the home search: what to expect
Before starting your home search in earnest, ensure you have your affordability figured out and are pre-approved.
Use our buyer’s checklist to prioritize what is most important to you in your new home. What are your absolute must-haves and what tradeoffs are you willing to make between two homes? Rarely do buyers find the perfect home that has is all. Are you willing to trade-off new kitchen appliances for proximity to downtown? How about less space for a quieter street?
Next, once you’ve got the right tools in place, start to attend open houses. These are a great way to see what homes look like at certain price points and across different geographic areas to determine what is realistic. Don’t forget to walk the streets and get a feel for the surrounding houses, shops, foot traffic, noise, and anything that’s relevant to you.
Your agent will set you up on an MLS-search, which will automatically find and send you new listings that meet your criteria, and you should be communicative with your agent when there are homes that become available that are of interest to you. The agent then will coordinate with the seller’s agent to schedule time for you to vie the home.
Expect to see three or four homes without any obligation or willingness to commit (unless of course you’re in an incredibly fast moving market). This is why the earlier you start your research, the better.
When it comes time to prepare an offer, your agent will ask you and work with you to advise on an offer price and closing schedule. Depending on the strength of the market, in addition to price, many buyers who offer the ability to close quickly can win offers. This is when being pre-approved can help distinguish your offer from a winner and loser. Other ways to influence an offer are through contingencies, of which the most common are financing and inspection. If a buyer chooses to waive the financing contingency, it means the buyer is obligated to purchase the home whether or not financing is in place, and is similar to a cash offer where the buyer is not using financing. For buyers who choose to waive inspection, it means that there will be no inspection done and the house will be purchased as-is (conversely, “as-is” listings are essentially the same in that the buyer is obligated to buy the home without the ability to request and fixes discovered between offer acceptance and closing). Waiving contingencies creates high risk offers, so consult your agent prior to considering including these in your offer.
Next up is the closing process, which includes the inspection, attorney review, and actual transfer of title to the new homeowner. Closings can take as little as two weeks to as long as several months, depending on the situation. A reasonable expectation for closing is 30–60 days.