Buying a Home: 12 Tips for Cruising From Contract to Closing

The spring home buying season is fast approaching and many people are preparing to take advantage of low interest rates and a great selection of homes. Buying a home is exciting but it can also be overwhelming. Here are some tips to make the process a little easier:

1. Get pre-approved (not just pre-qualified) for a mortgage before making an offer on a home or even doing a home search. A pre-approved home-buyer is effectively the same as a cash buyer, which makes you stronger in the eyes of the seller.

2. Deliver all requested documents (e.g. bank statements, pay stubs, and landlord affidavits) to your lender in a timely manner.

3. Check from time to time to make sure your lender has verified the details of your mortgage application—sometimes a little nudging from you is needed to keep the application moving along.

4. Be careful not to do anything that may affect your mortgage application. Remember, the lender can withdraw the approval if your situation changes substantially. Don't apply for new credit cards, take out a loan, or make any major purchases (like cars or furniture). Also, now is not the time to change jobs.

5. Make sure you and your significant other are on the same page about neighborhoods, home price, home size, amenities, etc. before you start the home search.

6. Work closely with a real estate agent you trust and are comfortable with. He or she will help you learn about the current market and home values, so you'll be ready to act with confidence when the time comes to make an offer. A purchase agreement is a binding contract. The time to do research is before you sign on the dotted line.

7. Have confidence in yourself and in the professionals you chose to guide you. It’s fine to seek guidance from trusted advisors, but once you make the decision to purchase a home, stop looking for confirmation that you’re doing the right thing. Everyone has an opinion but unless they’ve done the research, like you, don’t rely on them for validation.

8. Direct all communications through your real estate agent. He or she will work with your lender, home inspector, and other parties throughout the entire home buying process.

9. Understand that no home is perfect and every purchase involves some compromise. On resale homes, repairs or deferred maintenance may be necessary. Hire an objective home inspector who won’t try to sell you on hiring their firm to make identified repairs. Then review their report with your real estate agent, and focus on items that indicate major repairs and/or replacements.

10. Avoid closing the last week (and certainly the last Friday) of the month, if possible. Everyone is trying to get their sales closed by the end of the month, which means overworked title companies, lenders, etc. Better to close a week early and have more time for the move. Also, if there is a last-minute glitch, you'll have time to get it fixed.

11. Try not to let your emotions guide your decision-making process. Buyer’s remorse happens to nearly every home buyer. Accept that it is a normal emotion, and don’t let it distract you too much.

12. Make this home-buying experience an opportunity to learn. If you have questions, ask them. Chances are, you'll buy and sell several homes during your lifetime.

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