House Hunting and Buying 101 – What, How, When, Where, and Why

Search Virginia Beach Real Estate - Complete Virginia Beach MLS ListingsIf you’re thinking that it’s about time to buy a home – with interest rates being as low as they are….with many markets seeing prices rising – you’re not alone.

Not only are quite a few people thinking about jumping in, but it’s now summer and school’s out. This means more buyers in the market and more competition for the best properties.

As many buyers in our Hampton Roads area are noticing, the best homes don’t last long on the market. Sellers who have taken the time to prepare and stage their property, who have made their home into a move-in-ready listing, and most important, have priced the property correctly for the market and local neighborhood are seeing are often times enjoying multiple offers, and within days of listing.

What does that mean for you, the buyer?

It means getting serious. …doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in the process, but don’t waste time with unrealistic expectations.

Here’s exactly how to NOT waste time, get the home you want, and save the most money in the process:

1: Find a great agent to help you – Why is this the first step? An agent that works on your behalf is your biggest advocate throughout the entire process of buying a home. They are obligated by law to look after your best interests. More importantly, an experienced agent has the insight to know what COULD happen in certain scenarios, and to advise you of possible outcomes.

EXTRA: In other words, get yourself an EXPERIENCED agent. One who has been in the business full-time for 3 or more years would be my recommendation. They’ll keep you out of trouble, save you the most money, and answer your questions (or know how and where to get the answers for you).

2nd EXTRA: Your agent typically works solely on commission, and their commission is paid from the seller’s closing proceeds. …so you get someone legally obligated to help you, but you don’t have to pay them.

2: Get a valid preapproval, or better, a solid APPROVAL from a local mortgage lender – This typically doesn’t take much time and will allow you to move quickly when you see a home you want. Your agent will know of a few trusted local lenders to get you the best rate and loan program for your situation.

EXTRA: Make sure you promptly respond to your mortgage lender’s requests with any additional paperwork or information they need. Not doing so could jeopardize your entire home search and be the cause of missing out on the home you really want.

3: Really zero in on the areas and neighborhoods in which you’re interested – If there’s any question about what the neighborhood is really like, do a drive-through. …and drive through at different times of day and night, too.

EXTRA: A house is one of the most expensive purchases anyone will make…why wouldn’t you want to make sure it’s in a neighborhood where you feel comfortable and would would want to live?

2nd EXTRA: By law, Real Estate Agents can’t say which neighborhoods are “good” neighborhoods. The quality of an area is subjective. We can, however, point you toward crime and school statistics. Ultimately, as with most situations when buying a home, we can advise you and answer most of your questions, but the final decision is yours to make.

4: Determine what you cannot live WITHOUT – These are your critical requirements and are the basis for your home search. Start your search within these parameters, and only revisit this if you can’t find what you really want. Communicate your requirements to your agent so that he/she can start sending you matching listings by email.

EXTRA: Don’t waste time. If you need four bedrooms, why are you looking at homes with only 3? Keep it simple and only revise when you’ve exhausted your options.

2nd EXTRA: Check out the Virginia Beach MLS, and all Hampton Roads MLS Listings here – From all agents in all areas – Search on your own.

5: Schedule a time to look at some homes – Narrow your search to 4 or 5 homes you’re most interested in and ask your agent to schedule a time to go see them in person. Keep in mind that pictures can be very deceiving, and the only way you can really get the full impression is by seeing it in person.

EXTRA: Why only 4 or 5? Our experience tells us that you can really concentrate on the homes you’re looking at when you’re reasonable about the number you’ll be seeing at one time. Typically, if you’ve taken the time to drive by a few of them, you’ll narrow your list even further. …4 or 5 is just a suggestion. It also depends on the location of the homes, distance between them, time schedules, etc.

6: Repeat step 4 until you find a home you like.

7: Analyze The Details – Great! You’ve found a home you really like and are thinking about an offer! Now we have to really dig in to the numbers. As your agent, we need to analyze all the details – we’ll analyze the other homes that have sold in the local area to see if the home is priced correctly. We’ll see how fast other homes are selling. We’ll look at the tax value …and with all of this info, we’ll come up with a plan to make an offer.

8: Make A Written Purchase Offer – Some buyers get kinda nervous at this point, which is one of the reasons we make sure you have all of the information available – so that you can make the best possible offer, and that it’s realistic. Most of a buyer’s hesitation comes from the unknowns, and the more question marks we can eliminate, the less stress is involved.

EXTRA: As I mentioned above, we can advise you about what we think is a good offer, and how your offer will be perceived by the seller, but ultimately it’s your decision as to what to offer and you have to be comfortable with it. If you feel pressured by your agent to offer a certain amount, you should probably choose another agent.

2nd EXTRA: If you’re negotiating and you can’t come to an agreement on the purchase price over a few thousand dollars, keep in mind that a few thousand amounts to very, very little when you factor it into your monthly payment over 30 years. Don’t lose the home you really want over what’s really an insignificant amount of money when you look at the big picture.

9: Offer Accepted or Rejected – If your offer is accepted and all the terms of your purchase area agreed upon, we now have a “ratified” contract. …but before everyone agrees on everything, you may have to go back and forth many times with counter offers, etc… If neither party can agree on price or terms, it’s back to the drawing board…and you resume looking at homes again.

10: Escrow Process – Inspections and More – So your offer is accepted? Congratulations! Remember that buying a house is not an event, it’s a process. There are many steps between agreeing on the price and moving in. It typically takes 45 to 60 days to get everything taken care of and finally close (this is VERY approximate – we’ve seen closings happen in 10 days, and others happen in well over 8 months). After your offer is ratified, you’ll need to take care of your home inspection, termite and moisture inspection, get your mortgage completed with your lender, and other tasks. Your agent will walk you through the process.

EXTRA: We always recommend that our buyers have home inspections. Why? There’s no way you can SEE all of the problems in a home. Home inspectors cover just about every aspect of a house and sometimes discover a huge problem that will make you NOT want to buy it. If there are too many issues, you can terminate your contract without having to move forward. This is the benefit of spending $300 to $400 for an inspection – so you don’t discover some major surprise later on.

11: Everything done – Ready to Close – Ready to move in? Not so fast. One of the last steps prior to closing is your WALK-THROUGH INSPECTION. This is typically done as close to your closing date as possible, and verifies that the property is in the same condition as when you last looked at it, that all the repairs you requested (from the home inspection) have been completed, and that all of the major systems in the home are in working order – Heating and air conditioning, Plumbing, Electric, Appliances, etc. Imagine if the last time you looked at the home was weeks ago during the home inspection, for example, you closed on the home without looking at it again, and something major had happened in the meantime (AC System was stolen, Appliances were broken, etc…)? Your walk-through inspection makes sure this doesn’t happen.

12: Closing – As long as the walk-through goes well, and all other terms in the contract have been agreed upon, we’re finally ready to close. This means sitting down with your lawyer or title company and signing your name for about 45 minutes. As with every other step in the process, closings are not always as smooth as you might think. Paperwork has to be shuffled back and forth and all the financial details have to be agreed upon between your lender, the seller’s agent, and the lawyer/title companies, etc., so it’s just a fact of life that sometimes things happen and issues need to be resolved.

EXTRA: As we always advise our clients – more often than not, during your purchase things will come up that we cannot predict, and sometimes at the last minute. We have to work through them one by one until you finally get the keys to your new home. Try not to worry too much – it’s tough sometimes, but we’re all here to help and make sure we do what we can for you.

The above is just an outline of the process. There are a few things here and there that may be a bit different because no two situations are exactly the same, but these are the main steps. Contact us at 757-802-3004 and we’ll walk you through the process – It’s easy to begin, fun to work toward, and satisfying to finally hold the keys to your new home!

Here are a few links to help you get started:

Tell us you want to get preapproved – See how much home you can afford:
Get Preapproved Now

Search the Hampton Roads / Virginia Beach MLS on your own:
View All Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach MLS Listings

Ask us any question:
Contact The Brian Duncan Group

 

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