After figuring out your finances and finding the perfect house, you finally discovered the home you want to settle down in. Now what? Unfortunately, you can’t just take it to the cash register and walk away from a homeowner; there are a few steps you must go through first. Here is what you should know about making the offer and closing the deal:
Making the offer
- How much to offer: Your REALTOR® can provide you with a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) of the home’s value and what other houses in the area are worth and being sold for. This is valuable information to have when making an offer. You may be able to offer less, and justify your reasoning for doing so, or you may find that the asking price is a fair assessment of the market. Keep in mind the housing market of your area too. If you are in a buyer’s market, you can probably get away with a low offer. If you are in a seller’s market, making a lowball offer could cost you the house.
- What to include in the offer: Include the amount of money you are offering and how you are doing so, contingencies, details of the earnest money deposit, information on transferring bills, who will pay for what (inspections, title insurance, etc.), an occupancy date and a time limit after which the offer expires.
- Contingencies: You should include contingencies in your offer to cover yourself in case you can’t secure a loan, or the home inspection uncovers something frightening. In these events, your contract may be terminated based on the contingency.
- Bonus tip: When making an offer, consider writing the current owner a letter to introduce yourself and explain why you love the house. This personal touch could be what convinces the owner to choose your offer.
- If your offer is rejected, it’s time to move on to a different property. If the owner counters your offer, it’s a good opportunity to a secure deal that you are both happy with. While the price may be the biggest topic of debate, you can negotiate other things as well. For example, if the owner counters you with a higher price, you can request they contribute to closing costs or leave their appliances behind. Negotiating will go on until the seller accepts your offer or one of you walks away.
- When you and the seller reach agreeable terms, both you and the seller will sign the agreement, creating a contract. Once the contract is formed, it is typically unable to be unilaterally terminated by you or the seller, unless the termination is exercising a contingency.
- Once the contract is created, order a home inspection. This way you can address any inspection concerns with the current owner. You should order the inspection as quickly as possible to ensure it stays within the contingency timeframes. Typically, you must schedule the inspection within a week of the accepted offer.
- After the inspection is completed, take the findings to the current owners. Work out any additional negotiations, then finalize the purchase agreement.
Finish up financials
- Complete the mortgage application: Meet with your loan provider and complete your mortgage application. This can also be done prior to submitting an offer to streamline the process and hopefully get a “pre-qualification.”
- Get an appraisal: Your mortgage company wants to ensure they are not giving you more money than the property is worth. To do so, they will send an appraiser to get their own estimate of the value of the home. If there are discrepancies with the numbers, you may need to sign more paperwork. But after the appraisal is complete, your loan application likely is too.
- Once you receive final loan approval, you are free to close on your new property. Your closing day is usually 45-60 days after your offer has been accepted. On closing day, expect to sign a lot of documents and write a lot of checks. Then the house will be transferred to your name, and you are officially a homeowner!
Buying a home is a long and complicated process, but it is so worthwhile in the end. Congratulations on achieving the American Dream of homeownership!
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to constitute legal advice or expert advice, nor should it be used as such. Everyone’s situation is unique and you should contact a REALTOR® and/or private counsel for specific information.