Steps to Buying a Home
Whether you're completely new to home buying or you've bought a few homes in your lifetime, it never hurts to brush up on the home buying process. After all, knowing what to expect (and what mistakes to avoid) will help you save time and money between now and closing. Here are a few simple steps to follow if you're looking to buy a home in the Columbus and Central OH Area.
If you’re ready to buy a home or seriously considering doing so in the near future and want to know more about what to expect from the 45 - 120 day process, please keep reading.
For assistance or questions, please contact Jason Opland and The Opland Group, with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-332-6984.
Step 1: Contact a Realtor When buying a home, you will want to work with the best Columbus and Central OH Realtor, a top agent that will dedicate themselves to you and your real estate needs. Start by checking agent reviews on sites like Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Trulia.com, Google Plus for great Central OH Real Estate Agents. Reviews are provided by buyers and sellers who have previously worked with these agents and upon completion of their transactions. The sites mentioned above include agent production and activity logs which are an indication of the agent's level of experience (consider the difference between a part-time real estate agent who sells a few properties for friends and relatives and someone who treats it as a full-time business venture), as well as a sales history which demonstrates the parts of town the agent has the most experience in. Communication style can also be important and if you want to get to know your agent on a more personal level you can also check sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Your agent has a responsibility to look out for your best interests throughout the buying process and you'll want someone you can trust. While the listing agent represents the seller and their interests, your buyer's agent is available to you free of charge as the seller pays the real estate commission.
Step 2: Find a Mortgage Broker
It’s critically important to find a good mortgage broker. Here’s an article on how to find a great mortgage broker. In summary, start early, find someone through a good referral and be careful of Big Banks and internet lenders.
Step 3: Receive Your Pre-approval
A pre-approval provides an estimate of what you can borrow. Provide income, debt, and down payment figures. The lender then provides you with an estimate of how much house you can afford. This step gives you the ability to only target those homes that are in your price range, and it makes the process much easier when you find a home you're ready to make an offer on a house. It is critically important that buyers secure a mortgage pre-approval before shopping for a home.
Step 4: Meet Your Realtor
Once you know how much home you can afford, your Realtor can give you good recent data on neighborhoods, sales trends, a buyer’s checklist and help you find and screen homes for sale, as well as coming soon and pocket listings. Get a free market snapshot report on any Columbus and Central OH neighborhood.
Step 5: View Columbus and Central Homes For Sale
Buying a home is likely one of the single largest purchases you’ll ever make. Review neighborhoods carefully, pick the type of property you want (single family homes, town homes or condos), and screen for amenities (beds, baths, etc.) Your Realtor can help you filter by area, quality of construction, price, lot value, and construction value and areas that are likely to experience above average rates of appreciation in the near future all to help you find good options.
Step 6: Determine Your Favorite Home
When you see properties you like, add them to your shortlist. Ask your agent to collect additional details on those homes and request a tour of 4-6 homes at a time (if you see more than that in a session, they can start to blend together). Pick your favorite and when you’re ready to move forward . . . make an offer.
Step 7: Make An Offer
Your Realtor should provide you with information on the neighborhood, recent sales trends, a comparable analysis of recently sold homes, the residential property disclosure on the home, and help provide you with guidance on pricing and an appropriate negotiation strategy. For more on this topic read Making an Offer to Purchase a Home.
Step 8: Begin Negotiations
Depending on the market (seller’s market means that you need to be quite competitive; buyer’s market means you can shop for deals) you’ll want to adjust your negotiation style. In most parts of Central OH, we’re in a balanced market - but this varies by community and in some instances even by neighborhood. Your Realtor should be familiar with the community and neighborhood the home you've selected in located in and can help you negotiate your home purchase/sale accordingly.
Step 9: Finalize Terms Of Sale
Depending on the market, finalizing the terms and conditions typically takes between 48-72 hours. Items will include price, financing amounts, inspection periods, closing dates, known repairs, non-realty items. You’ll want to ensure your Realtor guides you through the home buying and sales process and protects your interests.
Step 10: Prepare Contract
The real estate purchase contract is a legal agreement documenting everything in the terms of sale. Both the buyer and seller have obligations, deadlines and penalties for missing these obligations (this is why you need a great team between your Realtor, mortgage broker, inspector and title company).
Step 11: Contract Timeline Begins
The real estate contract will typically contain lots of dates - this is the contract timeline. There may be a deadlines set for inspections, earnest money deposits, applying for financing, appraisals, qualifying for your loan, and closing. Your Realtor should guide you through this process, but you’re responsible for meeting the deadlines.
Step 12: Home Inspections
It is often in your best interest to ensure that the property is structurally sound and in good general condition and as such you'll want to have a home inspection performed. You’ll want a professional home inspector to check the exterior, interior, structure, roofing, electric setup, heating, plumbing and insulation of your new house.
Special inspections (e.g. stucco, foundation, moisture, insects) may be needed depending on the property you’re purchasing. Your Realtor should have vendors they work with frequently to help you get a shortlist of qualified resources.
Step 13: Finalize Financing
Typically, the buyer will have a period (“inspection period”) where they can back out of the contract for any reason and just lose their earnest deposit. After this period ends, normally the buyer is obligated to close on the home in the agreed upon timeline, otherwise they are at risk of losing their earnest money. It’s so important you have a good lender who can meet contract deadlines without causing you stress and headache.
Step 14: Make Arrangements for Utilities
Your agent will provide you with the names and contact information for the available utility providers that service your home. You'll want to call to schedule to have these services activated for the date of possession, which is typically 3-4 days after the closing. It's important that you not forget to schedule these activation as if you fail to do so you might end up moving into a cold, dark home with no water in which case it may take 3-4 days to get these services re-activated.
Step 15: Closing
Usually, the closing is held at a title company (the firm that guarantees you’re purchasing the home free and clear of any debt or encumbrance - and gives you insurance to protect against this). It is typically a 45 minute to 1 hour process during which the title company reviews the closing documents with the parties, confirms that all of the conditions to closing and transfer of title have been met, that all of your funds have arrived and that they are disbursed accordingly, at which point you then receive the keys to your new home!
Congratulations homeowner! You’ve purchased a new home. Your Realtor should also be make recommendations on movers, housekeepers and service providers that you may need in your new abode.
As with all things, doing the necessary preparation, getting the right information, and finding the best help is crucial.
Ready to Start Your Search and Find Your New Home?
If you've been thinking of buying a home in Central Ohio, we're here to help. We're real estate experts in Columbus and it's surrounding suburbs and can answer all of your questions about buying a home in our area! We have the resources and expertise to assisting you in making the best decisions through every step of the home buying process, and eliminate the doubt and frustration. Ready to get started with your search? Let's talk. Give us a call at 614-332-6984.