Finding a home to buy and negotiating the purchase contract are the toughest parts of the home buying process for most people. But, if you don’t plan ahead, and carefully monitor your home purchases transaction, you could find could find trouble ahead.
The first thing you should do after your offer is accepted is review the contract and make a list of important dates. These will include such things as the contract contingency deadlines and the actual closing date. If you and the seller countered back and forth before arriving at a mutually acceptable contract, these dates may have changed from the original draft of the contract.
Most home purchase contracts include an inspection contingency. It’s wise to complete a home inspection as soon as you can. This way you’ll have time to order further inspections if necessary. When the real estate market is active, you may have difficulty lining up an inspector quickly. It helps if you’re working with a real estate agent who has established relationships with local inspectors.
Homeowner’s insurance can be difficult to obtain in some areas, so you should start working on this right away. This used to be one of the last items on a buyer’s closing checklist. But, these days, it should be at the top of the list. In some, like California and Texas, some big insurance companies are not currently writing new homeowner’s policies. But, a mortgage lender will require that you have a homeowner’s policy before they will commit the money to close the sale.
Insurance companies scrutinize both the buyer and the property. The buyer must have good credit. The insurer would also like the buyer to be someone who does not have a history of submitting a lot of insurance claims. Ideally, the property should have had no insurance claims made against it in the last five years. Insurers are particularly sensitive to claims that have been made for water damage.
It’s recommended that you investigate the insurability of the property during your inspection contingency time frame. This way, if you find out that it’s going to cost more than you expected to insure the property because of the seller’s past insurance claims, you will have the opportunity to try to negotiate some form of compensation from the seller. Even if the seller won’t give a dime, at least you have full knowledge of what the purchase will cost before you proceed.
When a closing is delayed, it usually has something to do with the buyer’s mortgage. In order to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you, be diligent about providing your lender with all the documentation needed to give you final loan approval. A lender won’t prepare the loan documents for you to sign until all the lender’s conditions for approval have been satisfied.
As the closing date approaches, you’ll need to arrange for the transfer of any remaining funds that are necessary to close the sale. Many buyers wire closing funds to the closing agent. This may be an escrow office or an attorney depending on where you’re buying.
It’s a good idea to schedule a final walk-through of the property to make sure that it is in substantially the same condition as it was when the seller accepted your offer. If possible, ask the seller to do an informal walk-through with you to show you all the idiosyncrasies of the house. It might take your to discover these on your own.
THE CLOSING: Ask the closing agent to provide you with a copy of all the documents that you will need to sign in advance of your signing appointment. This may not be possible due to time constraints. But, if you can review the documents in advance, the signing will go more smoothly.
Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.
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