Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by your agent will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.
Buying a home is a team sport. In the fast, dynamic Seattle Real Estate market, it takes a village to accomplish your goal of landing the right home. To begin with, let’s sit down and define the basics: Why buy? |motivation| Why now? |life changes + opportunities| What’s your vision of the perfect home? |criteria| What makes you happy? |lifestyle| Who else is involved? |lenders, inspectors, title and escrow| Are we a good fit?
What can you afford? Unless you have cash at hand, you will likely need to finance your purchase with a mortgage loan. In order to be competitive and considered a viable buyer, you will need to have pre-approval in hand from a qualified, reputable and preferably local lender. This is one of the most important pieces of the entire purchase equation so it should be addressed as early in the process as possible. I am happy to direct you to qualified professionals with a proven track record.
A mortgage is the loan a potential homebuyer needs in order to make up the difference between the down payment and the purchase price of the home. There are a variety of mortgage programs available, with adjustable time periods and financing options. It usually takes about 30 to 45 days to process a loan application. The actual time depends on how promptly the lender can get an appraisal of the property, a credit report, and verification of employment and bank accounts. Most loans will require a buyer to provide verification of income, assets, and long-term debt.
Pre-qualification is not a full mortgage approval, but a basic estimate of what you can afford in a home loan. Along with the down payment available to you, the loan amount will determine what price range will work for you. Pre-qualification is sometimes confused with pre-approval, which is a more comprehensive analysis and commitment of a loan program for a buyer.
Pre-qualifying helps you identify and resolve any issues you may encounter in your application. Start the process by talking with a few qualified, reputable lenders to work towards pre-approval. With a pre-approval letter in hand, you will be ready to make an offer!
Once we have met and created a profile with the criteria of the type of home and amenities you are looking for, I will set up a search on the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) specific to your needs that will email new listings as they hit the market. The MLS Portal allows us both to track the listings, allows you to categorize your favorites and will provide status updates on properties we are tracking.
I frequently preview homes and new listings that may fit your needs, and will keep you informed of any that look like a good match.
There are countless options for buyers to search for homes online on their own. I encourage my clients to use whatever sites they are comfortable with and highly recommend we work as a team in the search effort. If you come across a property that hasn’t shown up in our search, please let me know so I can research the details and add it to our list.
When you see some you like, we can hit the road and have a look inside!
In the beginning, you will likely have several properties you want to see. We will schedule a tour of homes and I will set any needed appointments for viewing. Depending on geography and distance, I typically advise limiting home tours to no more than 6 at a time. As we move through the process, we will continue to monitor new listings and coordinate with each other to visit those of interest. Advance notice is appreciated, as many homes are occupied and require specific scheduling.
Once we find the home that fits your needs, I will draft a Purchase and Sale Agreement. This is a legally binding document whereby the homeowner and buyer agree to terms under which the buyer will acquire the seller’s property. This document defines the proposed purchase price, the terms and the timing of the close on behalf of the buyer. The contract also serves as direction to the escrow company to close the transaction. With my assistance you and the seller can then negotiate and come to terms on a mutually acceptable contract. Of course, either party is free to accept or reject any offer, or to propose a counteroffer revising the original terms.
In addition to the price you are willing to pay, the formal offer will consist of specific deadlines, including an offer expiration date, a closing date, and possession date. When writing your offer, you must also outline the earnest money deposit amount, which we place in an escrow account upon mutual agreement as a good faith intention to complete the transaction. Earnest money is typically between 3-5% of the purchase price. Your offer may include contingencies related to financing and inspections. If you have a house to sell, your offer may also be contingent on its sale.
Part of my job is to ensure all contracts and communications are complete and to manage the timelines and deadlines throughout the transaction. I will keep you informed every step of the way.
I’ve represented buyers and sellers in each of Seattle’s neighborhoods, and my extensive experience in this market, working with people from a diverse range of backgrounds and needs, has enabled me to develop efficient systems and resources to help my clients succeed in this highly competitive market.