Finding the right home: Next steps to becoming a homeowner
Part of the excitement of looking at homes is envisioning your future as you pull up to the curb. Often the “right” home is one that offers a combination of things you’re looking for – from curb appeal to price appeal.
1. Line up real estate professionals
Now that you know you're pre-approved and have a reasonable budget, it's time to find the right real estate agent. Choose someone qualified and knowledgeable who you also feel comfortable with. You are sure to have tons of questions about each step of the process, from choosing neighborhoods to signing your offer contract. Don't feel rushed to make a decision; meet with a few agents and spend a day with each.
Some states also require you to hire a real estate lawyer to read documents and represent you in the closing. Make sure to check the requirements where you live.
2. Tour homes
Our advice: touring your potential future home should be a mix of smart shopping and fun. Consider taking an online video tour (if available) first to get a first impression. In many ways, your tour begins before you even pull up to the curb. Do you like the neighborhood? Are you finding convenient places to shop or eat?
As you look inside the home, keep an open mind. You might rethink what you consider to be non-negotiable features or refine your list of priorities. Your agent will likely walk you through this discovery process — do you want a house on a cul-de-sac, within a certain school district, or close to public transportation, and are you willing to give up some things in favor of getting your must-have features?
When touring, ask the agent if a summary sheet of average monthly utility payment is available to take a look at so you can get an idea of what your potential new bills could be.
3. Make an offer
Once you've decided on a specific property, your agent will work on your behalf to craft and submit an offer. This is step one of the negotiation process, and it's a legally binding contract, so get ready to feel some nerves and a lot of excitement about finally getting your dream home. The seller will either accept your offer, make a counteroffer, or refuse (this is rare, but can happen with non-motivated sellers).
Talk to your agent about potentially including a letter or personal note with your offer. Depending on the seller, the personal touch could give your offer the edge in a bidding war.