingencies. Read the contract carefully, know its terms and comply with its requirements in a timely fashion.
If repairs are required, the contract will specify who will bear the cost of the repairs, who will arrange for the repairs, and when the repairs must be made. Before you close, be sure that the condition of the property meets the required condition specified in the contract.
Closing The Deal
The closing is the end of weeks or even months of research and decision making. The closing could last less than an hour but may take longer, depending on the complexity of the transaction. It often occurs at the title company's office. The title company officer will explain each document before you sign. You may have your attorney present as well.
Two Basic Kinds of Documents
If buying a home were a cash transaction, you would simply hand over the money and receive the deed. More than likely, however, you are borrowing money for the home, which means that you are actually making two transactions - acquiring the loan and buying the home.
As a borrower, you will sign a note promising to repay the loan and a deed of trust (also known as the mortgage) pledging the house (or other collateral) as security for the note. You will also sign numerous other papers including things such as acknowledgments, disclosures, surveys, certificates, etc. Be sure to read each document carefully. Ask questions if you do not understand anything. There are no dumb questions. Seriously consider having your attorney present at closing.
As a homebuyer, you will present a cashier's check (or other good funds) to the seller, sign a document that itemizes closing costs (the lender will have given you an estimate in advance), and pay your share of the closing costs. In return, you will receive a deed, transferring ownership rights to you.
The Home is Yours
At the end of the meeting, you will likely receive keys to the property. At that moment, the home will be yours. Occasionally, possession of the property will occur after closing. For example, the seller may have negotiated with you for a few extra days after closing, or the loan will not immediately fund. In most transactions, you will be the new owner at the end of closing.
Some Other Points to Keep in Mind:
- Buyer/Seller Agency. It's important to understand who your REALTOR® represents - buyer or seller. The REALTOR® will provide you with information about representation. As a buyer you may sign a buyer representation agreement with a REALTOR®. It will discuss the scope of the REALTOR®'s representation.
- Prepaids. You should be aware that your closing costs will include prepayment of an escrow account to cover insurance and taxes.
- REALTORS® are required to make properties available without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status.
- Be sure to have a property inspected by licensed inspectors to determine:
a. The condition of the property (structural, mechanical, electrical items, etc.)
b. Any environmental conditions (asbestos, lead-based paint, toxic materials, etc.)
c. Wood-destroying insects
d. Other matters
Brokers are not qualified to perform such inspections.
Residential Service Contracts are available for purchase. In such contracts the residential service company agrees to, subject to the terms of the contract, repair of the appliances, electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling or other systems in the property.
Be sure to obtain a policy of title insurance or have an abstract of title reviewed by an attorney of your choice before buying a property.
Remember: You may always seek the advice of an attorney of your own choice before entering into a binding agreement.