This 3-part series will explore the most commonly asked questions posed by home buyers.
What do I need to do before I can start looking for a house?
- Make sure your credit score is sufficient
- Make sure you have enough saved
- Have an idea of where and when you want to move
- Meet with a lender and get pre-approved for a loan amount
- Meet with and select a real estate agent
How much do I need to have saved before I start looking?
The lowest possible down payment is 3% of the sales price, and the average closing costs are another 2-3%. While closing costs can be paid for by the seller if they agree to it, neither down payment nor closing costs can be financed through your loan, so they must be paid in cash at the time of settlement.
What other costs are involved in buying a house?
You’ll need to consider things like closing costs, home inspection fee, appraisal fee and HOA dues. Please see this post for more details.
How long does the process take?
Allow at least 2 months – 1 month to search, submit an offer and have it accepted, and 1 month to close. An average timeframe is 2-3 months, from the time you are pre-approved with a lender and start looking with an agent, to the time you close and move in to the home.
When should I talk to a lender? An agent?
Lenders and agents are always willing to sit down and go over the process with you. Once you are ready to start the search process, 3-4 months before your target move date is a good time to talk to and select a lender and agent.
What should I look for when selecting an agent?
Someone who is trustworthy, knowledgeable and confident. They will be facilitating the biggest purchase you’ve made to date and you will be spending a lot of time with them. Are they comfortable talking about the buying process the local market? Do they listen and let you ask questions, and are they able to answer them? Sometimes, it just comes down to a “feeling” as to whether or not you have a good rapport and will be able to communicate with them.
What happens when I meet with an agent?
Typically, you will meet in the agent’s office to discuss your scenario. The agent will ask if you have met with a lender, your price range, your timeline for moving, your desired area, your must-haves and deal breakers in a home, etc. The agent will tell you what the housing market looks like in your desired area, and may show you some listings online. The agent will set you up with an email alert based on your search criteria that sends you new listings each day. You will probably set a time to go look at homes as well. If you eventually decide to move forward with the agent, you will sign the buyer-broker agreement, which allows the agent to represent you in the transaction.
Why do I need an agent if I have Zillow and Redfin?
The Internet is an excellent resource for finding a home. But most of the action happens once you have already found a house. An agent knows the ins and outs of negotiating a real estate contract. They also have the most accurate data to know how your offer should be structured. Public-facing websites like Zillow do not include all listings and are not updated as often. A contract has dozens of moving parts that require full-time professional attention. Discount agents do not typically provide this full-time service and attention.
Do I have to pay the agent’s commission?
No, the seller pays commission to the listing broker, who then disburses payment to the buyer’s broker.
Stay tuned for next week’s post with more buyer FAQs.