1.See a Lender- Find Out What Your Credit Score is and talk to a lender (it’s free!) to find out what you can qualify for with your income. This quick, usually 15-20 minute chat, will tell you how much of a mortgage you can get and if you need to work on your credit score to qualify.
2.Save, Save, Save- Save money for a down payment! Another good reason to talk to a lender first. Once you find out how much you can qualify for, your lender can tell you what kinds of loan programs are out there to meet your needs. FHA loans will let you put down as little as 3% as a down payment when you buy a home. Convention loans usually (but not always) require 20% down. So for example, a $200,000 home with 20% down means you’d need $40,000 as a down payment in addition to your loan and closing costs to get that house. For FHA, if you were only required to put down 3%, that would be just $6,000, plus closing costs in addition to your loan.
3.Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage- Once you’ve completed the above 2 steps, go back to your lender and get a loan pre-approval letter. You’ll need it to shop for homes and submit offers.
4.Find a Top Real Estate Agent- Now that you have your loan stuff all figured out, find a great Realtor! (We can help with that!). Tell your Realtor what you’re pre-qualified for and meet with them in person to go over neighborhoods and home styles you prefer. At Sandy Hartmann & Associates, we set up a search with you that alerts you via email every time a new home listing comes onto the MLS. You’ll always know when homes for sale hit the market that match your home search.
5.Start Searching for Homes- When you see homes you like in your price range, contact your real estate agent to set up appointments as soon as you can. Good homes go fast and home inventory is low in places like Pinellas County and Hillsborough County. You can also drive around on weekends to open houses to get a better idea of which neighborhoods you like. Our website conveniently has a search option to see properties offering open houses, price reductions and more. You can also do a map search and look up home value trends on our City Pages (See the bottom of our homepage for this).
6.Write an Offer- Found the right home? Once you know which home you want, you and your Realtor need to write an offer. If the home hasn’t been on the market long, it needs to be a competitive offer to motivate the seller to accept yours over any others. This is also where you need your loan pre-approval letter. Make sure it’s submitted with your offer so the sellers know you’re approved for a loan and a ‘real’ buyer. If the letter is dated more than 1 month old, ask your lender for an updated one if nothing has changed in your employment , savings and debts. If your offer is accepted by the sellers, you’ll have to give a deposit check to your agent as well. This goes towards your closing costs and down payment and is refundable until certain periods in the contract if things go wrong (see below).
7.Schedule Home Inspections- Once your offer is accepted, you’ll have a specific amount of time to inspect the home (this amount of time is negotiated in the contract when you write it up with your real estate agent). Make sure you find a reputable inspector that will thoroughly inspect the home- you’ll want them to inspect all major components, including but not limited to the roof, plumbing, electrical, A/C and Heat system, pool (if there is one), windows & more. If you’re buying a waterfront home, you’ll also want to hire a seawall inspector as well. Review the inspection results thoroughly with your real estate agent.
8.Negotiate Repairs- If anything is amiss in the home you’re buying, based on the home inspection results, you’ll want to negotiate any home repairs to be done. As long as this is done during your inspection period, you’ll have the opportunity to negotiate. If negotiations don’t go the way you want, you may still get back your deposit and cancel the contract during this time. Ideally everyone will be able to agree on requested repairs (this is negotiated by the agents for the buyer and seller). Be flexible and try not to ask for too many minor ‘cosmetic’ items. Stick to major items that could affect the insurability, safety, or value of the home (Roof, A/C, Heating, Windows, Plumbing, Electrical, etc).
9.Loan Approval- Once you sign a contract, and schedule inspections, your lender will begin to ask you for payroll and tax documents pertaining to your income. It is important to get this information to your lender as soon as possible. They’ll want to go over all your financial debt and review your creditworthiness. DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT make any large purchases, buy a car, change jobs, or take out ANY other loans or credit cards until AFTER your closing. Your lender will check your finances, bank statements and employment status up until the day before closing. Any changes in your financial status could result in your loan being denied at the last minute.
10.Final Walk-Thru- This generally happens the day of closing or sometimes the day before closing. This is when you walk thru the home you’re purchasing (with your Realtor, always) to make sure the sellers have 1) cleaned out all their belongings and not left piles of old furniture, trash, etc. behind 2) maintained the home properly until closing (it should be in the same shape as when you 1st saw the home 3) completed any requested repairs that were agreed on. If anything is not as agreed on or if the home is no longer in the shape it was sold in, you need to fill out a sheet called a ‘Final Walk Thru Form’ and take it to closing with you. Any changes in the home’s condition or repairs that were not made properly will have to be re-negotiated with all parties.
11.Closing Day!- When the big day gets close, you’ll want to contact the Title Company that’s handling the closing (they prepare the settlement statement that goes over all your charges, fees, and loan amounts. They also issue clear title on the home and prepare the deed among other ‘paperwork’ related items that facilitate the sale). The title company will tell you exactly how much money to wire to them for closing, which needs to be done prior to getting to the closing table. At your actual scheduled closing, you’ll go over all the loan docs, title information & more with your settlement agent and real estate agent. Once you sign and the funds are at the title company from your lender, the keys are yours!