How to shop for a home

Find a good real estate agent. A good real estate agent can help make finding the right home easier and faster. A MAXXUM realtor will show you homes that fit your needs, tell you about the neighborhoods and schools, present your offer to the seller, and advise you on home inspections, title companies and real estate attorneys.

Determine what features are important to you. Think about where you would like to live, what size home you need and if you want a “fixer upper” or a brand new home. Use the Features of your dream home checklist on this website to help you identify which features are most important to you.

Location. The location of your home is also important. Pay attention to every detail as you visit homes and neighborhoods. Are you comfortable with the neighborhood, the schools, the lifestyle? Has the house been well maintained with no hidden problems (such as flooding basements or termites)? In addition to making your own observations about the neighborhood, ask your real estate agent to give you a list of the comparative value of homes in the neighborhood to make sure the seller is asking a fair price. Print copies of the Home Inspection checklist on this website and bring one to every house you visit to record the condition of the property.

Loan pre-approval. Before you begin house hunting, it is a good idea to get pre-approved for a loan. By knowing your pre-approved loan amount, you can focus on shopping for a home in the price range you can afford. It also improves your negotiating power with the seller. Once you select a home, final mortgage loan approval and closing can be completed more quickly since your financing has already been arranged. Your mortgage professional can help you review your finances and credit to estimate the maximum loan amount you can expect to obtain.

Making the offer. Once you find a home you like and want to make an offer, your MAXXUM realtor will help you prepare an “offer to purchase” or a “purchase and sales agreement.” These documents describe the property and its location, and spell out the price and down payment. They also may include financing details, such as whether you will need a mortgage and the desired closing date. Even if your loan is pre-approved, be sure to make the contract subject to getting the financing you need. In addition, your offer should clearly state what comes with the home (for example, appliances, window or lighting treatments) and items the seller will remove.

Arranging for inspections. Often there are certain inspections that you may want to complete as part of your purchase agreement. Hire an inspector who is a structural expert and knows how to evaluate hidden structural defects or high-cost maintenance items, such as electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, hot water heater and appliances. Your MAXXUM realtor or mortgage professional may be able to provide you with a few recommendations.

Putting up “earnest money.” Before your offer is presented to the seller, you may need to make an “earnest money” deposit. This shows that you are serious about the offer and is usually credited back to your purchase price or closing costs at settlement. The specific amount may be a percentage of the sales price or a flat amount, as negotiated. Generally the check is made payable to the real estate company representing the seller.

Arranging financing. It is important to arrange your financing as soon as possible. If you have not done so, get your loan pre-approved before you buy. There are many mortgage loans and programs available to you. Your mortgage professional can help you select the loan best suited to your financial situation and lifestyle.

Closing the deal. After your offer has been accepted, the inspections have been completed and your financing is arranged, it’s finally time to close. While homebuying settlement practices vary around the country, the “closing” is when all the final papers are signed, money changes hands and the title to the property is turned over to you. A MAXXUM realtor will be a valuable resource to explain all the documents and look out for your best interests. Once the paperwork is completed, celebrate! You now have a home you can call your own.