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There are a lot of steps to buying a house, and any of them could drag out the timeline, especially if you're not prepared. Here's the home-buying timeline, broken down step-by-step, so you can be in control.
Time Frame: 1–14 days
Dreaming about owning your own home is one thing; making it happen is another. To get beyond the dream stage, you need to do some critical research to help you figure out what you do and don’t want — along with how much can you afford. It’s mighty disappointing to fall in love with a house only to find out you can’t afford it. A quick chat with your bank can help you avoid that heartbreak — it’s called pre-qualifying. But it’s no guarantee you’ll get a mortgage (that comes later), only an indication of how much you can afford. Write It Down! Writing down your hopes, dreams, and plans for a home will keep you on track through the entire process. Use the ultimate “I Wanna Buy a House!” checklist included at the end of this booklet to work through everything you’re looking for in your dream home.
Time: 1–7 days
Finding an agent who suits you is key to the home buying process. They should be your most trusted adviser. Look for one with intimate knowledge of your desired community. If they know the inside scoop, they’ll know a great deal (or a bum one) when they see it.
My Commitment to You
I am a full-time professional agent, I am educated in the legal aspects of real estate practice and licensed as a Real Estate Broker by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to provide real estate services. I abide by a strict Code of Ethics to provide you with the highest level of service. I earn my living by serving the needs of home buyers and sellers with integrity.
A large part of my work is performed “behind the scenes”; previewing homes, researching comparable sales, gaining market knowledge, evaluating changing legislation, and maintaining my professional credentials. I am constantly acquiring information that will help me to better serve you.
How I am Compensated
I am not paid a traditional salary; I work entirely on commission, which I receive only if I initiate and complete a transaction for you. I am compensated only when all of your needs have been satisfied and you take ownership of your new home. All of the services I provide are uncompensated unless you purchase a home through me. As your buyer’s agent, my commission will be paid at the closing by the seller.
Your Commitment to Me
I will invest substantial time and effort in helping you purchase a home, and will represent you with unequaled integrity throughout the process. In return, I request your loyalty — a commitment that you will work with me, exclusively, in selecting and purchasing your home.
Putting Me to Work for You
If you see any home that interests you, ask me about it. Whether it is advertised by sign, online, a “For Sale By Owner,” listed with another agent, or not even on the market — I can best represent you in the pursuit of the property.
If you have any questions about how I work, please ask. Our professional relationship is critical to the successful purchase of your home.
How to Get in Touch I am available at any time to answer questions or more information and I am always happy to help in any way that I can.
Time: 5–8 business days
Getting pre-approved for loan signals you’re a serious buyer. You will need to have a pre-approval in hand, before you make an offer, and I can offer recommendations for lenders that provide excellent service that I have worked with many times. A pre-approval goes deeper than pre-qualification.
It needs a ton of documents from you. A couple of tips to help make this a speedier process:
There’s a world of difference between being pre-qualified and being pre-approved for a loan. Pre-approval means you’ve got skin in the game. It means you’re a boss. And it’s proof that you can buy. Besides being the grown-up thing to do, pre-approval puts you in a better position when you make an offer. Everyone takes you more seriously. Pre approval provides evidence to the seller and the seller’s agent that a trusted financial institution is willing to finance the purchase.
In the Boston area housing market, sellers are going to expect you to be pre-approved when you make your offer. And when you’re pre-approved, you’re more likely to have your offer accepted — or at least, you won’t lose out on a bid because you have to go back to the bank to get approved for a loan.
As for pre-qualification, it’s an approximation and not necessary unless you have no clue about your creditworthiness and just want a snapshot.
By contrast, with a pre-approval, a lender typically goes deeper and tells you more specifically how big a loan you can get. Always remember: Just because the lender says you can take out a loan for an amount, doesn’t mean you should. Consider your lifestyle and monthly budget to decide on the responsible loan amount for you.
To get pre-approved, you must also authorize a lender to pull your credit.
Time: A few days to a few months
Here’s where things vary. There are so many variables. If you’re set on a particular neighborhood where the inventory is low, it could take longer… or you could discover “the one” on day one. It all depends on what you’re seeking and what’s available. But the typical buyer actively searches for 10 to 12 weeks and looks at a median of 10 homes.
Time: 1–7 days
And it could happen. Many sellers accept the The best offer they receive, and for a variety of reasons. But sellers are also known to reject offers for a variety of reasons. Or make counteroffers. This is especially likely if you bid low, or when you’re up against multiple competing offers.
If you do receive a counteroffer, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to accept the new contract, negotiate the terms, or walk away.
In cases such as these, look to your agent. He or she is your spirit guide. If you decide you want to negotiate — that is, make a counteroffer to the seller’s counteroffer — as your agent, I will use my negotiating skills to help get you the best deal. As an agent, this is what I do every day.
But you’re not just going to sit there. I will make sure you understand what negotiating tactics I can deploy on your behalf — all depending on the local market and your position — that way you can back me up. And cheer me on.
Time: 2–7 days to schedule; 2–4 hours to inspect
As soon as your contract is accepted, contact an inspector to get on their books. The inspection itself will only take two or three hours. I would be happy to put you in touch with several great home inspectors that I have worked with.
My close working relationship with other real estate professionals gives me an advantage as a buyer. My successful track record means that inspectors, loan officers, attorneys, and even the seller’s agent, know that you have chosen to work with a well-respected agent. The professionals I recommend are happy to make timely appointments for us, as well as work extra hard to please you as my client.
Not all home inspectors are the same. I will recommend to you someone who will help you understand the ins and outs of the property you’re buying. They will answer any questions you have, and make you feel like an expert and a well-informed first-time homebuyer. Many inspectors take pictures and some fill out the report as they go, then send it to your inbox within hours of completion. Sometimes, it can take up to a couple of days if they’re backed up.
The report from the home inspection only goes to you. The inspection report does not go to the lender. The information is meant to educate and inform you of what you are truly buying. It is not a ‘pass or fail’ type of inspection, it is strictly for your benefit.
To be sure, general home inspections cover a lot. But the inspector can only inspect what he sees, such as:
Wood-burning fireplaces are a good example of what an inspector can and can’t do. The home inspector will make sure the dampers are working, check the chimney for obstructions like birds’ nests, and note if they believe there’s reason to pursue a more thorough safety inspection.
There is no such thing as a perfect house. If the inspection turns up issues, it can cause some delays. This can range from a day or two to renegotiate, or longer if, for example, you have an FHA loan that requires certain safety standards.
Always remember, even big issues may not be deal-breakers — many repairs can be negotiated with the sellers. There is a solution for any problem that may arise during your home buying journey and as your agent, I am happy to explain all of your options as a buyer at each stage of the process. Even if it means that you have chosen to walk away from a particular property and search for a different one.
Every buyer is different and their expectations and tolerance level for what they are willing to take on in a home vary and at no time should anyone try to talk you into purchasing a home you do not want. My job is to help you buy the home you want, not sell you one that you don’t.
Time: A few days to 2 weeks
From this point on, the steps to buying a house will often overlap, so you’ll have several wheels in motion.
When the offer is accepted and signed by all parties, you will make a deposit (usually $1,000) that will bind your contract and be placed in escrow with the seller’s escrow agent.
Escrow is a neutral account that is maintained by the selling broker and the funds must remain there throughout the transaction as part of the contract you and the seller agreed to. Should a deposit need to be refunded, the terms of the refund will be based on the contingencies and terms spelled out in your accepted offer.
After your home inspection, which was likely the first contingency of the offer, and you have decided to proceed with purchasing the home, you will move on to retaining the services of a real estate attorney who will review the more binding Purchase and Sale Agreement contract, conduct a title search review of the history of legal ownership of the property, prepare title insurance and complete the legal requirements set forth by your lender to close the loan. They will work on these items in conjunction with the attorney that the seller has hired.
A Purchase & Sale document is typically eight to ten pages long and spells out in very specific legal terms the responsibilities of both parties of the deal, both seller and buyer. It is a boilerplate document, meaning most P&S contracts all say the same thing and are drafted based on the specific property, the real estate laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the mortgage lender’s legal requirements and is required to begin your formal mortgage application for the home you want to buy.
When you sign the Purchase and Sale you will be putting down an additional deposit, typically five percent of the purchase price, which will be placed in escrow until closing. For some buyers, this is their entire down payment so as you can imagine this step in the process should not be taken lightly. I will be there to help keep you on track to fulfilling your obligations to the P&S so that your deposit will not be at risk
Time: Up to 5 days to schedule; a few hours to do the appraisal; up to 5 business days to get the report to the lender
The appraisal is key to getting a mortgage. If the home fails to appraise for the mortgage amount, you may have to put more down or renegotiate the contract. That’s why you want to line up an appraiser as soon as you have a house under contract. And unlike the home inspection, this report goes to the lender instead of you and takes longer because the appraiser has to do additional research on what homes are selling for in the area.
Time: 1–5 business days for title check; 2 weeks for insurance policy
Your attorney will perform a title search, which means they’ll look at deeds and other documents to make sure you will own the home free and clear of any liens or former claims to the property.
Your lender will require you to purchase a title insurance policy that covers them in the event of a title problem on the property. You will also be offered the opportunity to purchase a title insurance policy that covers you as well. It is highly suggested that you do so. Your attorney will prepare these policies for you.
Time: Up to 2 weeks
Your insurance company may send someone out to assess the property for potential risks, which can take several days. And your mortgage lender may require other types of coverage, such as flood insurance. If you are purchasing a condo your lender will require a copy of the Master Insurance policy binder from the condo association.
Time: A few minutes to a few days
Find out from your agent whether you need to bring a cashier’s or certified check or transfer funds digitally. Transfer the funds to the right account, and get your money ready to release.
If you ever receive wiring instructions by email, call me or your lender to confirm one of us sent it. Call the phone number you have on record for your attorney or lender, not the one listed in the suspect email.
Time: 1 hour, the day of or day before closing
This is your chance to make sure the sellers made any agreed-upon repairs and left the property in as good (or better!) condition as the last time you saw it.
Time: 50 days on average; 1–2 hours to sign the paperwork
When it’s time for the main event, bring your photo ID, and stretch your hand muscles; you’ve got a lot of signing to do! But getting the keys? Takes hardly any time at all.
Time to open the champagne, you’re a homeowner. Congratulations!!!
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