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11 Steps to Home Ownership!

Systematic steps to help you buy your home MetroTex wants you to know the home-buying process doesn’t need to be intimidating. Our step-by-step guide will walk you through the process and answer your questions on what you should expect from your REALTOR, where to look for loans, and what to watch out for when closing the deal.

Step 1: Choosing a REALTOR

Some homeowners attempt to buy their home themselves, only to be disappointed with the end result. Buying your own home requires you to educate yourself about the industry, the type of market you’re hoping to live in, and negotiating and buying techniques to name a few. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the hours of time and energy you will spend throughout the home buying process. If that isn’t enough, consider the paperwork and legal forms you are responsible for filling out. MetroTex REALTORS know the required contracts, forms, and disclosure statements necessary for each sales transaction inside and out. Each legal document must be completed properly. MetroTex REALTORS also have access to forms not available to others. If you make a mistake at some point in the real estate transaction, you may find yourself unable to close the deal. A MetroTex Member will work hard to find just the right home to fit your needs. A REALTOR will assess your dream home’s actual market value as compared to the listing price and negotiate with the homeowners’ selling agent on your behalf. All to ensure you get the best house for the best price possible. Ultimately choosing a REALTOR is the most important step in guaranteeing your home buying experience is successful.

Step 2: Choosing a Home

After you’ve made the decision to buy a home, it pays to prioritize your needs and wants. It goes without saying that when you do this, you’ll consider standard home features, like number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, living areas, kitchens, and outdoor amenities. That covers the basics of the house itself, but what about features of the neighborhood? School quality is the major factor for many buyers—particularly those with children. Even people without children value good schools—they typically are one of the major factors in the home’s resale value. There are lots of ways to perform research, like visiting with school officials, talking with neighborhood residents, and using the Internet. Of course, you want to feel safe in your new place, so again, talk to the neighbors and surf around on the Internet to check on various crime statistics for different zip codes. Other factors that you may consider important are amount of traffic and access to major roads; proximity, condition, and available amenities of parks; emergency and city services; entertainment options and local nightlife; proximity to major retail shopping, a large grocery store, or a hospital. You get the idea—whatever’s important to you. There are so many reasons you may like or dislike a particular house or neighborhood. Having an idea of what you’re looking for is going to help you narrow your options and be a more educated consumer. After you’ve gotten all of this straight, let a MetroTex Member know about your needs and wants. As an expert in the local area, your REALTOR can help you find the right neighborhood for you.

Step 3: Picking the Right Mortgage Product

If you are thinking about buying a home, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the lending process and how different types of loans work. There are many kinds of loans; the one that makes the most sense for you depends on your current situation and your plans for the future. A fixed-rate mortgage offers the same interest rate for the entire life of your loan. If you think you’re going to stay in this home for a period of, say, 10 years or more, this type of loan makes sense. It’s also a good option if you like payment stability. Fixed-rate loans can have different repayment terms, with 15, 20 and 30 year being the most common—the longer the terms of your loan, the lower your monthly payments. The tradeoff for these lower monthly payments is that you’ll build equity slower and end up paying substantially more interest. An adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, features interest rates that will change over the life of the loan, according to fluctuations in the market. An ARM will offer a lower interest rate than a fixed-rate mortgage for a stated period of time. After that, the interest rate will adjust and your payments can go up or sometimes down. This can be beneficial because you’ll qualify for a larger loan and begin with lower monthly payments. This may be an attractive option if you are planning to sell the house in a few years or if you’re sure you’re going to be making more money in the near future and will be able to handle the potential for increased monthly payments.
Educate yourself and evaluate your situation, then shop around for the best deal—don’t just take the first offer that comes your way. A MetroTex Member can be a valuable resource at this stage in the game. As an expert in the field, a REALTOR can help you understand the various loan products and lending sources, ensuring you have the knowledge to find one that fits your needs. When you’ve finally found your dream home, making an offer is the next step. Make sure you’re working with a buyer’s agent, so you know you have someone looking out for your best interests. A buyer’s agent will help get the best deal possible; assisting you with negotiations, paperwork, and the myriad other details involved in buying your dream home.

Step 4: Making Offers

When coming up with an offer amount, keep in mind that some sellers may get offended with an offer significantly lower than their asking price. Though their selling agent should counsel them not to let emotions get in the way, some people will see your low offer as a personal insult. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an offer substantially lower than the asking price. Perhaps you think that’s the fair value of the property. Just know that you may not hear back from the seller.

Many times a seller receives more than one offer at a time, and it’s up to you and your buyer’s agent to make your offer look as attractive as possible. After coming up with your offer price, you must also determine how much earnest money will accompany your offer. This money is used to show the seller that you are serious about purchasing the home and acts as a “good faith” deposit.

There are other ways to make your offer attractive. Talk with a MetroTex Member about the best game plan for making your offer look as appealing as possible.

Step 5: Handling Appraisals

Appraisals are an important part of your home buying transaction. A real estate appraisal helps to establish a property’s market value–the likely sales price it would bring if offered in an open and competitive real estate market.

Your lender will require an appraisal when you ask to use a home or other real estate as security for a loan, because the lender wants to make sure that the property will sell for at least the amount of money it is lending.

Don’t confuse a comparative market analysis, or CMA, with an appraisal. Real estate agents use CMAs to help home sellers determine a realistic asking price. Experienced agents often come very close to an appraisal price with their CMA’s, but an appraiser’s report is much more detailed–and is the only valuation report a bank will consider when deciding whether or not to lend the money.

Step 6: Inspections

You found the house you’ve been looking for! You’re serious about buying this house; in fact, you’ve already put down earnest money, the option fee, and even gotten an inspection.

The inspection is such an important part of the buying process. A qualified inspector will evaluate the property’s condition with honestly and neutrality. The assessment may come back with all sorts of comments, especially in older homes. Don’t be intimidated—all homes, even brand new ones, have defects, and finding imperfections is what inspectors do!

Your inspector should offer to explain any component of the report to you. Pay attention to anything that may have an associated health risk, like electrical faults, some types of mold, or a flawed hot-water heater. You’ll also want to closely evaluate items that may be immediate big ticket repair items—like a leaky or damaged roof, foundation issue, or a major plumbing problem.

Have your MetroTex Member provide a written copy of the inspection report to the seller. Get estimates to fix the reported problems and ask the seller to make the repairs or adjust the price accordingly.

Be sure to confer with your MetroTex Member and ask for advice—your REALTOR has the knowledge and experience in contract negotiations to get you the best deal possible.

Step 7: Title Policies

A “title” is the collective ownership records of a piece of real estate, including the transfer of any property rights and any loans using the property as collateral. A clear line of title makes you much less vulnerable to ownership claims from other parties and to any outstanding debts of previous property owners. Title insurance protects you against losses arising from problems with your property title that were unknown to you when you bought the property.

Before writing a title insurance policy, a title company will check for defects in your title by examining public records, including deeds, mortgages, wills, divorce decrees, court judgments, tax records, liens, encumbrances, and maps.

The company will then defend in court against claims to the property, subject to certain limitations. If the company loses, it will pay you for covered losses up to the amount of your policy.

Title companies also handle the closing of a property sale and hold any earnest money in a trust account until the purchase is complete.

Step 8: Insurance

When buying a home, some people get overwhelmed with the down-payment alone. But there are a number of things that contribute to the overall cost of owning a home. One very important factor to consider is homeowners’ insurance. If you own a house, you need it, and most lenders require it. Think about it. If your home were destroyed in a fire, could you replace it without the help of homeowners’ insurance?

When shopping for homeowners’ insurance, check with several different companies for rate quotes. You might also look into bundling your insurance policies. Some companies offer discounts if you use the same carrier for both automobile and homeowners’ policies. To save money on insurance, you can also look at increasing your deductible. The deductible is the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance takes over. Home insurance deductibles usually start around $250. But, if you increase your deductible to $500, you’ll save up to 12% on your premiums.

  • $1,000? Save up to 24%
  • $2,500? Save up to 30%
  • $5,000? Save up to 37%

When you buy a home, understanding the total costs involved will help put your mind at ease

Step 9: Dealing with Homeowner’s Associations and Management Companies

If you are thinking about buying a home in a new subdivision, common interest development (CID), or planned unit development (PUD), chances are good that you will automatically become a member of the local homeowners’ association. These associations help protect property values by ensuring each home is up to neighborhood standards, but make sure the rules and regulations are compatible with your lifestyle and pocketbook.

The primary purpose of an HOA is to provide maintenance, enhancements, and protection for the community’s common areas. An example might be tennis courts, a pool, a playground, or trails – all of which would be maintained by dues or special assessments that the residents of the community pay to the HOA. This pooling of money gives an individual homeowner access to facilities that they would likely not be able to afford on their own. An HOA’s dues can range from a minimal amount to many thousands of dollars per year, depending on the neighborhood and its standards and amenities. Keep in mind that even if you know you’re not going to use the pool, moving into the neighborhood obligates you to pay theses dues.

When you purchase a home in an area governed by a mandatory HOA, remember that you’re also entering a legal contract with that HOA. You agree that, in addition to paying dues, you are obligated to live by the association’s rule book.

Make sure you know what you’re getting in to when you purchase a home that’s covered by an HOA. The benefits of the HOA may suit you, but be sure you are willing to play by the rules.

Step 10: Doing the Final Walk-Through and Closing

Closing is just days away! You’re about to make a huge investment and you’ve been running around town taking care of business. There are only a couple of things left to do—one of them is the final walk-through inspection of the property. You want to make sure the property is in the condition you expect it to be in when you take ownership, so don’t neglect this important process.

Step 11: Final Walk-Through Checklist

The checklist below is a basic guideline—your REALTOR may have other suggestions.

  • Check steps, sidewalks, driveways, and patios for any noticeable change
  • Review drains and gutters for change
  • Verify the condition and operation of all doors and windows, including locks
  • Check the roof for newly missing or loosened shingles
  • Check the garage door and confirm operation of the openers
  • Check exterior lights and motion-activated lights
  • Flush all toilets
  • Check all faucets, both hot and cold, for water pressure and temperature
  • Watch all traps and drains for proper drainage
  • Verify operation of in-ground sprinkler system
  • Check swimming pool and hot tub for anything unexpected
  • Appliances
    • Washer/Dryer
    • Stove
    • Dishwasher
    • Water Heater
    • Water Softener
    • Refrigerator
    • Garbage Disposal
    • Trash Compactor
    • Hot water heater
  • Check ceilings, walls, and floors for stains, wet areas, or other signs of new damage
  • Check all handrails
  • Turn on/off all lights, outlets, bathroom fans, and kitchen fans
  • Verify that all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, security systems, intercom, and doorbells are functioning
  • Verify operation of heater and air conditioner
  • Check that gas fireplace is operating properly
  • Ensure that all negotiated items from the contract are present and in the expected condition
  • Verify that all of the sellers personal items and debris have been removed

Foreclosure Resources

If you are struggling with your mortgage payments or facing foreclosure, you may feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Many homeowners simply don’t know what to do or where to go for assistance, and they feel too helpless to take action.

Texas Foreclosure Intervention Resource Guide
This guide is designed to assist homeowners who may be facing foreclosure.   Included are important tips to avoid foreclosure, how to locate HUD-approved housing counseling assistance, understanding mortgage delinquency, preparing to meet with the loan servicer and housing counselor as well as important information about avoiding and reporting loan modification scams.