Being prepared is a good motto for life in general. But when it comes to buying a home, it is particularly keen advice. There are lots of things you will encounter or have to complete before getting the keys to your new home. Knowing some of the things to be prepared for in advance can take some of the burden off of homebuyers who have never bought a house before.
In the dream world of real estate, particularly to those of us who have never bought a home, the process goes something like this: you find a house you like, you bid on the house, your offer gets accepted, and you are handed the keys the next day. In real life, the process is not like this. Most settlements are 45-90 days after the offer is accepted. So be prepared to wait for 1-3 months, in some cases longer. If you are working with a short sale or foreclosure, the wait time could be longer (and there are no certainties or guarantees for exact closing dates). Sometimes settlement gets pushed back after items are found out of compliance on an inspection, or if there is a home sell contingency. Be flexible, and be prepared to wait.
...To move quickly.
In direct contradiction to the statement above, you should also be prepared to move quickly, if the need arises. You might be expecting 45-90 days for a settlement, but circumstances might be such that settlement must be pushed sooner (I had friends who settled 3 weeks after their offer was accepted - rare, but possible). With a short sale, while you often have to wait months for the deal to go through, you might be given only a 1-2 week window of notice before settlement happens. Be prepared!
...For anything that might arise.
Expect the unexpected, and lower all your expectations when buying a home. Not on the actual house, but on how things will play out. Expect for things to show up on your home inspection. Expect negotiating instead of a clean deal. Expect timelines to change. Expect unexpected costs. Expect bumps to arise. Things WILL arise. And better to assume they will than to be caught off guard or blind-sided!
...With all your paperwork.
This will be a longer, more comprehensive post in the near future. But, as you are getting ready to start looking at houses for the first time (or you are already in an agreement of sale and waiting on settlement), make sure you have all your paperwork in order. Some of the forms you might need with both realtors and mortgage brokers: Bank statements from the past 3-6 months, Tax statements from the past 3-5 years, personal identification information (social security, birth certificates, passports, etc), household budget, employment contracts, any and all forms/proof of debt (credit card statements, alimony/child support statements, school loans, car loans, etc). Go back as far as you can with these statements - better to be safe than sorry (or left routing through your house at all hours of the morning in a panic - been there, done that).
...For life as a homeowner!
As you stay flexible and try not to get too attached until the keys are in your hand, get excited! Dream! Go furniture shopping as the settlement gets closer. Home-buying shouldn't just be stressful, it should be fun. You are buying a house that will become your home! With that said, be sure to go over your new household budget, with the figures of taxes, mortgage, and every bills so you are prepared and not totally thrown during your first few months as a new homeowner. Do everything you can to think ahead and be ready!
Little steps help you be prepared for one of the biggest (and exciting!) purchases of your lifetime. Make it easier on yourself and think ahead, so you are ready (and not freaking out) when settlement arrives.
We'd love to hear your First Time Homebuying tips and stories - so please leave a comment below!