FIRST THINGS FIRST
Besides affordability, your credit history is one of the primary factors considered by a mortgage lender. So, before you waste anyone’s time, particularly your own, you’ll need to be assured that you’re creditworthy. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. You can do so online at annualcreditreport.com. By taking advantage of this, you will discover if there are errors that need cleaning up or glitches that might affect your ability to get a loan.
GET FINANCES IN ORDER & PRE-QUALIFY FOR A LOAN
Armed with credit score knowledge, your next step is deciding how much you can afford, which depends on your income stream, monthly expenses, funds available for a down payment, and current interest rates. Our mortgage calculator might be a good place to start. But connecting with a mortgage lender to determine your buying and borrowing power, and getting pre-approved for a loan is a logical next step before beginning your home search. You’ll need to have filed your taxes and have documentation of any recent major financial transactions before you go.
SELECT A REALTOR®
Some great tips in selecting and working with a Realtor can be found at Why You Need A Heritage Agent. The most important tip, however, is to choose a Buyer’s Agent and enter into a Residential Buyer Representation Agreement. All Heritage agents are licensed full-time Realtors with the expertise, experience and training necessary to make the buying process as simple and hassle-free as possible. An added plus is our multiple locations throughout greater Houston, Galveston, surrounding counties and the Hill Country, staffed by Realtors who know the markets where you want to buy.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Make a list of wants and needs – just make sure that needs come first. Those are items you can’t live without – whether it’s the number of bedrooms or baths, living in a particular school district or some other critical feature. Next, come things you wish for but may opt to forego (a swimming pool, extra storage?). This will narrow the field about where and what to look for.
WHERE TO LOOK
There are many considerations when choosing a neighborhood, not the least of which is location, location, location. But factors like price; school district; property taxes; deed restrictions; and area amenities; even the commuting distance to and from work or schools all play a part. Check out our Proximity Search, a great tool for narrowing down the possibilities that work for you. Thanks to our many locations, we’re equipped to provide first-hand, detailed information about all area neighborhoods, discuss their subtle differences, and show you what they have to offer.
BEGIN HOME SEARCH
Statistics show that you will certainly begin your search online, but after that initial search, you’ll need the assistance of a Heritage Realtor who will find the homes that meet your criteria, make appointments and schedule showings on your timetable, handle the details, and make the search experience so much easier. Our ease of access plus our knowledge of neighborhoods and market pricing will save you valued time and greatly expedite the home search process.
When you’ve found the home of your dreams and it’s time to make an offer, your Heritage Texas Properties Sales Associate will advise you on all the details needed to make a fair offer, guide you through the process, handle the paperwork, carefully review that it reflects the terms you want, and present it on your behalf. An offer to buy includes both the price and terms. In some cases, terms can represent thousands of dollars in additional value for buyers – or additional costs. The success of an offer depends on the basic laws of supply and demand: If many buyers are competing for homes, then sellers will likely get full-price offers and sometimes even more. If demand is weak, then offers below the asking price may be in order.
The negotiating process is a back and forth communication that requires excellent skills, and a clear understanding of the all the terms and conditions is crucial. The value of having a trusted Heritage Texas Properties Realtor working on your behalf to reach an agreed upon price and terms cannot be overstated. There are countless factors involved in the negotiating process, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession and often the inclusion or exclusion of repairs and furnishings or equipment. The seller may accept your offer, reject it or make a counteroffer. Because counteroffers are common (any change in an offer can be considered a “counteroffer”), it’s important for buyers to remain in close contact with their Heritage Realtor during the negotiation process so that any proposed changes can be quickly reviewed.
When the terms of purchase have been agreed upon and the Earnest Money contract delivered to the title company, it is time to evaluate the property. The contract should provide time for you to complete inspections of the property before you are bound to finalize the purchase. You should NEVER buy a home without having it inspected by a professional. Typical inspections are structural, to determine if there are material physical defects and whether expensive repairs and replacements are likely to be required in the next few years (which generally includes mechanical, plumbing, and electrical), and termite. These inspections help you avoid purchasing a home in need of major repairs or damaged by termites. Additional inspections that will be required by your lender will include a survey to determine boundaries and an appraisal to determine value.
OTHER CRITICAL DETAILS
Your Realtor will have already informed you about current real estate values, taxes, utility costs, municipal services and facilities, and made you aware of deed restrictions that could affect your decision to buy. You are also entitled to see a preliminary report on the title of the property. Title indicates ownership of property. The title to most properties will have some limitations; for example, easements (access rights) for utilities. Your Heritage Realtor can help you resolve any issues that might cause problems. Also, if you choose a home in a neighborhood with a Homeowners Association, your Realtor will make sure you get a copy of their association packet so you can review it before closing.
MAKE FINAL LOAN APPLICATION
Due diligence completed, it’s time to obtain financing. If you have not already connected with a mortgage lender and gotten pre-approved for a loan, your Heritage Realtor will help you find a qualified lender and tell you what personal and financial data to bring with you when you apply for a loan. Once the lender is chosen, it is important for the Buyer to make loan application within the time frame specified in the Earnest Money Contract. When final loan approval is obtained, your Heritage Texas Properties Sales Associate can assist you in arranging for homeowner’s insurance and other necessary details prior to closing.
CLOSE ON PURCHASE
Your Heritage Texas Properties Realtor represents you and your best interests through the closing. Your Realtor will confirm that all contract and amendment conditions have been met or completed and review a closing checklist; assist in scheduling and conducting your final walk-through prior to closing; review closing figures, closing documents and the title insurance commitment with you so you will know what to expect during the closing process; and, finally, attend the closing to answer any questions or deal with last-minute issues.