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  • Writer's pictureMatt

Complete Guide to Buying a House

Updated: Sep 22, 2019

Whether you are a first time home buyer or weren't super impressed with your last real estate transaction, this guide is for you! While helping buyers and sellers with Charlotte homes for sale, I've seen the good, bad, and ugly in real estate. Some deals end up being much harder to close than others. But a good agent will get you through these times. Not only that, but they will fight hard for you. Here is a guide with the main things that go wrong in a transaction and what to remember while in one. *Note, I perform transactions in North Carolina, so some items may be different if you're reading and buying in a different state!*

1) Contract Price

So you've been approved for a mortgage, seen a few houses, and are looking for homes for sale in the Charlotte NC area. Great! The next issue is how to buy it. In competitive markets, it's extremely important for your agent to get the house for a price that isn't too high, but isn't too low where you lose the deal. This is where an agent is worth every penny of their commission. Here are the steps I take.

  • Perform comparable analysis on the home to determine what the "real" price is. This helps uncover if the agent under/over priced the home, and can possibly explain why there is a bidding war (if there is one). Find out what the sellers originally bought it for. See if they have ever refinanced.

  • Present this data to the client, and let them decide if they want to come in for more than what it's really worth, and know the pros/cons of doing so. All of the above data helps understand their motivation, need to sell, and reasoning for listing it at the price they did. Days on market and other macro-data will impact how they are feeling about the sale of their home.

  • Call the agent and feel the temperature of the home. If it's red hot, don't waste any time on offering. If no other offers, get yours in first!! The first offer is usually the one the sellers "judge all the other offers" on, so be that first one!

  • Present a complete package for your offer so you look very good and prepared in the sellers eyes. This includes a signed offer (fully filled out), pre-approval from the bank, signed disclosures, and maybe even a quick note to the sellers.

  • The email from your agent to the seller's agent is also important. If you have a great offer, treat it that way! I use a lot of "this deal will only be on the table for a short time, we need to make a decision quickly". This prevents a lot of "offer shopping" from the sellers, and gets their counter more quickly.

  • Handle any negotiations quickly and fairly. Never dismiss what the sellers are saying, and try to get in their shoes to understand why they are coming back at the price they have.

2) Contract Accepted!

You did it! You have a house under contract! Now the fun really starts. Here are the things you will want to do to make sure no stone goes unturned.

  • Make sure your realtor sends all documents to the law team, the mortgage person, and you. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Also, send in any earnest money check to the lawyers (and due diligence money here in NC).

  • Order your inspection. This will be a vital part of the post-contract negotiations, so get it with plenty of time to spare in your inspection period. You may have to get contractors to bid on repairs so that you can present numbers to the sellers

  • Get an appraisal going asap with your mortgage provider. They take up to two weeks to process, so get them going early.

  • Call the HOA if there is one. A lot of times buyers want to add things to the home that are not allowed in the community bylaws. Imagine if Hank, your German Shepard, isn't allowed in the community, and you didn't find out until after close. Ouch!! Or if that beautiful privacy fence you always dreamed of isn't allowed. Call the HOA before inspection period is up! Your agent will also provide a copy of the bylaws and regulations.

  • Fully underwrite your loan. You don't want any last minute surprises or loan changes!

  • Check any zoning or get a survey to make sure the neighbor's fence, for example, isn't on your property.

  • Check flood maps to make sure your lot isn't in an area with flooding.

  • Check all utilities (especially if the lot is on septic or well) and roads. If it is a private road or shared driveway, make sure you find out what the agreements are for maintenance.

Whew! This all seems like a lot. But your agent will be able to walk you through all of this. Open communication is key here.

3) Inspection Period Negotiations

This is another place where your agent will separate him/herself from the pack. A good agent should really fight hard for you during this most important part of the transaction. It can be challenging for you to figure out what to ask for in a repair negation. Here are a few ideas.

  • Get quotes for all the most important repair items that concern you. If there are roof, HVAC, and crawl space issues, get a price on all of them! Your realtor should have good contractors for you to rely on. Then, present the quote to the sellers and have them bring that money to the table. In NC, we have "seller contributions". So you can make an amendment that says "in lieu of any repairs, sellers will contribute $XX to closing costs". This is a great way to get cash up front to pay for repairs you need, but not slow down close and wait for the sellers to fix things. Just make sure you don't go over what the loan is approved for. Some loans only accept 3% closing costs. Some are only 2%! Your mortgage provider will know.

  • Present the sellers with a list of repair items. This is the most common way to get repairs done. Problem is, you must be VERY specific in what the document says. "Fix the gutter" doesn't mean anything to anyone. "Fix the front left half of the gutter where it is hanging off the roof by re-attaching it to the roof with a licensed contractor" means something. Don't let your agent just say "fix the items on the inspection report". That's too vague! Imagine you are going to court and a judge is looking over your list. It really needs to be that specific.

  • Go on to closing and do a price reduction. This really only works for cash/investor deals, where they are already fixing a bunch of stuff, and paying with cash. So seller repairs don't make sense because they're already getting their contractors in there to fix stuff. For example, price would just go from $150k to $146k due to (enter list of items here).

  • Appraisals are also something that need negotiating. If they come in lower, see if the seller will lower the price to match. If they don't, sometimes you will need to come out of pocket with the difference. Your agent can explain more in the situation, but just know- appraisals should be done before the inspection period is over!

4) On to Close!

Ok, so you have the house, it's at the correct price, your mortgage is approved, now on to close! A lot of buyers get nervous trying to figure out what they need to do and how much it will cost to buy this thing. Here are some things to think about.

  • The mortgage provider will send you an estimate on your closing documents. This will have the amount you need to "bring to the table". That includes down payment, fees, taxes, etc.

  • The lawyers will finish up title work and make sure there is nothing preventing you from finishing up the purchase.

  • You can schedule a final walk through with your agent a day before closing or so to make sure nothing has broken, trash and personal property are out of the home, repairs are done (if requested), and get any final jitters out!

  • Arrange for utilities to be turned on to your name the day of close, and insurance to start day of close.

  • Arrange for keys to be either exchanged from their agent to yours or given to the lawyers.

  • Schedule a time for closing with your lawyers, or if signing remotely set up a time with a notary and arrange for overnight shipping.

Congratulations on the purchase of your new home! Houses in the Charlotte NC area are a hot commodity right now, so I hope this guide is helpful in making sure nothing gets forgotten during the course of your transaction! It IS possible to have a smooth deal. You just need everyone playing at their best! Of course, let us know if we can ever be of assistance.

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