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Final steps for first-time homebuyers

by Karen on April 18, 2011

After looking and looking at all the homes on the market, you finally found one that really feels like it could be home. Don’t relax yet, though. The home buying process has just begun! Hopefully you’ll only have to go through this process once, and your dream house will be yours.

I know this is easier said than done, but it’s important not to get too attached to the house until the deal is done. Not only could something interfere on the seller’s side, but you may discover something about the house that makes it less desirable. If that’s the case, you need to be able to walk away, no matter how great the house may seem.

Here are the final steps to closing the deal:

Make an offer.

Once you’ve chosen a house, it’s time to make an offer. Most of the time, you can offer less than the seller’s asking price, but that will depend on the asking price, your market, and how long the house has been available. Generally, if you’re living in a down market (most markets are down right now) and the house has been on the market for longer than a month or two, you can safely assume that you’ll be able to offer less than the asking price. Your buyer’s agent should be familiar enough with the market in your area to give you some insight and guidance on how much to offer. Now is also the time to ask if you want the seller to cover closing costs. Be sure to write in stipulations that allow you to walk away if the inspection uncovers major issues.

From here there are a few things that can happen. Once you make an offer, the seller can either accept your offer or come back with a counter offer. The counter offer may ask for a higher selling price or change the stipulations of your agreement. If you don’t want to pay more than you offered, you can refuse the counter offer.

The other thing that can happen is another buyer could put an offer in. If their offer is higher than yours, then the seller will obviously refuse yours. If you happen to know a house is receiving multiple offers, it’s best to make your offer very competitive or even offer the asking price depending on how much you want the house. Again, your buyer’s agent will be able to give you some insight to make the best possible offer.

Accept the offer.

If your seller accepts your offer as is, or you accept the counter offer, then you’re officially under contract to purchase the house. Once the offer is accepted, another buyer cannot outbid you. Your offer should have included provisions that allow you to break the agreement without penalty if the inspection uncovers problems. Once the offer is accept, you’ll need to put down earnest money. The exact amount will be specified in the offer, and it can range from $500 to $1500. This money goes toward closing costs or your down payment at closing.

Schedule an inspection.

Your buyer’s agent will likely recommend an inspector. It can create a conflict of interest for the agent to recommend an inspector, because the agent doesn’t want the deal to fall through, so he or she may recommend an inspector who isn’t as thorough. Personally, I think in most cases, a buyer’s agent wants to protect your interests. His or her reputation depends on honesty with clients, so in most cases, I think they want you to know if the house is a bad deal. If you want to be safe, though, search for another inspector to make sure you’re getting an honest report on the house.

A good inspection generally costs $300-$400, and you’ll have to pay for it upfront. Do not skimp or skip the inspection! Spending $400 to have an expert thoroughly inspect your home could save you thousands.

Request repairs.

If the house is newer construction, it’s likely that you’ll get a clean inspection report. If that’s the case, then great! You can continue the process without worry. However, if the report uncovers any issues, now is the time to walk away or negotiate. If the issues are minor and can be fixed, you can request the seller to repair them before closing. If they’re extensive (major termite damage, structural issues, etc.), it might be time to walk away. A good inspector can tell you whether the issues are major enough to warrant walking away.

Keep in mind, once an inspection uncovers an issue with the house (such as termites or mold or any number of problems), the seller will have to disclose that issue to potential buyers in the future. That means you have an advantage in negotiations. In most cases, the seller would rather fix the problems and sell to you than put the house back on the market and disclose any problems to other buyers who likely won’t be interested. Most problems can be repaired, so consider asking the seller to repair them before closing or negotiate a lower purchase price to offset the money you’ll have to spend on repairs.

Notify your lender that you’ve found a house.

Once you’re satisfied with the condition of the house, it’s time to notify the lender who preapproved your mortgage. Let your lender know that you’ve found a house, you’re under contract, and you’re ready to move forward.

Schedule an appraisal.

At this point, your lender will want to schedule an appraisal to ensure that the house is worth the purchase price. Depending on your mortgage company, the amount for the appraisal ($300-$400) will either need to be paid upfront or it can be rolled into closing costs and paid at closing. Your lender will be able to let you know.

Choose a provider for your homeowners insurance.

Even though it’s part of your monthly mortgage payment, finding a good deal on homeowners insurance is up to you. Prices for comparable coverage can vary greatly from company to company, so don’t accept the first quote you find. Get several quotes from providers in your area to find the best deal. You can often get a discount for carrying auto insurance through the same provider as your homeowners insurance, so ask what the rate for both would be if you agreed to switch.

Close!

Once the appraisal is finished, it will likely take a few weeks to close even under ideal circumstances. Now it’s time to start packing! Your lender will finish processing the loan, and once a closing date is determined, they’ll let you know. If the seller isn’t covering your closing costs, be prepared to pay an additional $2000-$5000 on top of your down payment at closing.

Do you have any tips for first-time homebuyers?

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1 Kacie April 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm

“If you offer the asking price, and the seller doesn’t have any other offers, then the seller must accept your offer without countering. ”

I didn’t know that! I guess when, in wacky markets on HGTV, when a house is really underpriced, they are banking on multiple people making an offer. Cuz if they don’t…whoops!

A realtor told me that if a seller received two similar offers, they will probably go with the one that has a larger down payment so that things wouldn’t get screwed up if the person with a small or non-existent down payment couldn’t secure financing.

Did you disclose your down payment % on your offer? Or actual amount? Or any of that down payment stuff?

I think its important for people who are buying a brand-new house, or newer construction to get an inspection, because maybe the builder screwed up somewhere. I really don’t understand how anyone would say, “Nah, not going to get an inspection.”

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