Steps in the Home Buying Process
Buyer Applies for a Mortgage
Seeking pre-approval for mortgage finance will tell you how much you can borrow, and hence, lets you know the maximum price that you can afford to pay for a property. Knowing your budget will allow you to be more focused when searching for properties and you’ll have the reassurance of knowing you are pre-approved for finance, which removes a potential pitfall down the road. Refer to our Mortgage Brokers and Home Mortgage Providers page for a list of local lenders.
This is usually the exciting and fun part of the process. First, we sit down with you to discuss and note down exactly what type of property you are looking for, including your requirements for the neighborhood and nearby amenities. With those details in hand, we will conduct a customized property search of homes on the market which match your criteria. We have access to all homes listed by other real estate agencies, including short sales, foreclosures and bank owned properties. Our search filters will also pickup any new homes that meet your criteria as soon as they become available on the market. You will be able to view photos and browse the listings of this targeted short-list, and schedule a showing with us to go visit and inspect those that are of interest to you.
Buyer Makes a Purchase Offer
Once you’ve found your dream home, we will review the disclosure documents, look at comparable sales data, and then submit an offer to the seller. The seller may accept your initial offer, but more often will return a counteroffer. In fact, further price negotiations are common, and we will assist you through this sometimes stressful stage.
Buyer Makes Earnest Money Deposit
To demonstrate that you are serious about your offer, you will need to place an earnest money deposit on the property at the time that you sign the contract. The deposit amount will vary, but is typically at least 1 percent of your offered purchase price. You’ll usually write the check to a third party title company, and they will hold the funds in escrow.
If the seller accepts your final offer, your earnest money deposit will be applied towards your down payment or closing costs. If the sale does not go through, then your earnest money is generally released back to you. Contracts of sale can include clauses that trigger the retention of earnest funds in favor of the seller. However, we will be happy to guide you through this process so that you are aware of what those triggers are, so that you can avoid them.
Once the seller has accepted your offer and everyone is happy with the terms, both parties will sign a purchase and sale agreement. At this point, the buyer and seller have reached what is known as “mutual acceptance”.
A Home Inspection Takes Place
The purchase and sale agreement will be subject to a satisfactory property inspection, as you’ll want to be sure that your new home does not have any structural or other hidden problems before you buy it. To ensure this, you can hire a home inspector who will conduct an audit of the property and supply you with a written report detailing all minor and/or major problems found. We can then submit a work request to the seller on your behalf detailing those items that you want remedied. The seller has the option of repairing some, all, or none of the defects identified. Negotiation may be necessary in order to reach an agreement, including a possible price reduction to compensate for any problems found. In the absence of an agreement, you will have the option of backing out of the purchase.
Refer to our Northern Virginia Home Inspectors webpage for a list of local home inspectors.
Lender Inspects Title History and Orders a Property Appraisal
As your home will serve as security for the loan, the lender will want to ensure that no liens will remain against the property once the home is transferred to your ownership. Hence, they will conduct a title search to check for this as well as other potential claims, charges, municipal orders or judgements that would impair free and clear title to the property after the transfer of ownership.
The lender will also want to ensure that the fair market value of the property is sufficient to serve as security for the loan. To this end, they will obtain a property appraisal.
Once the property has passed its building inspection, and your lender has completed a satisfactory title search and appraisal, and you have unconditional finance approval, then all contingencies can be removed, paving the way towards settlement and closing.
Closing Time Arrives
With all contingencies removed and unconditional financing in place, all parties are able to sign-off on the purchase and sale agreement, and ancillary documents. A settlement date is then set, funds and ownership of title are transferred on this date, and the transaction closes. Congratulations – you are the proud owner of your new dream home.
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