1. Talk to a reputable lender about getting a mortgage pre-approval. A great lender can tell you how much house you’re able to purchase, or advise you on next best steps so that you can get a pre-approval. Don’t be embarrassed if you're not ready yet. After talking to the lender you’ll have a roadmap, as well as a clear idea of your next task items. Sometimes credit card balances or debts need to be paid down first so that credit scores rise, as well as debt-to-income ratios might need to be lowered. (ps: I can recommend great lenders if you don’t have any handy.)
2. Choose a Realtor® you can trust. Don’t leave this step to happenstance. Ask friends and family about their personal experiences, and then check out the agent’s profile and reviews online. Zillow reviews are vetted by Zillow for authenticity so that’s a great place to start. See which designations the agent holds, as well as ask what the agent’s showing availability and accessibility will be. You want someone who can work with your existing schedule.
3. Have a sit-down or phone consult with your chosen agent. I know everyone is really busy, but if it’s at all possible for me to sit with my clients for 30-45 minutes to review the home search process and home preference criteria, it helps save time for everyone in the long run. (In the age of COVID, we can plan for a phone, FaceTime, or Zoom call.)
4. Choose homes you would like to see, allowing your agent at least 24 hrs to set up the showings. Some homes are vacant and can be scheduled quickly, others may have children or pets that have to be accommodated during showings. Sometimes these sellers need 24+ hours notice.
5. Make Google Maps your new best friend. By looking at street and aerial views of home addresses you can sometimes spot your dealbreakers before you even visit the home. If living next to a noisy car repair shop or on a busy road are not your idea of home bliss, you can save yourself some time and frustration. Because google maps is sometimes outdated, some of my clients drive by homes while commuting to or from work to get an idea of how busy a road might be, or to see if power lines are running through the backyard.
6. If you like a home, request and review the seller disclosure. It’s a 10 page document that outlines everything the seller knows about the home. (As long as the home isn’t an estate or being sold by the bank.) Have your agent follow up on any items that need clarification.
7. If you really really like a home and have reviewed the seller disclosure, it’s time to write an offer. Your agent will be able to provide recent sales in the neighborhood, as well as a closing cost estimate on the home. Allow a few hours for paperwork preparation the first time you make an offer. Your agent needs time to prepare the necessary documents, as well as review the paperwork with you. Electronic signing is a wonderful tool, but don’t skip the review of documents if this is your first rodeo. (Personally, I enjoy reviewing the paperwork with my clients which can be done over the phone.)
8. After your offer is accepted, it’s time for home inspections, delivery of earnest money deposits, full mortgage application, and ordering the appraisal. Typically we have 10 days to conduct inspections and reply to those inspections. My job is to keep an eye on these timelines and advise you accordingly so that we stay within contract guidelines. Expect daily texts from me - I will try to include humor and emojis so that you don’t get sick of hearing from me. 🙂
Once you go under contract, do not buy anything that will change your financial capability to purchase the home. Don’t buy a new car or furniture, do not change jobs, do not charge large purchases to your credit cards. If anything is questionable, ask your lender first.
9. Once you’ve survived inspections and appraisal (and any negotiations stemming from those activities), it’s time to prepare final funds for closing, setup utilities, arrange for movers, set up your pre-settlement walkthrough date, and arrange for time and place for settlement.
- Note: You will get sick of hearing me say this, but DO NOT NOT NOT wire closing funds before checking with the title company (on the phone) to ensure the instructions are not fraudulent.
10. Move! …and change your locks, appeal your taxes (if applicable), and put my contact info in your favorites. Because if you have questions about the home, need contractor recommendations, have home improvement questions, or have questions about scammy-looking mail you’ll probably receive… I’ll be there to help you. Promise.
Melissa Walter, CRS, ABR, SFR, REALTOR®
Compass RE / 6 E Montgomery Ave, Unit 105 / Ardmore PA, 19003
Serving Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Philadelphia Counties