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The Weichert Realtors, Lakeshore Partner Real Estate Buyers Guide
Understanding what’s involved.
Searching for a new home can be exciting but, at the same time, it can be daunting. Your experience will likely depend on how well prepared you are. To help, we’ve collected the answers to common questions. You will also find advice, plus some questions you’ll need to answer for yourself as you go along.
Start here to get answers about buying a home. Click on any topic to read more.
Generally speaking, under most market conditions, real estate professionals advise listing your present home and shopping for your new home simultaneously. Nonetheless, you should talk to your Sales Associate about your personal situation, so you can consider how fast you need to sell and how long you should expect it to take given current market conditions.
If you have very specific criteria – like location, size, views, age, etc. which could lead to a time-consuming home search – you should consider finding and buying a home first before you sell your existing home. If necessary, your offer to buy a home can be contingent on selling yours. On the other hand, if you sell first, you can make your sale dependent on finding a home to buy.
Seasonality can play a role in deciding when to sell – with spring and fall the most popular seasons to put a home on the market. Your Weichert Sales Associate can help you consider the effect of other factors like interest rates and consumer confidence in the economy.
Here are some questions to ponder as you begin to define the kind of home you really want:
What style or type of home interests you – contemporary or historic, ranch or colonial?
How large a home do you want, with how many bedrooms and baths?
What do you think are the key features? (For example: eat-in kitchen, deck, fireplace, family room or central air conditioning)
How will you determine whether a location is right for you – schools? Commuting needs? Availability of shopping?
Would you consider buying a home that is in need of some renovation or expansion?
Will it be necessary to sell your home to buy your next one?
Once you begin your search, your Weichert Sales Associate can show you any home at all, even if it’s listed with another real estate agency. Whether your interest is piqued by a For Sale sign, an ad in the paper or a listing on a website like weichert.com, your Weichert Sales Associate will be your best resource for learning more of the details. He or she can help you decide if any particular house is worth seeing in person.
Your Sales Associate will begin to work with you by diligently searching the current inventory of available homes to find ones that meet your expectations. He or she will also network in any specific neighborhood you’re interested in, keeping a close watch in order to let you know the moment a new house that fits your criteria comes on the market or when a home you might like drops its price.
You’re in the exact right place to begin your search. First of all, the Internet has replaced newspapers as the number one source of new homes. Now 18 times more people find the home they purchase online than in newspapers*.
Even better, you’re on weichert.com. Not only does this site provide access to listings by Weichert and virtually all other Realtors®, but we make the experience as enjoyable as we can by constantly enhancing and streamlining the search process, as well as by adding helpful tools and maps and relevant information.
Best of all, our “Quick Connect” system can quickly link you to an in-person visit. Unlike typical real estate websites where, in surprisingly many cases, no one gets back to you at all – despite the fact that nearly 9 of 10 people like you who are house-hunting on the Internet put a high priority on a quick initial response** – Weichert has developed a unique process that gets you a personal response in minutes, not hours.
Here’s how it works: When you call our 800 number or fill out a simple “contact me” web form, you’ll speak to one of the real estate specialists who staff our Contact Center 7 days a week. Then you’ll immediately be connected to a local Weichert Sales Associate who is both knowledgeable about that house and available to set up an appointment to show it to you. That makes us as we like to say, “the fastest way from mouse to house.” Only Weichert is committed to maintaining an Internet strategy that brings you face-to-face with homes you like as quickly and efficiently as possible.
* National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers
**California Association of REALTORS research Report 2006-2007
Since a pre-approval, unlike a pre-qualification, is based on your specific financial situation, it takes the mystery out of what you can afford. Not only will it help you understand which homes to consider, it will give any prospective seller more confidence in your ability to obtain a mortgage. (If you end up bidding on the same house as another buyer, your mortgage credit approval might even be the deciding factor in getting your offer accepted.)
You can get a same-day credit decision! The Weichert Gold® Services Manager who will handle your pre-approval is a financial expert serving your local Weichert office*. He or she will help you determine the monthly payment you’re comfortable with and provide you with a mortgage credit decision before you shop for your home. In fact, by using basic information such as your income, debt, assets, and employment history, your Weichert Gold Services Manager is generally able to get you a credit decision within minutes. A Credit Approval Guarantee will specify the actual loan amount, as well as the loan type and term. The approval is subject to an acceptable appraisal of the home you eventually purchase.**
You’ll have many financing options to choose from. As part of the process, your Gold Services Manager will help you determine which type of loan best fits your situation. Believe it or not, there are over 300 to choose from. While you probably won’t need to consider more than a few, you should at least compare the advantages of a fixed rate mortgage with an adjustable one.
When you have found the house that meets your needs and maybe even realizes your dreams, you’ll probably find yourself getting emotionally involved. Maybe you’ll imagine moving your furniture in, planting flowers, or hosting your first big holiday party. The trick is not to get too attached prematurely. There are a number of steps you must take before you’re holding the keys in your hand, and you need to think clearly and objectively at this point so that the offer you make is a realistic one.
Determining what you should offer. There are a number of factors that will affect the offer you make. You can rely on your Weichert Sales Associate to help you determine a home’s value relative to others in the area. Together, you’ll also consider the condition of the home, the demand for homes like it, how long it’s been on the market and, of course, how much you really want it.
Think twice before you make a “low ball,” offer. It will elicit a counteroffer from some sellers, but others may dismiss your bid outright. Your Sales Associate will advise you on ways to make your offer more attractive: for instance, a mortgage credit approval and flexibility on the closing\settlement can ultimately close the sale.
Rest assured that your Weichert Sales Associate is a neighborhood specialist, well trained in the techniques of negotiation. After helping you think through the issues to determine the best offer for you to make at the time, your Sales Associate is well qualified to negotiate on your behalf with your best interests in mind.
Written offer with deposit. Your Sales Associate will strengthen your written offer by presenting it personally and describing your case to the seller in person. To show that your intentions are serious, it is customary to submit the offer with a deposit. If your offer is accepted, your deposit is placed in a trust account. If not, your deposit will be returned to you.
If the seller counteroffers, you may agree to that price and terms, or make your own counteroffer. Once you and the seller agree, both sides initial the final price and terms shown on the agreement of sale.
The final contract will specify the items in the home included or excluded in the sale, as well as any additional provisions either side wants to have as part of the contract. End dates for contingencies, such as for obtaining financing, are also filled in before the contract is signed.
Additional deposit. Depending upon the price of the home and the size of your down payment, the contract may specify a date when additional monies would be placed into the trust account. At this time, the mortgage company or your attorney will order a title search and insurance.
Mortgage contingency. Unless you are an all-cash buyer, as part of your sales contract, you generally will agree to obtain financing within a specified period. This period may be extended with the seller’s agreement. If you are unable to secure financing, the contract becomes null and void.
Even with a signed contract in hand, there’s still a lot to deal with before the house you found can become the home you live in. Through Weichert Gold Services*, we can take most of the details out of your hands and into ours, smoothly streamlining the delivery of mortgage financing, home insurance, title insurance, and even vital home connections services to save you time and make the transition easier.
Unless you have a mortgage credit approval, obtaining financing in time to meet the date specified in your sales contract is a top priority. Weichert Financial Services offers approximately 300 different types of mortgages, so you’re sure to find the one that’s best for you. Ask all the questions you like so that you clearly understand what your financing options are. In addition to mortgage financing, the homeowner’s insurance and title insurance necessary to complete your home purchase are also part of our Gold Services.
Weichert Home Connections In addition to the essential purchase-related services, Weichert Gold Services can simplify the moving-in process, relieving you of many phone calls you’d otherwise have to make to arrange services. With some variation depending on area, the growing array of Weichert Home Connections services can cover everything from moving services to the set-up of cable TV and phone service. Best of all, there’s no extra cost to you for arranging these services for you.
Home Protection Plan If the home you’re purchasing doesn’t come with a Home Protection Plan, you may want to consider one. After all, breakdowns happen even with the best-name appliances. And they’re not normally covered under homeowners’ insurance. Instead of worrying that a dishwasher, for instance, will go on the blink, a Weichert Home Protection Plan offers replacement or repair protection for covered major appliances and systems, with qualified contractors only a phone call away, 24 hours a day.
* Not available in all areas; services vary by location
While only certain inspections are required by mortgage lenders or government mandate, a comprehensive home inspection is needed to tell you exactly what needs repair or replacement before you actually purchase a home. However, it is not legally required, so you, as the buyer, must pay for it. It is also recommended that at the time of the inspection you accompany the home inspector so that you can learn firsthand as much as possible about the home you are about to purchase – including such basics as where the main water shut-off and electrical distribution boxes are located.
Mortgage lenders typically require inspections for wood-destroying insects. Inspections mandated by the state or municipality could include: smoke alarm inspection, testing of well water, septic system test, and a certificate of occupancy, all of which are typically paid for by the seller. All other inspections are generally paid for by the buyer and must be done within a specified time frame, as indicated in the contract. Some insurers require inspection of underground oil tanks.
What if the inspections turn up problems? You should expect problems to be uncovered. While some may be a matter of simple cosmetics, others may be more serious and may call for costly repairs. The good news, however, is that in most cases you and the seller will be able to come to terms. You may decide to compromise and share the costs of repairs or the seller may take the responsibility. In some cases, you may just decide that an issue is not important enough to risk losing the home.
A. While exploring your needs and wants fully is a good idea for focusing your search and saving time, viewing a number of homes will help you become familiar with what you can expect to get for your money. When you find a home you really like, it’s a good idea to go back and look at it at a different time of day. This will give you greater insight into what it will be like living in the home full time.
Q. How can I check my credit rating before I apply for a mortgage?
A. Your credit rating is based on a combined score generated from three credit bureaus who look at your credit history, amount of credit available, and recent inquiries to determine what’s called your FICO score. A smart way to go is to contact a Weichert Gold® Services Manager* at your local Weichert office to check your rating for you and, if appropriate, suggest ways for you to improve your credit. For a small fee, you can get your score or review your credit report by going online to www.myfico.com or contacting the credit bureaus directly at:
Equifax: (800) 685-1111
Experian: (888) 397-3742
TransUnion: (800) 916-8800
Q. Why should I consider paying points?
A. Buyers often choose to pay a one-time charge called mortgage “points” in exchange for a lower interest rate. Usually paid at closing, each “point” costs 1% of the mortgage amount, or $2,000 on a $200,000 loan. The lower rate reduces the monthly mortgage payment, and points paid in conjunction with the purchase of a home are generally tax-deductible in the year they’re paid (see tax advisor). Monthly savings will often exceed what was paid in points in just a few years’ time.
Q. What is the purpose of an attorney review?
A. In states where the real estate agent writes the contract, there may be an attorney review period. This specified period allows the attorney to cancel the contract or request it be altered. Both buyer and seller would then have to agree to the revised contract in writing. During this period, either party may void the contract without penalty.
Q. What is title insurance and why do I need it?
A. Basically, title insurance assures that you have clear title to the home you’re purchasing. A title search is the primary component of “due diligence,” a process that will be started either by your attorney, if you are using one, or by the title company you choose. The title search determines whether the seller actually owns the property and if there are any claims against it.
Q. What happens if the house I want to purchase does not appraise at the amount expected?
A. If the house doesn’t appraise at the amount expected, other alternatives are typically found. A second appraisal may be sought, the buyer may be willing to put more money down, the seller may adjust the price or offer other concessions, or the two sides may negotiate to split the difference between them.
* Not available in all areas; services vary by location
The final “walk-through” is typically scheduled within 24 hours of the closing/settlement. It gives you one last opportunity to make sure that the home you are purchasing is in the condition that you and the seller mutually agreed to in the sales contract.
Should a problem arise during the walk-through, your Weichert Sales Associate will contact the seller’s representative to let him or her know what the deficiency is. If the seller accepts responsibility, money for the repairs can be allocated to you at the closing/settlement. If the seller does not agree to the repairs, your Sales Associate will act as the go-between to help you and the seller reach a satisfactory compromise so that the closing is not delayed.
When the closing/settlement day arrives, be sure to bring:
A certified check for the closing/settlement costs (your mortgage lender or attorney will advise you beforehand)
Your homeowners’ policy
Your checkbook for any miscellaneous costs that may come up
You’ll sign the mortgage and many other documents, adjustments will be made for such items as property taxes, the seller will be paid, and you will receive the title or deed and the keys to your new home. Be prepared to sign your name over and over again, but when you’re done, it’s time to celebrate – you’re ready to move into your new home.
Take the Tour to find out how easy it is to buy through us. (May not be viewable on Ipads, Iphones and some other phones)