Buying a new home is an exciting process — but it can also be overwhelming, especially for first-time homebuyers. When you work with us, we promise to help you navigate the housing market, find a home you love, and get you from daydreaming to closing day with as little stress as possible. This guide will tell you what to expect when buying your home and what you can do to prepare now.
Step 1: Plan Ahead
For most people, buying a home is one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make, and it’s important to be prepared. You should take some time to assess your finances and make sure you’re ready to take on the responsibility of home ownership. You should check your credit score, take steps to improve it if necessary, and start saving up for your down payment. Once you have your finances in order, you should get a letter of pre-qualification from a lender. A pre-qualification letter provides an estimate of how much you will be able to afford, and submitting it along with your offer will show sellers that they can take you seriously.
Step 2: Figure Out Your Wants and Needs
Make a list of the features you want in an ideal home. Chances are you’ve already thought about features such as size, distance from your workplace or favorite spots, type of neighborhood, and, of course, price — which should be less than three times your annual income. Other features to consider include the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of the kitchen, and privacy of the backyard. You should also think about how long you intend to live there — whether you intend to sell within the next few years or settle down for the next few decades.
Step 3: Consultation
Once you’re ready to begin your home search, we’ll meet at our office or a local coffee shop. During this meeting, we’ll help you learn about the New Orleans housing market and the home-buying process so that you’ll know what to expect moving forward. First-time buyers are often caught off-guard by all the costs that come with purchasing a home, so we will go over those costs and work with you to set a budget that takes them into account. We will also talk with you about your unique situation and what you’re looking for in your new home so that we can help you find the perfect fit.
Step 4: Home Searching
After our initial meeting, we will do some research and create a list of homes that match your most important criteria and fit within your budget. If we know about any potential properties that meet your needs but haven’t yet gone on the market, we will include those as well. And if any homes have caught your interest, let us know so we can include them and find others that you might like as well. We’ll review the list together and start visiting the homes you’re most interested in.
Step 5: Making and Negotiating an Offer
Once we find a home you love, it’s time to make an offer. In some cases, the seller will be considering several offers. We’ll help you make an offer that will be most appealing to the seller and still leave us room to negotiate. We will write up the offer — including the purchase price, closing date, financing contingency, and any other conditions you want to request. We recommend allowing 30 to 45 days between contract and closing to ensure that you’ll be able to secure financing. Once the contract has been signed, you’ll make a deposit that will be held “in escrow” by an independent agent. This deposit works like a security deposit: It shows the seller that you’ll follow through on all the terms you agreed to in the contract, and it guarantees that nothing will happen to your money until we officially close on your new home.
Step 6: Inspection
A home inspector will assess the home’s condition and identify any areas that might cause problems in the future, such as structural weaknesses, the presence of mold, or plumbing or wiring in need of replacement. Most lenders will also require a termite inspection. A home inspection will cost $500 to $1,000 depending on the size of the home, but it could save you thousands of dollars in the long run by making sure repairs are made before closing or even lowering the home’s purchase price. Even if no problems arise, a thorough home inspection gives you peace of mind: You’ll know you’re getting a home in good condition.
Step 7: Appraisal
An appraiser’s job is to examine a home and provide an estimate of its market value. The estimate takes into account the home’s size, location, condition, and specific features such as brand-new plumbing, granite countertops, or recent renovations. Although you’ll pay for the appraisal, the appraiser actually works for your lender, who will approve you for a loan based on the appraiser’s estimate. If you’re financing your home, an appraisal makes sure that the size of your loan meets or exceeds your purchase price. Whether you’re financing your home or paying cash, getting an independent appraisal helps verify that you’re not paying more than the home is worth. If the home appraises for less than your offer, we will negotiate with the seller or seller’s agent to help you get a fair price.
Step 8: Negotiation
If any issues come up during the home inspection, we’ll discuss them with the seller and seller’s agent and adjust our contract as necessary. If there are problems requiring immediate attention, such as plumbing problems or a broken window, we might arrange for the seller to fix them before closing, negotiate a lower contract price, or come up with a more creative arrangement, such as the seller leaving behind their stainless steel appliances or contributing to lender-approved closing costs in order to offset the cost of necessary repairs. We’ll also discuss the appraisal and any pricing adjustments that need to be made. We are experienced negotiators, and we will work to reach an agreement that leaves both you and the seller satisfied.
Step 9: Preparing to Close
As we move toward closing, we will recommend options for moving companies, attorneys or title companies, and homeowner’s insurance, title insurance, and flood insurance to protect your new home. We will also help you get your mail forwarded to your new address, provide a list of your new utility providers so that utilities can be transferred to your name, and facilitate communication between your lender and title company or attorney to ensure that all the necessary paperwork for closing is processed and complete. We will schedule a final walkthrough to make sure that any agreed-upon repairs have been made and the home is ready for you to move in. And we will make sure that you’re ready for closing day by reminding you to bring required documents as well as get a certified check or have funds wired to the closing company.
Step 10: Closing Day
We’ll meet with the seller and seller’s agent to sign closing documents and finalize any remaining payments. Once the documents are signed and the payments are made, the seller will hand over the title and keys to the house. And to celebrate, we’ll make a donation in your name to the charity of your choice. Even after you’ve closed on your new home, we will always be here as a resource for you and any family or friends when you have real estate needs in the future.