For most people, buying a home is the single biggest financial transaction they'll make in a lifetime. Before diving in, it's helpful to understand the basic steps that take people from browsing on Zillow to the closing table:
- Determine your wants and needs.
Do you envision yourself in an urban condo or a suburban single-family home? Is close proximity to a train station vitally important? Maybe you have a dog and so a fenced-in yard is a must-have. Schools, commute times, and close shopping / dining options can be important considerations as well. Whatever your situation, sketching out a rough framework for your "dream" scenario is great first step in the home buying process. Your list does not need to be perfect - in fact it will almost certainly evolve as you explore financing options and see properties in-person - but purposely thinking about and discussing these variables sets the stage for a smooth journey.
- Connect with a buyer's agent.
And if buying a home is a journey, then a buyer's agent is your guide. A good buyer's agent can help clarify the details of your target home, and discuss why certain features, towns or neighborhoods may or may not work well for your specific situation. He or she will communicate with seller's agents to schedule showings for potential properties (which, believe or not, can be a tricky undertaking in itself!). When a suitable house is identified, your buyer's agent will explain current market conditions and advise what a competitive offer might look like. In addition to the price, there are several other parts of the offer which can be modified and negotiated (closing date, deposits, financing contingencies, inspection contingencies, etc). If there are negotiations with the seller, your agent will advise the implications of every potential change - why certain concessions might be worth making, and why you should stay firm on others.