Purchasing your first home represents a major life event, but you can’t do it alone. Homebuying is a team sport, and you’ll only be successful with all the key players going to bat for you. Here are the pros you need on your side:
First, you need to set your finances in order by selecting the right lender – this could be a mortgage broker, bank or credit union. “The financing is the most important part of the whole transaction,” says Rhonda Duffy, owner of Duffy Realty of Atlanta.
Keep in mind, not all lenders will offer the same thing. Duffy recommends speaking to several lenders and then comparing their loan proposals. “When you’re hunting the right kind of loan,” explains Duffy, “You’ve got to know the questions to ask these lenders and then be able to compare what they tell you.”
Once you’ve made a decision, the lender will help you determine what you can afford based on your application and credit history. Your lender will help you get pre-approved for a mortgage, so you know how much home you can shop for.
Next, it’s time to meet with your real estate agent and start the search for your perfect home.
Michael Wolf, author of “The First Time Homebuyer Book” (Dog Ear, 2010), suggests a referral system to find the right agent. “Poll the people you know who bought a property, see what their experience was, and see if they would attach their name to their real estate professional,” advises Wolf.
Your agent is essentially the coach of your homebuying team. The agent is there to guide you through all the complex steps of finding and purchasing a home. “The agent’s role is to be a sounding board,” Duffy says. “To know what happens in the transaction next and to, with urgency, put those pieces into place.”
THE HOME INSPECTOR
Once you’ve found your dream home, made an offer, and the seller has accepted, the next step is to hire a home inspector, who will – yes – inspect that the home is up to code and does not have major issue lurking. Your real estate agent can generally recommend one, but it is also important to independently investigate the professionals on your team.
“You want to give the client the opportunity to do research on these people who you recommend,” Wolf says. “Ultimately, we want to make sure that the decision is the client’s.”
Duffy adds, “For the inspector, the most important question to ask is, ‘Do you have general liability insurance?’” Since the inspector works for the buyer, the buyer is ultimately liable for any damages that may occur during inspection.
The appraiser is a member of your team, but not one that you recruit. The appraiser is hired by the lender to assess the home’s value to make sure it’s worth what they’re offering you. The goal is to protect both you and the lender to make sure you’re not overpaying for the home.
THE CLOSING AGENT
The closing agent is the final piece of the puzzle. This could be an escrow company or an attorney, depending on the state. Either way, the closing agent works for the buyer, seller and lender to tie up the loose ends of the transaction. The closing agent escrows funds and ensures that contracts are being followed.
Ultimately, your homebuying team is there to help guide you through a complex, life-changing journey.
“Homeownership is very valuable,” Duffy says. “I don’t want [buyers] to be afraid of it, like they can’t accomplish it. All they have to do is apply a little bit of rational logic to an emotional process.”
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