After your offer has been accepted, your agent will supervise the coordination of all necessary vendors, serving as your advocate when working with each vendor. Your agent will make sure that the vendors have access to the property at the appropriate times to perform their procedures and oversee the execution of those procedures on your behalf.
For instance, the property will need a thorough examination. Working with your lender, you may need to have a formal appraisal and a survey done for the property designated in the contract. A property inspection, a foundation inspection, and an environmental inspection may also need to be completed to make sure that the property is up to the standards set forth in your written agreement. If there are issues or inconsistencies brought to light during this time, it may delay or even nullify the contract depending on the contingencies set forth in the contract.
Homeowner insurance is another important item that will need to be taken care of. Insurance experts recommend that you obtain insurance equal to the full replacement value of the home. Unless you have insurance coverage on the home, the closing can not proceed. Having these procedures done in a timely and professional manner is a must. Investigate each vendor to make sure that they are reputable and have a clean operational history.
Your agent's experience in this area will be invaluable in making sure that everything is completed on time and in a professional and legal manner.
As the closing date draws near, your real estate agent will contact the escrow company or closing attorney and your lender to make sure that all the necessary documents are being prepared, and that they are complete, accurate, and delivered in a timely manner. Your agent will also need to confirm that the documents will be delivered to the correct location so they can be reviewed and that they will be ready for the appropriate closing date.
At this point, you and your agent should find out what form of payment you will need to bring to the closing for any unpaid fees. Make sure that your payment is made out to the appropriate party.
Ensuring that each closing document is ready and available will enable you to have a quick, easy closing.
CLOSING ON A HOME
"Closing" refers to the meeting where ownership of the property is legally transferred to the buyer. It is a formal meeting in which most parties involved in the buying/selling process will attend. Closing procedures are usually held at the title company's or lawyer's office. Your closing officer coordinates the document signing and the collection and disbursement of funds. Your agent will generally be present at your closing to read the documents on your behalf, answer any questions, or to help resolve any last minute or unexpected details that may come up.
In order for the closing to go smoothly, each party involved should bring the necessary documentation and be prepared to pay any related fees (closing costs). There may be more than one form of acceptable payment for your closing costs so ask the closing officer which form of payment will be required and to whom it should be made out. Closing costs will generally total an amount equal to 2 to 3 percent of the total loan value not including down payment and the buyer's escrow account.
Sellers sometimes pay for a portion or all of the closing costs, depending on local market conditions, terms of the purchase contract, and the seller's cash and timing considerations. Any such concessions should be acknowledged in writing. Most lenders will allow a credit from the seller to the buyer for the non-recurring closing costs. However, they usually won't allow a credit that reduces the amount of the buyer's down payment or any of the buyer's recurring costs, such as expenses for fire insurance premiums, PMI, or property taxes.
WHAT DOES A HOME INSPECTOR DO AND HOW DOES AN INSPECTION FIGURE INTO THE PURCHASE OF A HOME?
An inspector checks the safety of your potential new home. Home inspectors focus especially on the structure, construction, and mechanical systems of the house and will make you aware of any repairs that are needed.
The inspector does not evaluate whether or not you're getting good value for your money. Generally, an inspector checks and gives prices for repairs of: the electrical system, plumbing and waste disposal, the water heater, insulation and ventilation, the HVAC system, water source and quality, the potential presence of pests, the foundation, doors, windows, ceilings, walls, floors, and roof. Be sure to hire a home inspector that is qualified and experienced.
It's a good idea to have an inspection before you sign a written offer since, once the deal is closed, you've bought the house "as is." Or, you may want to include an inspection clause in the offer when negotiating for a home. An inspection clause gives you an "out" on buying the house if serious problems are found, or gives you the ability to renegotiate the purchase price if repairs are needed. An inspection clause can also specify that the seller must fix the problem(s) before you purchase the house.
DO I NEED TO BE THERE FOR THE INSPECTION?
It's not required, but it's a good idea. Following the inspection, the home inspector will be able to answer questions about the report and any problem areas. This is also an opportunity to hear an objective opinion on the home you'd like to purchase and it is a good time to ask general maintenance questions.
ARE OTHER TYPES OF INSPECTIONS REQUIRED?
If your home inspector discovers a serious problem, another more specific inspection may be recommended. It's a good idea to consider having your home inspected for the presence of a variety of health-related risks like radon gas, asbestos, or possible problems with the water or waste disposal system.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MY FAMILY FROM LEAD IN THE HOME?
If the house you're considering was built before 1978 and you have children under the age of seven, you will want to have an inspection for lead-based paint. It's important to know that lead flakes from paint can be present in both the home and in the soil surrounding the house. The problem can be fixed temporarily by repairing damaged paint surfaces or planting grass over effected soil. Hiring a lead abatement contractor to remove paint chips and seal damaged areas will fix the problem permanently.
ARE POWER LINES A HEALTH HAZARD?
There are no definitive research findings that indicate exposure to power Iines results in greater instances of disease or illness.
DO I NEED A LAWYER TO BUY A HOME?
Laws vary by state. Some states require a lawyer to assist in several aspects of the home buying process while other states do not, as long as a qualified real estate professional is involved. Even if your state doesn't require one, you may want to hire a lawyer to help with the complex paperwork and legal contracts. A lawyer can review contracts, make you aware of special considerations, and assist you with the closing process. Your real estate agent may be able to recommend a lawyer. If not, shop around. Find out what services are provided for what fee, and whether the attorney is experienced at representing homebuyers.
DO I REALLY NEED HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE?
Yes. A paid homeowner's insurance policy (or a paid receipt for one) is required at closing, so arrangements will have to be made prior to that day. Plus, involving the insurance agent early in the home buying process can save you money. Insurance agents are a great resource for information on home safety and they can give tips on how to keep insurance premiums low.
WHAT STEPS COULD I TAKE TO LOWER MY HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE COSTS?
Be sure to shop around among several insurance companies. Also, consider the cost of insurance when you look at homes. Newer homes and homes constructed with materials like brick tend to have lower premiums. Think about avoiding areas prone to natural disasters, like flooding. Choose a home with a fire hydrant or a fire department nearby.
IS THE HOME LOCATED IN A FLOOD PLAIN?
Your real estate agent or lender can help you answer this question. If you live in a flood plain, the lender will require that you have flood insurance before lending any money to you. But if you live near a flood plain, you may choose whether or not to get flood insurance coverage for your home. Work with an insurance agent to construct a policy that fits your needs.
WHAT OTHER ISSUES SHOULD I CONSIDER BEFORE I BUY MY HOME?
Always check to see if the house is in a low-lying area, in a high-risk area for natural disasters (like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.), or in a hazardous materials area. Be sure the house meets building codes. Also consider local zoning laws, which could affect remodeling or making an addition in the future. Your real estate agent should be able to help you with these questions.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I HAVE APPLIED FOR A LOAN?
It usually takes a lender between 1-6 weeks to complete the evaluation of your application. It's not unusual for the lender to ask for more information once the application has been submitted. The sooner you can provide the information, the faster your application will be processed. Once all the information has been verified, the lender will call you to let you know the outcome of your application. If the loan is approved, a closing date is set up and the lender will review the closing process with you. And after closing, you'll be able to move into your new home.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR DURING THE FINAL WALK-THROUGH?
This will likely be the first opportunity to examine the house without furniture, giving you a clear view of everything. Check the walls and ceilings carefully, as well as any work the seller agreed to do in response to the inspection. Any problems discovered previously that you find uncorrected should be brought up prior to closing. It is the seller's responsibility to fix them.
WHAT COMPRISES CLOSING COSTS?
There may be closing costs customary or unique to a certain locality, but closing costs are usually made up of the following:
- Attorney's or escrow fees (yours and your lender's if applicable)
- Property taxes (to cover tax period to date)
- Interest (paid from date of closing to 30 days before first monthly payment)
- Loan origination fee (covers lender's administrative costs)
- Recording fees
- Survey fee
- First premium of mortgage insurance (if applicable)
- Title insurance (yours and your lender's)
- Loan discount points
- First payment to escrow account for future real estate taxes and insurance
- Paid receipt for homeowner's insurance policy (and fire and flood insurance if applicable)
- Any documentation preparation fees
WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO HAPPEN ON CLOSING DAY?
You'll present your paid homeowner's insurance policy or a binder and receipt showing that the premium has been paid. The closing agent will then list the money you owe the seller (remainder of down payment, prepaid taxes, etc.) and then the money the seller owes you (unpaid taxes and prepaid rent, if applicable). The seller will provide proofs of any inspection, warranties, etc.
Once you're sure you understand all the documentation, you'll sign the mortgage, agreeing that if you don't make payments the lender is entitled to sell your property and apply the sale price against the amount you owe plus expenses. You'll also sign a mortgage note, promising to repay the loan. The seller will give you the title to the house in the form of a signed deed.
You'll pay the lender's agent all closing costs and, in turn, he or she will provide you with a settlement statement of all the items for which you have paid. The deed and mortgage will then be recorded in the state Registry of Deeds, and you will be a homeowner.
WHAT DO I GET AT CLOSING?
- Settlement Statement, HUD-1 Form (itemizes services provided and the fees charged; it is completed by the closing agent and must be given to you at or before closing)
- Truth-in-Lending Statement
- Mortgage Note
- Mortgage or Deed of Trust
- Binding Sales Contract (prepared by the seller; your lawyer should review it)
- Keys to your new home!