Buying a home is not something that you wake up one morning and decide to do between your lunch appointment and your child’s soccer practice. The process of becoming a homeowner requires research, planning, and even a little bit of legwork. The first step would be to find out if you can afford properties in your area (or the area that you are moving to). Sadly, this often means settling for a house that is not quite your first choice (a condo instead of that three-bedroom house), but everyone needs to start somewhere.
A loan officer can help you determine how much of a loan you will qualify for (and be able to afford). Ask him or her if the pre-qualification is free. Many loan officers will gladly sit down and hash the numbers out with you for free in the hopes of selling you the loan. Once you have determined how much you can afford, you get to go shopping.
With the internet being as common a tool as the phone book (maybe more so), you will be able to find a significant number of listings for real estate agents in your area online. You will also be able to find a large number of properties and their descriptions and amenities, using the internet as your own personal tool, you will be able to narrow your options down to the properties that you really want to check out, and then contact an agent to show you around. Be choosy as to whom you ask to show a property to you. As the agent that generates interest in a property will be able to claim commission if you choose to buy the property and it’s important that they have your best interest in mind and not just the dollar amount that they will pocket after the sale. Under any circumstances should you use the seller’s agent as your buying agent. This person would be legally responsible for getting the seller (not you) the best deal possible.
Looking at houses is the fun part for most, and the most painful part for some. No matter how you feel about the process, though, it is important to ask every question you can think of. Bringing someone who has bought a house before might be helpful, as they can suggest things that you would never think to check. Do the toilets all flush? Do the sinks drain? Are the owners leaving that fridge, or do I have to buy one? All of these are important questions to ask before you buy a home because they effect the resale value or the home.
Once you have chosen the property of your dreams, or the one that you can comfortably afford, you will submit a bid proposal through your real estate agent, who will guide you through every detail of the buying process. Over the next month or so you will be forced to endure bidding and counter bidding until a deal is chosen, followed by hours (yes, I mean hours) of paperwork. There are scores of pages of paperwork to be filled out and signed detailing the duties of buyer and seller; assigning, hiring, and evaluating the results of inspectors; detailing property condition and duties related to the condition (like repairing a crack in a wall); as well as much more. With luck and flexibility on your part, the deal can be sealed in about a month, although it usually takes a little longer.
Remember that loan consultant? Once a price has been agreed upon, you will work with your consultant to actually get the loan approved for your new home. He or she will require (you guessed it) more paperwork from you. Grit your teeth and have him fax your approval over to your agent. Sealing the deal requires even more hours of signatures.
Like childbirth, the pain of the process of buying a home is worth the joy and excitement you will feel as soon as it is all said and done. At least until you realize how much money you owe. However owning a home is both financially and personally rewarding.