This blog has ADD. The single common denominator betwixt the eclectic array of topics is my crazy-train of thought. But the pros online say to blog about what you know– topics that you have some degree of expertise in. Well I’m not an expert at much– more of a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none kind of girl… Except, perhaps, in one area:
The entirety of my professional years prior to becoming a Frumpy Homeschool Mom were spent as a real estate broker. I do know about the marketing and selling of residential homes. And, as I recently finished renewing my Oregon real estate license for another two years (even though I live in montana, yes), real estate has been at the forefront of my noggin again of late.
I’ve posted previously about our recent real estate ventures, about staging a home to sell, and how to get your home realtor ready in a hurry, but thought perhaps some broader advice could be insightful to you, my online pals. Without further ado, the following is my quick compilation of what to expect when you’re expecting… to buy a house.
The road to home ownership might seem daunting, but after successfully coordinating hundreds (thousands?) of real estate transactions to the closing table, I would boil the process down into FIVE SIMPLE STEPS:
1) Qualifying – Unless you’re a lucky duck sleeping atop a mattress stuffed with cash, you will need to get a loan[mortgage] to buy a house. Obtain a personal recommendation for an experienced, reputable mortgage broker and work out your finances BEFORE YOU START LOOKING AT HOUSES. Not only will obtaining pre-approved financing give you undeniable negotiating muscle when you do locate your dream home, but it will give you the most important parameter (i.e. price) to use whilst house-hunting. I suggest working backwards from your monthly housing budget to determine your price range. Just because a lender approves you for $xyz doesn’t mean you [have to/should] spend that much. Tell your lender how much you believe you can comfortably afford and go from there– unless you want to be house-poor and furnish your new digs with patio furniture and subsist on ramen noodles.
2) Shopping – The fun part: House-hunting! Again, obtain a personal referral for a qualified real estate agent. DO NOT RESORT TO THE YELLOW PAGES. Little known fact: A Realtor’s services are always free to buyers. Take advantage accordingly and acquire quality representation. Would you represent yourself in court? Probably not. Don’t jump into the biggest purchase of your life without an expert in your corner. Not only will they have access to every home on the market, and up-to-the-minute market information, they will handle the entire transaction for you from start to finish. Provide your real estate agent with a list of needs and wants– in that order. Main criteria to consider would be neighborhood, square footage, layout, and age of home. Do yourself a huge favor and do not look at homes that are out of your price range. Ever heard of champagne taste on a beer budget? It’s a thing. The better you communicate with your agent, the better job he/she can do for you.
3) Negotiating – You’ve found the perfect place and now IT MUST BE YOURS. It’s time to come to terms with the seller. And that seller? Not your enemy. Want to know the definition of Real Market Value? It is simply the price that a buyer is willing to pay and a seller is willing to accept for a property. More often than not, parties can arrive at terms that they can all walk away happy about. Note I say TERMS here, as price is not the only factor a seller will consider when presented with an offer on a property. Hint: What you really want to present is a clean offer. Keep it as neat and tidy as possible, the document is already over ten pages long! Additional terms to consider when putting pen to paper are closing costs, closing & possession dates, inclusions (appliances, window coverings, hot tub, riding lawn mower, chickens and coop*, etc.), down payment and earnest money, and repairs/updates to be completed prior to closing.
4) Investigating – You have come to terms with the seller, what we in the industry call “mutual acceptance”, and are officially proceeding to close. Before you do, you need to do some due diligence. Every seller must provide a property disclosure to a buyer, which details the known history of the property. Read it. All of it. Ask questions. Make sure you know everything about the property that the seller does. Talk to the neighbors, who can be a great source of information if they have lived in the neighborhood for any length of time. Have your real estate agent arrange a professional home inspection to check for unseen material defects that might be a deal-breaker. They will provide an unbiased assessment on the condition of the property and dwelling. After the inspection a buyer can negotiate for repairs on any issues discovered. Seller doesn’t want to replace the leaky roof? No problem, reduce the sales price. Your lender will arrange an appraisal to ensure you don’t overpay. No house is perfect, but the point is to make sure you proceed with both eyes open.
5) Closing – Your personal team of lender, Realtor, insurance and escrow agents will work in tandem to arrange for the signing on your new home. So you know, closing dates are a bit like pregnancy due dates– it is not at all uncommon to close before or after the contract date. Be flexible. Do your part and return paperwork to all parties promptly. Rental truck companies are actually quite used to this, so don’t freak out if you have to adjust your moving date a bit. Often, you won’t actually close and get keys for another 24 hours after you sign, but once you do– celebrate! You are now officially a home-owner. Paint your walls that crazy shade of raspberry and plant a garden. Your first mortgage payment is typically pre-paid, so you might have a little extra money to cover all the little costs like new bathmats, window coverings, cleaning supplies, and eating out nonstop as you unpack.
archaic pic w/my lender and contractor from 15 years, 30 lbs, and a suntan ago
Not that scary, right? Again, this is just a broad overview– the Cliff’s Notes version. I’m happy to field specific questions, and can match you with a trust-worthy real-estate expert anywhere in the US.
*our chickens and custom coop were gifts-with-purchase on the sale of our last house