A detailed outline of how to buy a home,
from pre-approval to closing.
Let's Get Started!
This guide will walk you through the entire process of buying a home, from start to finish and is designed to help Massachusetts buyer avoid common pitfalls and unneeded stress while buying a home. If you want to learn more or speak to me directly, call me at 978-886-3271 or book a free call with me here.
Unsure you're ready to buy or you live in another state? No problem! I love educating people about the process and helping them prepare for the day they are ready to become homeowners; so connect with me today!
If you're more of a visual learner, it might help to start by watching my Homebuying 101 guide over on my YouTube channel. While you're there, make sure to Like & Subscribe, I'd greatly appreciate it!
The Steps to Buying a Home
Buying a home is a journey with many stops along the way; I've broken it all down in to easy to follow steps, so you can better prepare for the process or come back and reference each step as you progress through your purchase.
Too Long Didn't Read (TLDR) Version:
Book a free consultation call with me.
Create a search on my MLS.
Get an offer accepted and wait 2-6 weeks before you can close and move in!
Table of Contents:
How to Prepare to Buy a Home
First, Find the Right Agent
Finding a real estate agent that you trust and feel comfortable with is as hard as finding the right house to call a home. A transaction of this magnitude is a huge life decision and you want to make sure that your real estate agent is as invested in this sale as you are.
As an Accredited Buyer's Representative, I have undergone additional training, have proven experience representing buyers and the expertise to give you that extra edge you will need to compete for and win your dream home. Here's the kind of experience you can expect to have working with me:
"Alex took the time to get to know our needs and educate us on what to expect given the housing market in our area. He also brought a ton of knowledge around things to look for when touring homes that indicated when costly repairs would be needed. Because of Alex's expertise and his ability to build positive relationships with fellow agents, we were able to have the FIRST OFFER we submitted be accepted. Alex surrounds himself with an incredible team, which made the entire process following our accepted offer incredibly straight-forward and easy. The cherry on top of the whole experience was the property guide he left us with at closing, which contained critical information that we didn't know yet as first time homeowners. Long story short, Alex is honest, informed, proactive, and has a client-first mentality. We are recommending him to everyone we know, and will never work with anyone else."
- Sam & Mark C.
If you're curious to learn more about how I can help you, don't hesitate to give me a call at 978-886-3271 or book a free call with me here. I am always eager to talk to new people and learn more about their real estate goals, no matter how far in the future they may be.
Your second priority, before we can go see any houses, is to connect with a lender for a pre-approval. Your lender will help you develop a solid understanding of your buying power and what mortgage options are available to you. We can’t make an offer on a home without knowing if you can buy it; so this is step is vital! Once you receive a pre-approval letter from a lender you are happy with, then we can begin to narrow down your search parameters and begin in earnest to find your next home.
If you need a lender recommendation, feel free to call me or go right ahead and book a call with my favorite lending partner; Brian Driscoll of Draper & Kramer Mortgage.
The Costs of Buying a Home
While the price of the home will be clearly defined, there are other costs that you need to be prepared for as well. These can vary for a variety of reasons but in general you’ll need to have at least enough cash on hand to cover the following costs while still allowing for six months of expenses after closing.
The Offer Deposit: $1,000
This is the typical amount you’ll need to bind an offer.
You can pay this via check and it is due the moment the sellers accept and sign our offer.
This goes towards your payment for the home
A Home Inspection: $500-$1000
Probably the best money you will ever spend! A professional home inspector can tell you so much about the home that you have put an offer on. The information you gain from the inspection can be used to help you avoid a problem property, negotiate over unknown issues or simply (and most commonly) to educate you about the home you’re going to buy.
Treat your home inspection like a lesson in engineering, architecture and maintenance, and you’ll walk away with more than your money’s worth in knowledge.
Other Inspections & Tests: $50+
Radon: This is a relatively affordable test that is important to consider if you have concerns about radon gas being present. The test results can take 1-2 weeks to return.
Lead: A home inspector can perform a lead test for an additional fee to determine if lead paint is present in the home, usually with immediate results.
Water: Water quality test can be performed for an additional fee as well; this is especially important if the property uses a well. Test results can take over a week.
Pest: A pest inspector can perform a more detailed review of any pest activity on the property.
The Purchase & Sale (P&S) Deposit: 1-5%+ of the purchase price
This figure can vary depending on how much of a down payment you are making but generally, if you’re making a 5% or higher down payment, 5% is a typical P&S deposit amount.
You should pay this via wire or bank check but personal checks can be an option.
This also goes towards your payment for the home and is combined with your offer deposit.
Example: If you want to buy a $100,000 home and your offer deposit was $1,000 and you want to make a 5% P&S deposit, you will only require an additional $4,000 ($1,000 + $4,000 = $5,000 or 5% of $100,000) to bind the P&S contract.
Your Down Payment: 0-20%+
This is the amount of cash you and your lender have decided is the right amount to invest directly into your home. Your down-payment will affect the terms of your loan as well as the competitiveness of your offer.
Your lender will tell you which form this payment should take (wire, bank check, ect.) and when you should prepare it.
*Deposits vs. Down-Payments
Deposits and down-payments are not the same thing. When you are closing on your purchase any deposits made will act as credits towards whatever needs to be paid at closing: down-payment, closing costs, fees, ect.
Example 1: If your deposits equal 5% of the purchase price and you are making a 5% down-payment to secure your loan, those deposits will become down-payment.
Example 2: If your deposits equal 5% of the purchase price and you are making a 20% down-payment to secure your loan, you will need the remaining 15% of that down-payment to secure the loan at closing in the form of a bank check or wire.
Closing Costs: 1-5% of the Purchase Price
These are the costs mainly associated with the documentation side of the purchase and can include things like; lender service charges, loan origination, title recording, title insurance, attorney fees and your real estate agent’s success fee.
Your lender will outline these costs for you during your initial consultation.
Moving & Move-In Expenses: ???
There are no fixed costs here but it’s important to plan for any moving expenses or immediate renovation costs to help make your new home ready for you to move in.
Working with a Trusted Agent
My number one priority is to help you reach your real estate goals and while it’s something I care deeply about it is also something you can hold me accountable for. As a licensed REALTOR® I am held to a Code of Ethics which requires me to both morally and legally represent your financial best interests. In other words, our relationship is that of fiduciary and client. This means I will abide by your legal instructions, be loyal to your needs, disclose all material facts about a property or transaction, keep your personal information confidential, be held accountable to you and provide reasonable care for all your real estate needs.
In most situations, an agent like myself is only paid after a transaction is successfully completed. That means that the time I invest in your home purchase up until the closing, is at my own expense. In order for me to best serve you and codify my fiduciary status to you, I use an Agency Agreement. In short, I agree to represent you and you agree to work with me for your home purchase. If at any point in our relationship either of us decides that this isn’t the right fit, either party can terminate the agreement.
Resources & Tools for All Buyers Need
Here are a collection of resources that many of my clients find useful during their home search or early home ownership.
How to Search for a Home
Searching Effectively with Your Agent
Now that you understand the costs associated with buying a home and have your pre-approval in hand, we can begin your home search in earnest. During our first meetings we’ll create a list of your absolute needs, things that you would like to have and your dream features in a home. I will set you up with notifications for new listings that match your general needs and then it will be up to both of us to sift through them and find properties that you would consider putting an offer on.
Remember, I am here to manage your transaction, not pick a home for you. While I can suggest homes that fit your needs, it is important that you spend time searching for a home that speaks to you personally; after all, you'll be the one living there!
There are so many different ways to view listings online but if you’d like the most up to date information, my website is your best resource. Through here you can save listings, manage your search alerts and keep up to date on all the new listing activity. If you prefer to use other sites for your browsing, no problem! Just send me the address or a link to the property and I’ll get you more information about it.
Now that we have some homes that you’re genuinely interested in purchasing, it’s time to go visit them! Before we go together, always make sure you have as much information as possible about the home. If there is a virtual or video walk-through, check it out. If you’re curious about any disclosure from the seller or have general questions about something you saw in the listing, let me know and I’ll provide you with answers. We want to use your time wisely and only view homes that are a good potential fit.
Never ask for more information about a listing through other websites or forms; you’ll end up with endless emails and texts from other parties that are not there to represent your best interests; that’s my role. The same goes for signs you see while driving, take a picture of it and send me the address and I’ll get you more information.
When we do visit a home, it’s important that you bring something to take notes and photos with, like your phone. This way you can remember what you liked or didn’t like about the property and we can review this information later. I’ll be there to help you understand as much as possible about the property, point out features or failures that I notice and advise you on how to proceed should you want to make an offer. Keep in mind that I’ve seen many houses but I am not a licensed contractor, home inspector, plumber or electrician; so if we encounter anything that requires higher expertise, we will connect with someone and go from there. I will also be taking my own notes and preparing questions for the listing agent so that I can learn more about the property for you and strategize how to approach negotiating the sale.
Remember, you will be the one purchasing and living in this home, not me! I can give you advice, pointers, strategies and opinions but in the end, you are the one who will decide if the home is the right fit or not. Don’t be afraid to be assertive, my goal is for you to be happy with the home you buy, you won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t like a property.
Open House Etiquette
Avoid talking negatively about the home at all times during your visit, you never know who is listening in the other room or through a security camera. It's best to always dress professionally, be kind and appreciative of the listing agent's time and information. Our job is to get the listing agent to like us so they are more likely to recommend your offer over others. If you have questions or comments that you think might not be appropriate, we can go over them outside out of earshot.
Never use the bathroom at an open house and if possible try to leave young children at home with a sitter and if not, keep them under control during the showing to avoid any accidents.
Timeline of a Purchase: How Long Does it Take to Buy A Home
The first and sometimes biggest obstacle in buying a home is simply finding the right one! Depending on your needs and the inventory, this could take as little as one lucky visit or as many as several dozen. Once you’ve fallen in love with a property, things start moving quickly.
The amount of time a purchase takes can vary greatly and while the example below is modeled on a traditional single-family home purchased with a conventional mortgage. It is safe to assume that 30-60 days from offer acceptance to closing is a reasonable timeline. The below example outlines such a deal.
Offer Acceptance: Due Diligence Period Begins
This period is when you will confirm that the home fits your needs, do any inspections and prepare for the Purchase and Sale Agreement (P&S). This period is generally between 3-14 days long, depending on how much needs to happen before P&S can be signed.
This is when we will perform your home inspection, if you chose to do one.
Purchase and Sale Agreement:
This date will be set on the offer but it is generally 3-14 days after the offer is accepted.
All of your inspections generally need to be performed before you sign the P&S.
Your larger deposit will be due upon signing; generally 5% of the purchase price.
Once the P&S is signed you can now pursue a home owner’s insurance policy. Your lender may have a recommendation for you but working with your current car insurance company can often be a cost effective option to save money on both policies and be easier to set up than a new policy. Once the policy is prepared you can send the insurance agent’s contact information and your new policy number to your lender.
The mortgage lender will now submit your full mortgage application.
Appraisal & Commitment
If you are purchasing a home with a mortgage, it will generally need to be appraised so that the lender can rest assured that their new asset is worth at least what they’re paying for it.
If a property does not appraise, your mortgage application could be rejected. While it doesn’t happen often, if it does, we will look to negotiate with the seller for a price reduction at best or at worst you will need to bring more cash to the closing table to make up the difference between purchase price and appraisal in order to secure a mortgage.
Before closing can happen, you need to receive commitment (approval) for your mortgage. Usually we set the deadline for commitment as one week before the closing date.
It’s a good idea to take your closing day off. You will need to be completely available for the following:
Final walk-through of the property. This is when you will visit the property to ensure it is in the condition you expected, everything is where it should be and the seller has removed what they were supposed to remove.
Signing of the closing documents with the attorney(s), in person.
Some purchases have additional procedures that must be worked through and can sometimes cause delays, so it’s important to understand what you should leave time for and why. Below are a few common causes for delay and are worth noting:
New construction that is incomplete or doesn’t have all of it’s permits finalized.
If condominium documents are involved, especially if it’s a new conversion and they’re not yet recorded.
FHA/VA and other loans that require stricter or longer applications processes.
First Things To Do as a New Home Owner
After Closing & Before Moving
It’s probably hard to believe, but you’ve made it through the process, you’ve closed on your home, the deed has been recorded and now you get the keys! The question of “what’s next” is probably on your mind, so here are a few things to help you get started.
Cleaning, Painting & Floors
The best thing you can do to make your new home feel comfortable and your life easier in the long run is to do the work that would otherwise be much harder with all your stuff in the house! At minimum, hire someone to deep clean your new home (I've got the perfect team for this, so just ask me for their info!). If you plan to paint or refinish wood floors (or replace carpet), do it before you move in and you'll thank me later!
Setup Utilities & Services
The previous owner may have alerted their utility companies of their departure and your arrival, however, it’s always best to call a few days before closing to confirm the change of ownership of the home.
Don’t forget any of them! You’ll almost definitely need to call the electric company, maybe a gas company and probably the city water department. Feel free to ask me if you’re still unsure of who to call.
Get that internet going again, I know you need it.
Security Systems: Not everyone has one but whether or not there was one installed for the previous owner, I can set you up with a great company that works in the area, just reach out and I’ll connect you with them.
Mass Save is a partnership of MA utility companies with the common goal of helping residents and businesses across MA save money and energy, leading our state to a clean and energy efficient future.
If your home qualifies, have them perform a free home energy assessment. During which, they will provide you with lots of resources on how to lower the energy cost and environmental impact of your home, provide you with energy efficient items like LED bulbs and programmable thermostats and inform you about very generous rebate programs for insulating and heating your home that you may qualify for.
Caring for Your Home
Learning how to maintain your home is not only fun and empowering but it can also help you keep or improve its value over time.
A great place to start is your home inspection report. Use the information from it to create a checklist of things you can fix, replace or upgrade over time so when you are ready to sell the property, the next home inspector won’t encounter the same items.
Get a good book like, “How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Your Home” to help you learn more about maintaining your home.
Meet Your Neighbors
Start off on the right foot with your neighbors and you’ll have a long and happy relationship with them. Bring them a small gift and offer your help if they ever need it; get ahead of the nice-curve!
Explore the community and make an effort to learn your new area so you can enjoy it that much more.
Your #1 Resource
I Want to be Your Agent for Life
You will likely have a lot going on leading up to your closing date, during your move and probably for a while after that, as you unpack and resettle. Try to focus on the exciting new changes in your life as you come up against the inevitable challenges during this process and don’t forget, I’m always here to help and will always be your agent. Our relationship doesn’t end at the closing table, in fact, I’d say it’s just getting started!
Whether you need a recommendation for a contractor, or simply one of my recipes, I’ll be there when you need me. Expect to hear from me often, I will always want to know how you are doing in your new home and what you have planned for the future. My favorite thing to see from past clients is before and after pictures of their renovations - so make sure to take some for me!
Tracking Your Equity
Understanding and monitoring the investment you made in your home is a vital part of being a responsible homeowner. To estimate the equity you currently have in your property, you need just two things: the balance owed on your mortgage and the current market value.
To get the current market value of your property, you'll need me to create a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). With data from the MLS and my expertise as a Pricing Strategy Advisor, I will be able to give you an accurate picture of what your home could sell for in the current market.
Creating CMA's is a vital part of my work as your Realtor, so anytime you'd like to get an update on your home's value, don't hesitate to reach out. Call, text or email me anytime and I'll get you one right away. Once you've got your home's current value and what you owe on the mortgage, it's just simple subtraction!
Helping Your Friends & Family
I gratefully rely on the satisfaction of my past clients for new business and with you as my cheerleader, I will continue to be able to connect with and help more people reach their real estate goals every year.
I am never too busy for your referrals and thank you in advance for connecting me with anyone in your network looking to learn more about buying or selling.
The More You Know!
Thanks for reading this, I hope it has helped you understand the process a bit more. Don’t be afraid to ask me any questions during our time together. My goal is for you to be well informed and happy about the process and the purchase of your next home!