Becoming a homeowner is a big deal and there are a lot of moving parts involved. If you’re considering purchasing a home and are curious about the basic process, here are the 6 basic steps you’ll need to take. The process may vary slightly from state to state, so I’d like to note that I have a real estate license in Oregon and these steps are based on the laws and practices here as well as how I work with my clients. With that being said, here is a basic outline of how to go from renter to homeowner.
Make Sure You’re Ready
Buying a home is a big step, whether it’s your first home purchase or your fifth. There are many factors to consider, including the lifestyle change – maybe from an apartment to a house with a large yard to maintain or from a big house into a condo. You’ll want to consider your budget carefully and make sure you know what you can afford, not just what you qualify for. Knowing what you can handle ahead of time will help avoid a lot of heartache down the road.
Choose an Agent
Once you’ve decided you’re ready, it’s time to find an experienced agent you can trust and sign a Buyer Representation Agreement, which guarantees your interests are professionally represented. Make sure you choose an agent who discusses the process with you and makes sure all your questions are answered. In Oregon an agent can represent both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction, while there are protections in place to secure both sides are represented well, I always advise each side to have their own agent for the best representation.
Obtain Pre-Approval Letter
I always recommend working with a lender and getting pre-qualified for a loan prior to looking at homes. Not only will this give you a better idea of the cost of purchasing a home and allow you to look at homes within your budget, but different loan types work with different properties, so it’s important to know what type of loan you intend to use.
View Homes and Make an Offer
Once you find a home, it’s time to submit an offer. How the offer is written will depend on your situation, the current market and your risk level. Having an experienced agent on your side to help discuss the positives and negatives of all aspects of your offer will help you feel like you put forth the best offer you could. Once the offer is submitted the seller can either accept, reject, or counter your offer.
The Escrow Process
Once your offer is accepted, it may seem like the hard part is over, but it takes a lot to get from accepted offer to having the keys to your new home in your hand and there will be a lot of moving parts, but your agent should be able to help guide you through everything and make sure you’re aware of deadlines. My checklist of items that need to be completed AFTER an offer is accepted is over 30 items long!
Once your offer is accepted and escrow is opened, you are considered to be “in escrow.” During this time the lender will review your file, request any additional documents needed, order an appraisal and send your file into underwriting where they will finalize everything needed for your loan. The title company will run a title report, which will let you know of any easements or conditions that are attached to the property and will also search for any judgements against you as a buyer (which would need to be cleared prior to closing).
During this time you will also likely have a home inspection, which may include other inspections such as a sewer scope or a radon test and you will also use this time to negotiate any repairs or additional credits with the seller.
The final step will be closing on your home. Your lender will deliver a “Closing Disclosure” to you at least 3-4 days prior to closing. Once signed, a 3-day waiting period will begin, after which you can sign your loan documents at escrow. After signing and delivering your funds to escrow, the lender will need to review the documents and then send their portion of the funds, then the transaction is recorded with the county and the house is yours – this usually happens the day after signing.
After all of this you are officially a homeowner and will be able to move into your new home.
If you have any questions, I would love to answer them! I have been working in the real estate industry for almost 10 years and I love to talk homeownership. If you’re looking for a real estate agent in the Willamette Valley, I would be happy to chat with you about what it looks like to go through the home buying process with me. If you’re located outside of my service area, I am always available for questions and I can also locate an agent for you in your area who provides the same level of service when you’re ready!