Partner with an agent.
Upon your first meeting with any agent to discuss a specific house, you will be presented with the California Buyer Broker form to review. You may elect to sign it or not. The agents are all working off the same inventory of listings, so any agent can show you virtually any listing, but not all agents work as hard or have the same expertise. Looking at houses is just the beginning of the home-buying process. The services the Realtor brings to the job are considerable. The following steps are all things your agent will guide you through.
Remember, buying a house will most likely be the biggest purchase of your life.
Obtain a preapproval or prequalification certificate from a lender.
This is a printed or online document that will be referred to in the offer you make. If you don’t have this evidence that shows the Seller how serious you are, your offer may not be duly considered. Your offer may be in competition with another buyer who has this certificate in hand. You will feel a lot more empowered to buy if you have the security of knowing that you’ve got a bank behind you.
Work with your agent to write up an offer.
An offer is a legally binding statement of your interest in buying a property. It spells out the money you are willing to pay and the time frame for the purchase that is best for you. You will make your offer conditional upon satisfactory inspections of the structural and mechanical systems. These inspections should occur within a week or two of making the offer. In addition, the offer will have a financing contingency covering the need for the bank to okay several things about the house. Legally, your offer must be in writing and with a “good faith” deposit which is generally 3% in California.
It may be a matter or hours or days for the negotiations to come to a conclusion. This is one of the most emotional phases of the process. Sometimes the negotiations linger into the home inspection phase, too.
Acceptance of your Offer.
Your offer has been accepted! You now have a legal interest in the property. The inspections must be set up immediately and the bank notified that you have found a property. The bank appraiser’s inspection visit will be scheduled by the bank through the listing agent. Some of the inspections may include a home inspection, environmental hazards inspection, title search, insurability, building report investigation and appraisal.
Generally your Realtor will help you find a qualified and reputable home inspector. The inspector will search and find both major and minor problems with your home. You will then fill out a “request for repairs” form. The seller is not obligated to correct the repairs, nor even required to respond to your request.
There are generally two types of contingencies in most real estate transactions. The inspection contingency in which all inspections are done and satisfied and the loan contingency in which you get your loan in order. The period of time is based on the terms of the contract with the standard being 17 days. Once the contingencies are pulled you may be liable for the 3% deposit money if you cannot complete the sale.
Contact the utility companies to arrange for their services to be put into your name the day of the closing. The seller will be contacting them to request final readings and to okay the transfer to you on that date. These arrangements can be made 10 days or so prior to the closing if that date is known for sure.
The Final Walk-Through
On a day specified in the contract, you will check out the house to make sure there are no surprises. Generally, the house is to be vacant and clean. One hopes there is no trash or junk left behind. Any work that was to be done must be completed. This is a time of heightened excitement, anticipation, and sometimes exhaustion.
This is a meeting generally held at the escrow office with the escrow officer. The buyer puts down the rest of the money and signs the mortgage documents. The bank will want to have proof of homeowner’s insurance from your agent. The title company will put the new deed on record with the Registrar, confirming that you are now the new owner! You may now bring in your furniture – the place is yours! You’ll get all the keys, but you may want to change or rekey the locks.