The Steps to Buying a Home
There’s no one “right” way to buy a house. The exact steps may vary depending upon how you are going to pay for your home and what type of home you are looking for. Below are some basics, but your Professional REALTOR® can advise you step by step.
What kind of home and where?
Given your price range, decide what kind of home you want and need: size, location, special features (such as fireplace or a fenced yard), etc. Unlike many other parts of the country, South Florida has a myriad of style choices ranging from single family homes to condos, from co-ops to villas, from townhomes to dockominiums. You will also want to consider school districts and other factors that are important to you and your family. Consider your home as an investment. What will make your home attractive to purchasers when you are ready to sell? A couple without children would not be interested in local schools for themselves, but the quality of local schools may be an important factor when they want to sell the house. There are good resources available through real estate agents on what factors are especially important for buyers and for sellers.
If possible, get “pre-qualified” for a loan. This means the lender or real estate broker will informally qualify you for a loan by getting basic information on your income, debts and credit. By getting pre-qualified, you can usually estimate how much you could borrow for a home.
Begin house hunting
Allow time to see a number of houses so you have a good basis for making a final decision. When you find a home you like, carefully give it your own personal inspection. You will also want to tour the neighborhood and perhaps see the house at different times of day or on weekends to check traffic patterns and other amenities that may affect your decision.
Make an offer and sign a Purchase Contract
If you’re comfortable with the home, make an Offer to Purchase, including an “earnest money” deposit. You should make sure the Offer allows you to get your money back if a professional inspection reveals problems with the house, or if you aren’t able to get approved for a mortgage.
Get professional inspections
Your Purchase Contract will permit you to have various professional inspections and will govern your rights if the inspections show problems. Before you make an offer and sign a purchase contract, ask your real estate agent or attorney which inspections are best for your area. For example, standard purchase contract forms often do not provide for radon inspections. Have the necessary inspections included as a contingency for your offer.
Select and apply for a mortgage
Mortgage interest rates, fees and other terms can vary widely. When you have selected the mortgage terms that are right for you, apply for a mortgage loan.
A day or two before closing, do a final walk-through of the property to make sure there are no new problems. This may be a good time to have the seller show you how to operate major systems and appliances.
Close the loan (also called “Loan Settlement”). This is also when you make the rest of your down payment, pay loan fees, sign all necessary legal documents, and get the keys to your new home.