So you think you want to buy your own little “castle”! If you are like most first-time buyers, the thought of just how to go from the decision to buy to spending your first night in your own home, can be somewhat daunting. There are many decisions that will have to be made, and the process truly is one that takes a total commitment of time, energy, and financial resources. However, for most of us, it is one of the most rewarding decisions we’ll ever make.
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The first step toward achieving your goal of becoming a homeowner should be to make an appointment with a lender to get pre-qualified. Being pre-qualified should not be confused with pre-approved. I always suggest to first-time buyers that talking with at least three mortgage lenders will give you a pretty good feel for the types of loans that are available which will in turn help you decide which alternative will be best for you. There are several programs available that can provide down payment and closing cost assistance. Each has criteria that have to be met in order for you to qualify for that program.
One of the first steps in the process of pre-qualifying will involve having your credit report checked to see if there are any issues which will preclude the lender’s being able to proceed with pre-approving your application should you decide that that lender is the one you would like to work with.
FINDING THE RIGHT HOUSE
Now that you have been pre-qualified and know that your credit is okay, a price range you can afford, and whether or not you’re going to have the funds needed for down payment and closing costs, the real fun begins!
We’ll sit down with you for a counseling session to determine what your wants and needs are in a home. If you have children, you’ll most likely have location preferences relating to school zones. Based on those criteria, along with the price range provided by the lender, we’ll print a list of properties from the MLS system. I like to select two or three from this list which seem to be a match and take buyers to see those. Nine times out of ten, those first ones will not be what you’re looking for, but it begins the process of helping us both to zero in on what is going to be your final choice.
Unless you have an unlimited budget and/or lower expectations than most buyers, you will pretty soon realize that most likely you’re going to have to compromise in one or more areas of what you first thought was important to you. It’s important to remember when you’re looking that your objections to properties will likely fall into two categories: 1) those that can be remedied over a period of time, i.e. replacing outdated carpet, appliances, paint, etc. and 2) those which cannot be so easily changed, i.e. location, number of bedrooms, baths, etc. Here again, your full financial picture becomes an important factor. Do you need to find a house that is at the top of your affordability range and needs no work in the foreseeable future? Or would you be in a position to select a house that is in need of some work that you can do later and which could potentially provide you with more equity in your property, especially if it is in an area of greater appreciation in values?
NEGOTIATING THE FINAL SALE PRICE
Once you have found the house you feel is right for you, it’s time to make an offer to the owner. Keep in mind when negotiating that a seller is going to be looking out for their wants and needs, just as we will be helping you look out for yours . However, when all parties have the desire to achieve a successful negotiation process, it truly can be a win-win for everyone. There are those times when either the seller or the buyer will have unreasonable expectations. It just may be that you will decide that you have “given” as much as you intend to, and it’s in your best interest, for whatever reason, to walk away from the negotiations and continue the search. I like to believe when that happens that something else is out there that is better for you. We just have to look at more houses!
FROM CONTRACT TO CLOSING
FROM CONTRACT TO CLOSING
With our Tallahassee Board of Realtors contract, unless otherwise agreed to between the buyer and the seller, the fifteen (15) days following the acceptance of the contract are critical to moving forward with a successful closing. The three most important areas that will need your complete attention are those of inspections, financial arrangements, and securing your homeowner’s insurance.
We will be glad to provide you with the names and telephone numbers of qualified home inspectors, or you may already know one you would like to hire. The inspectors like for the buyer to be present for at least the last part of the inspection, especially if you are a first-time buyer. All inspections, including radon, energy efficiency, well water, septic tank, structural, and any others you and your Realtor feel are needed, should be performed during that fifteen-day period of time in order to meet the terms of the contract. After the fifteen-day period expires, the contract is no longer contingent on these three items.
Even though you are already pre-qualified, you will have five (5) days from the date of contract to meet with your lender to make full loan application. Make sure they have a copy of the contract from you or your Realtor. The appraisal will be paid for and ordered at that time. There will most likely be additional documentation the lender will need to get from you to expedite final loan approval. It is crucial that you cooperate with the lender fully and get this documentation, or whatever information they need from you, as quickly as possible. If you fail to do so, you could be placing yourself at risk of defaulting on the contract, thereby potentially losing your earnest money deposit.
Getting homeowners’ insurance is not as simple as it used to be, especially in the State of Florida. The buyer has fifteen(15) days from contract date to determine that homeowners’ insurance is available to buyer’s satisfaction. The insurance company won’t be able to bind the policy until after the appraisal is completed, but you can at least start shopping coverage details and prices. The sense of urgency is especially true during hurricane season which runs from June 1st to November 30th. Once a storm system enters into what is referred to as the “box”, insurance companies will not write new policies until after the storm is over. Closings can be delayed if coverage is not already in place.
Once the papers have all been signed at the closing company and the deed has transferred the title to the property to you, the keys will be given to you, and you are entitled to start moving in right away. Don’t forget to make sure you have made arrangements to have the utilities turned on prior to your planned occupancy.
Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. Just call LISENBY REALTY, and you too can be a proud homeowner.