Be Prepared. That’s the Boy Scout motto, and as a buyer, it should be your motto, too. Time and real estate wait for no man or woman. Deals fall apart and homes are lost out on every day because the buyers are not as prepared as they should have been or as they thought they were.
If you’re considering buying a property, there are many things you can and should do to be ready and willing when the time comes to sign a contract. These include (in order):
1) Be ready to move. The heads of many “buyers” are ready to move long before their hearts are. Going through the motions and then backing out causes disruptions, disappointment, and lost time on the part of everyone else involved in the buying/selling process. No one will be happy with you should this occur.
2) Determine what type of property you are interested in: Apartment, single-family home, or multi-family house.
3) Decide what areas you are willing to live in. Don’t be too limiting, as different areas have different types of properties, and there might not be many of the types of properties you want to buy in a given neighborhood.
4) Do the math. Come up with a realistic price point for your purchase, one that you’re sure you can manage and are willing to commit to. If you feel in any way that you might get cold feet later when your offer is accepted, you’re not prepared to buy. Once you’ve estimated this on your own, it’s time to talk to a professional, so…
5) Get pre-qualified by a bank or mortgage lender. Any company that issues mortgages should be willing to go over your finances with you and determine just how much they would be willing to lend you. You might think you can afford X, but a thorough examination of your financial situation could determine that you can afford X+, or perhaps X-. Either way, you need to know before you start passing over For-Sale properties you think you can’t afford or visiting and falling in love with those you might not be able to have. The lender will give you a letter stating the amount of their pre-qualification for you to present to a real estate broker or seller. Have an accurate number for your price point. (BTW, it’s okay to visit more than one lender to get the best pre-qualification you can. But don’t use one that’s perhaps too much higher than others you might have gotten.)
6) Have your funds ready. This will probably be discussed during your pre-qualification meetings, and it will be important once you receive notice of an offer acceptance. You will need money for a down payment. Often, there is earnest money, which eventually goes toward the down payment, required to be advanced to the seller when the contract is signed. If you are a homeowner now, determine whether your purchase of a new home will be contingent on selling your current property.
7) Get a real estate agent. In most situations, the real estate agent will receive their commission from the seller, though not in every circumstance. There is no reason to traverse on your own the complex process of such an important, unfamiliar, and financially significant transaction as buying property. You should want and should have professional guidance.
8) Hire a real estate lawyer. You may already have a lawyer who helps you in your business or other areas of your life, but for a real estate purchase you should have a lawyer who specializes in this area. Real estate agents are legally prohibited from practicing law or giving any legal advice, but your agent might be able to give you a list of names of real estate lawyers, or you may have associates who have used ones that worked well for them. When it’s time to go over the sales contract, and again at the closing, you’ll want a legal eagle on your side, one that’s an expert in real estate. It is money well spent.
Having completed all the above steps, you should be totally prepared to take your tours, find a place you love, put in an offer, close, and move in to your fantastic new home.