Whether you are a first time home-buyer or just haven’t purchased a home in years, this is a quick timeline of what to expect when buying a home from start to finish. We summarize these things for our clients in person as well, but it’s always nice to have a point or reference to look at later. Let’s face it, during a home purchase, a lot of information is flying at you. Bookmark this page so you can come back to it at 1:00 in the morning when you are laying in bed wondering if you forgot something.
Enjoy this guide to buying a home from start to finish!
Yes – sellers prefer that the strangers wandering around in their home are serious and pre-approved. It’s a fair request.
The first step seems like an obvious one. You have to go see the houses you are interested in before you can find one you like. In today’s market, having your pre-approval letter before you go out to see homes is very important. If you plan to write an offer, a copy of the pre-approval letter will be submitted with your offer, so having it ready is important if you want to ensure you don’t miss out on the right home. This also helps you avoid that heartache of finding the perfect house, only to find out your loan type doesn’t qualify. Sometimes this phase of the process can take a while. It’s not unusual for clients to go out and see different homes for a while before they finally find the one they like. Even then, it’s normal in today’s sellers market that you may not get the home you liked, and have to start again. Professional Tip: The homes don’t actually look different in the photos. They looked different in your mind. It’s not a magic trick, it’s just that our eyes see what they want to see. Sometimes when you show up in person to view a home, it’s actually better than you expected! So showings are very important to get a feel for what the home is really like.
And possibly another offer, and another offer – in this market, you might write a few. Hang in there! The right one will come along.
Once you find a house you like, and you decide to write an offer – your agent will create a contract for you to sign. This paperwork includes documents relevant to your specific property. For example, if you are planning to get a loan for part of the purchase, you would have a “financing addendum” that outlines the plans for a loan. The paperwork for each offer varies a little depending on the age of the home, the purchase options, and the style of home. If you are buying new construction, often times the builder has their own paperwork that you have to fill out in addition to the state forms. Your agent will prepare the documents and present them to you via secure online document processing for signatures. We call our clients and go over the documents and figures until they are familiar with the process. Remember, in this sellers market – you may submit several offers before one is accepted. If you prefer to sign your documents in person, or do not have access to a computer and internet – we can do that as well! Professional Tip: You can access your signed files via the email link you were sent when you signed. So a copy of your documents is always just a click away.
Woo Hoo! Fasten your seat belt, we are just getting started!
After your offer is accepted on the home you want to purchase, you have a few time-sensitive items to complete. The earnest money you agreed to deposit must be deposited within two business days to escrow. This deposit can be mailed, and deposited a day or two later if agreed upon by the sellers – but make sure to notify your agent first if you need more time. This can also be a personal check, so nothing fancy is required here. The second item is the home inspection. You will have 10 days (unless otherwise agreed upon) to complete your home inspection AND respond. So you need to get this scheduled ASAP! You’ll want enough time to review the report, and discuss any repair requests with your agent before you respond. Once an offer is submitted to your lender, they may start requesting additional documents from you as well. They will be preparing a loan file to submit to underwriting, and they want it to be as complete as possible. More on the twilight zone known as “underwriting” soon… Professional Tip: Make a checklist of things you want to ask at the home inspection before you go. You’ll have plenty of time for questions, but you don’t want to forget anything.
This is a where clients start to wonder where their daily updates went. We promise we aren’t ignoring you. Literally nothing new has happened.
The sellers have until 3-5 days before closing to complete their repairs and provide receipts to you. Sometimes sellers get these things done immediately, and other times they are done the day before they are required. This is normal. It can also take a while to get contractors out to do the work. The sellers are also in the process of buying a home most likely, and things get a little crazy on their end. During this same time period, the lender will be ordering an appraisal. The appraisal process in the NW has gotten a lot better, but it can still take a little while for the files to be assigned an appraiser. Once assigned, a due date will be set for the appraisal report. The lender will continue to ask for documents as they need them, but this time can be relatively quiet. You’ve done your part as far as the contract is concerned, and now it’s the lender and the sellers turn to do theirs. If you are selling your home as well, this is a good time to focus on getting your home repairs done or packed up etc. Once the appraisal is back, underwriting will work on completing their files, and things will pick back up again. Professional Tip: Your agent can provide you with a list of utility providers for the home, and you can start planning to switch the utilities over to your name on the possession date.
It’s like that vacuum tube at the bank. Your folder disappears into the unknown for a while, but hopefully comes back with money attached to it!
Even underwriters will tell you that the underwriting phase of a home sale is the most unpredictable. Each underwriter is different, and each bank or lender has their own requirements. This is the phase where you may get asked repeatedly to provide documents, so prepare for that. Picking a good local lender is important here because it means you know who your underwriter is! When your lender passes your loan file to “underwriting” – that’s either a small department, or a giant black hole. I mean, don’t get me wrong – the files usually emerge from this black hole eventually, but getting answers to questions during this time period from large institutions can be very difficult. Underwriting can make or break a transaction – and getting them to care enough about you as a person to actually make their deadlines is not always a guarantee. You are welcome to research and use any lender you choose. Make sure your lender has a long history of following through with the transactions they start. Check on their communication ratings, because that is key! Professional Tip: We have some local lenders that we refer clients to regularly. Compare them with the other lenders in your research list, and see how they stack up. The only incentive for us to use these brokers is that they have never let us or our clients down. That is a really incredible record to uphold, and they do an outstanding job.
You will sign a lot of documents! Hand stretches and deep breathing are helpful here.
I decided to smoosh (spell check doesn’t think that’s a word. I strongly disagree…) all of these into one category since they happen relatively close together. You will sign documents at the escrow office, or at home via a mobile notary. If you are able to attend the signing at the escrow office, that’s always best. However, for a small fee (this varies by office) a mobile notary can come to your home. This works well for out of town clients or those unable to travel. Once you and the sellers both sign the transaction documents, and you transfer down-payment and closing money to escrow, your part is done! The day you sign is not always the day you close on the house. The entire process can take a few days. The signed documents will then to back to the lender for approval. Once they are approved, the lender will fund the loan. This is usually done via a wire transfer. It can take a day or two after signing to fund, however many institutions can fund the same day. Ask about this when selecting a lender. Once Escrow receives the funds, they are given the “clear to close” – which means that the stars have aligned, and you are about to own this home! After escrow funds the loan they pass the title to the county for recording. The county records titles in batches, usually morning, mid morning and mid afternoon. So you should get a call from your agent or escrow within a few hours of funding to say that the file has recorded! Once the file records, you are the official owner of that home! Professional Tip: … Congratulations!
I have no sarcastic subheading for this one. You made it! It’s a very exciting time.
Your real estate agent will pick up keys for the property at closing, even if you are not taking immediate possession. You are still entitled to have a key since you are technically a landlord during their short stay, although you are not allowed on the property without proper notice (just like a landlord). Once the clients vacate the property you will meet your agent there and he or she will deliver keys, garage door openers etc. You will walk through the home with the agent and make sure no major damage was done to the property during moving etc. It’s rare, but it does happen! Your real estate agent will usually have a gift for you at this time as well. We appreciate our clients so much, and showing that appreciation with a thoughtful gift is the least we can do. Not to mention, it’s nice to end this somewhat overwhelming part of the process with a gift and kind words. Professional Tip: If the sellers have any unpaid utilities, escrow is holding funds to cover those. They will request final statements from the city etc after they officially vacate.
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