Ten Steps to Homeownership in 2013

January 7, 2013

In the spirit of the revitalized can-do attitude that seems to be at its best in the beginning of each new year, it is an exceptional time to begin plotting out a path to homeownership in 2013.  Let these ten steps be your guide, as you embark on this rewarding journey:

  1. Find a REALTOR® to be your trusted advisor, navigator, and supporter through this experience.
    A REALTOR® has a wealth of knowledge and experience that will simplify each step of this complex transaction; from helping obtain mortgage prequalification and identifying listings suited to your tastes and needs, to deciphering important details in inspection reports, offers, and contracts.
  2. Save money for a down payment and other miscellaneous expenses.
    The amount needed for a down payment will vary from one lender and mortgage type to another. Some non-profit organizations, government agencies, and lenders offer special mortgage products to help first-time homebuyers. A REALTOR® can help identify and explain various lending options so that you can begin setting attainable goals.
  3. Obtain a mortgage prequalification letter.
    Mortgage prequalification will clearly illustrate how much house you can afford, and establish budgetary guidelines prior to beginning a home search. It will also provide the purchasing power to make a legitimate offer once the right home is found. Additionally, sellers may see a prequalification letter as an attractive part of your offer on a home because this is an indication that you are a serious buyer. Many financial institutions will not accept an offer on a home without a prequalification letter.
  4. Find a home that suits your current (and possibly future) needs.
    Your REALTOR® will not only have access to regional listings, but will have extensive knowledge about other important factors like annual taxes and estimated monthly utility costs, school districts, area home sales patterns, community amenities, home owners associations (and any related fees), geographical dynamics, and area development plans on the horizon that could affect future property values.
  5. Have an inspection conducted on the home you would like to purchase.
    A professional home inspection can uncover potential issues that may not be obvious or visible, and could be costly in the future. Your REALTOR® can help recommend trusted home inspectors.
  6. Present an offer.
    A REALTOR® will help advise you on making an appropriate offer based on comparable area sales data, home features and upgrades, results of the inspection report, and other relevant information. Further negotiation may be necessary if a first offer is refused or a counter offer is made.
  7. Apply for a mortgage.
    Once your loan is being processed, you can lock in the current interest rate if rates are on the rise. If rates are falling, you may want to wait and lock in an interest rate later to obtain the lowest possible rate. It is advisable not to enter into any additional financial obligations during the period in between receiving prequalification and applying for a mortgage.
  8. Complete all closing responsibilities.
    The closing process can involve several various responsibilities, including filing paperwork, obtaining homeowner’s insurance, signing documents, and other possible tasks. Failure to meet deadlines during this time can jeopardize your closing date. Be sure that your closing date occurs before your interest lock-in rate expires. Your REALTOR® will support you during this time by answering questions that arise, explaining the meaning behind these tasks and documents, and helping to keep you on schedule so that the transaction proceeds smoothly.
  9. Review your closing documents carefully.
    It is always a good idea to understand what you are signing.   In Virginia either a lay settlement agent or an attorney can close the transaction.  But it is important to note that if you have questions while reviewing the closing documents, only a licensed attorney can render legal advice.
  10. 10.   Get some extensive practice on your signature and celebrate the joy of homeownership.
    It is no secret that there are several documents to sign when closing on a home purchase. Your John Hancock will be perfected as you become a happy new homeowner.