THIS IS GOING TO BE EXCITING
ALONG THE WAY, IT MIGHT ALSO BE FRUSTRATING AND THRILLING AND TERRIFYING AND WONDERFUL.
ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
THIS IS NORMAL.
Every journey toward homeownership begins with an important, deceptively simple question: what kind of property do you seek?
The reason this question is deceptive isn't because the answerer doesn't understand their wants or needs. Indeed, in my experience, every client approaches homebuying with a goal in mind. But often, choosing a place to live your life can be as winding and complex as life itself, with what you learn and encounter on your journey leading your goal to change and take on a new shape.
Of course, it can also do the exact opposite. The steps on the way may further strengthen your resolve to find what you initially sought.
All of this is good. And eventually, it will lead to something wonderful.
This why we begin your homeownership journey with you telling me what you’re looking for in a home. And after that, this is what comes next.
1. Encourage information. Whether you’ve already identified a property or are at the very beginning of your search, I always recommend that my buyers delve into what each community on the South Shore has to offer. Though my education and experience allows me to helpfully guide my clients based on the interests and needs they’ve shared with me, the person who knows what the buyer most needs is the buyer himself!
It’s also useful for buyers to have a strong grasp of what is available within their desired markets, and what is going on within these markets. While I would never dissuade a client from purchasing the most expensive home in a neighborhood if it happens to be the home that they love, informed decisions lead to the best choices, and so I always supply information and encourage my buyers to become savvy about the communities they like.
2. Shop around. Sometimes, the very first home you look at may be the home you end up purchasing. But between seeing the home and writing an offer, it can be very useful to take a look at other properties; it’s the best way to determine what you do and do not like.
When we look at a home together, I will point out the things that I see will work for you, based on the goals you’ve shared with me. I'll also point out the things that don't meet these goals. This is not a negative judgment in any way, nor does it mean you can’t buy the house! Rather, I find it important to continue returning to our goal list and revising it as we go, if necessary. After all, you may start out hoping to avoid a location on a busy street, but find that with a particular home, because it is set so far back from the street, this concern is no longer an issue.
This is why I never discourage my clients from seeing a property that seems unlikely to work, whether the reason is size, location, or sometimes, even price point. Though I will never, ever push my clients to go higher than they wish to do so, it can be informative to learn what a property listed for $25,000 over your top number has to offer that a property in your price range does not. And that is exactly why we shop around: to learn, to refine your needs, and to make informed choices.
3. Discuss. While going to open houses is a fantastic and easy way for you to look at available properties, I often like to accompany my clients on these “shopping trips.” I even like driving in the car to and from properties, as this time gives my clients and me a great opportunity to talk about what was a “yes” or a “no” about a certain home. If you go to an open house on your own and decide you’re interested, I’ll always make a trip to the property myself. In order to best represent you, I always need to see the house for myself.
Prior to writing up an offer, we will talk about what this home has and what it does not. If necessary, I will provide you with comparable properties so we can decide on an offer price. We will talk throughout this entire process, because while I am facilitating and guiding your decision, this is process is and always will be centered upon your choices.
4. Do our final preparations. If you are looking to purchase with financing and haven’t already spoken with a loan officer – and often, this is the best first step to take, so we know how much you can afford to buy – I will share the names of several mortgage representatives for you to speak with regarding a loan. Just as it’s important to interview different real estate agents to see if you’ve found the right fit, it’s important to find the right loan officer.
Once you’ve made your choice and have submitted the relevant financial documents to your loan officer, we will have a pre-approval letter in hand. If you are purchasing with cash, you will need to contact your bank or financial advisor for written documentation of your funds. We will then write up an offer on the home you’ve found.
5. Make a bid. Not all offer processes are the same. Sometimes, there will be negotiating back and forth over several days. In a multiple offer situation, we may make our initial bid only to have the listing agent tell us to come back with our highest and best offer. When we are writing up an offer, I will give you the best advice I can to enable you to make this purchase happen, but I will never force you to do something you do not want to do. Throughout this process, it is my goal to see that your offer is accepted with the best possible terms.
6. Move forward. Sometimes, the best you can do may not be enough for a seller. This can be a moment of empowered decision-making, where you walk away and remain resolved to find the right home at the right price. It can also be a moment of heartbreak, where we simply cannot come to terms or another buyer offers something more appealing. And then there’s the opposite of this: the joy and elation of having an accepted offer. In all of these scenarios, we continue to move forward toward achieving your homeownership goals. But with an accepted offer, we flip the switch and move to a different track for the rest of our journey.
7. Inspect the property. After having your offer accepted and submitting an initial deposit, most homebuyers conduct a home inspection. This inspection is one of the contingencies of a standard offer; if, during the course of the inspection, we discover that the home has significant termite damage, for example, you will not necessarily have to go forward with your purchase and your deposit can be refunded.
The fact of the matter is that these inspections are for informational purposes only. However, if the inspection reveals issues that are safety or structural concerns – such as termite damage – it is not without reason for a buyer to ask the seller to either remediate the damage or make some financial concession so that the sale may move forward.
However, the seller is under no obligation to address these safety or structural concerns. In instances where the home is being sold “as-is,” there is a preconceived understanding that there will be no concessions or alterations made at the buyer’s request. But the buyer still may ask.
It is worth noting that with the exception of new construction – and yes, I encourage my buyers to conduct an inspection on these properties! – something will almost always come up during home inspection. But again, here we are dealing with safety and structural concerns when asking the seller for any kind of concession. Just because a furnace is nearing the end of its life does not mean that the seller ought to replace the furnace for you, but if the furnace has stopped functioning completely, a concession may be in order.
8. Sign the Purchase and Sale. If you’ve bought and sold in other states, you may have signed a Purchase and Sale prior to home inspection, but in Massachusetts, the Purchase and Sale is the last document that finalizes the purchase price and any all concessions between buyer and seller, barring any unusual, unforeseen circumstances.
Prior to signing, I strongly recommend that my buyers seek legal counsel to assess the terms of the Purchase and Sale agreement. Though there is a standard form that many attorneys use for the Purchase and Sale, each transaction is different, and having both the buyers’ and sellers’ attorneys review the documents and alter any language or attach any needed addendums ensures that my clients are finalizing their purchase with their interests fully met.
Sometimes, my buyers already know an attorney they wish to use. However, I always recommend that they utilize an attorney who specializes in real estate law and, just as I do when recommending loan officers, provide my clients with a the names of several attorneys, from which they can choose their ideal representation.
At Purchase and Sale a second and more substantial deposit is required. This deposit and the initial deposit will be refunded should any terms of the Purchase and Sale not be met, such as in the event of a buyer not being able to secure financing.
9. Arriving at the closing table. If you are purchasing a home with financing, the last significant hurdles are having the property appraise at sale price and, after that, receiving your mortgage commitment. If the property appraises and your commitment is signed, you are on your way to the closing table as soon as the attorney for the lender completes their title search.
At closing, you can expect to pay a number of fees, which your lender will share with you early in the process. If paying these fees is cost-prohibitive, we can structure your offer and Purchase and Sale so that the seller may cover a portion of these fees with a credit to you at closing.
You will also have to pay a fee to your attorney, if you choose to use one, who will be upfront with you about these costs.
In nearly all cases, my commission is paid by the seller as part of the transaction.
10. Moving in. There’s never a day that’s more stressful or fantastic than a moving day. You’ll need to make sure all of the utilities have been changed into your name, and, should you need any recommendations for movers prior to this date, I am happy to assist with this.
I am always so excited for my clients and always check in with them to see how they are finding their new home. This is because our relationship does not end at the closing! I am always happy to assist my clients with anything they may need, whether it’s a recommendation for a mason or a doctor or reliable babysitter!
That is what makes this job so special – the fact that, for a short period of time, I am an important part of a person or a family’s life and, after that, am always a resource to whom they can turn.