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Fall House Hunting Tips

While most homes are bought during the spring and summer months, a few buyers wait until fall, when hope prices may drop and they'll compete with fewer buyers. If you're ready to buy this fall, you'll need to understand that looking for a home to buy is very different than looking for a home to rent. There are multiple ways to find your new home—go online, visit open houses, tour model homes—but the homebuying process can be confusing, especially if you're a first-time buyer.

It's usually recommended that homebuyers work with an experienced real estate professional. Not only will they assist you in your search, but they'll be able to provide advice and support throughout the process—contract negotiations, financing, home inspections, closing, etc. If you choose to not work with an agent, however, make sure you have an attorney review any contractual or legal documents.

Need help finding an agent? Family, friends and neighbors are a great resource for referrals. You can also check out listings in your current or desired neighborhood.

Making Your Offer

So you think you've found your new home…the next step is to make an offer! While local customs will vary, you'll work with your real estate agent to submit an offer, and they'll work with you to determine the best price for the home. Some things to consider when determining an offer amount:

  • How long has the home been on the market and its current condition?
  • What's the current market like? When rates are lower, more buyers are apt to make an offer and, possibly, submit higher bids.
  • Are there any other offers on the property? Multiple offers can influence the price, often pushing it higher.

Your agent will also look at the properties in the neighborhood—they'll pull "comps" or "comparables" of recently sold homes to get a feel for the fair market value of the home. Once you and your agent decide on a price, they'll prepare the contract, present to the selling agent and work to negotiate the offer (if needed).

The Pre-Close

If you and the seller agree to the terms of the contract, then the offer is officially accepted and you're on the way to purchasing your new home! But before you get to closing, you’ve got a few more things to do.

  • Financing—Even if you were pre-approved, you need to contact your lender to let them know you have a contract in place and are ready to apply for a mortgage.
  • Inspections—Most buyers should request a home inspection before closing and this is typically a condition written into the sales contract.
  • Appraisals—When you're working with a lender to finance the home, the lender will typically order an appraisal on the property.
  • Earnest Money—You'll typically need to pay an "earnest money" deposit which shows the seller you are serious about buying the home.

Now…the Close

Closing occurs when all the conditions of the contract have been met (full loan approval, evidence of clear title, homeowners insurance is in place, etc.).

Prior to the actual closing date, expect to review the list of fees and the terms and conditions of the contract. In addition, you'll need to know the amount that you'll need to bring to closing. Your real estate agent and lender will assist you with this process.

At the closing, the lender "funds" the loan with a cashier's check, draft or wire to the closing agent who disburses funds in exchange for the title to the property. This is the point at which transfer of ownership occurs and the buyer receives possession of the property. Remember to carefully review all documents before signing—ask the closing agent if you have any questions or concerns.

Congratulations—the home is now yours!

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