Heather Morse

Heather Morse | Contributor

One of the best parts of my job is the moment I get to hand my clients the keys to their new home. But this is just the final moment in the home buying process and one that takes several steps and a lot of hard work to get to. Here’s a look from start to finish at what you can expect your home buying process to entail.

The first step of the home buying process is pre-approval. This is vital or a couple of reasons. It tells you what you can afford, and once you find your dream home you’ll need to write an offer on it, which cannot be done without a letter of pre-approval. Sellers need to confirm that a prospective buyer is qualified to make the offer that they have. Now to go about getting pre-approved you’ll need to make an appointment with a lender, a bank or mortgage company. When you make the appointment they’ll let you know what pertinent financial information to bring along. Your lender will want to confirm your income, debts and credit score. From there they’ll determine the magic number that is your pre-approval amount. You’ll want to search for homes at this price point and lower.

Now for the fun part, house hunting! First, you and your realtor will discuss what you’re looking for, such as location, number of bedrooms, acreage, etc. Your realtor will use tools such as MLS to compile a list of homes that match your criteria. From there they will schedule showings for any property that interests you. See a listing that you’re curious about but not sure you’ll love it? Ask your realtor for a showing! Sometimes the least likely listing can turn out to be the one.

So you’ve found the perfect house and you’re ready to place an offer. With the help of your realtor you’ll submit an offer that will include the offer amount, any stipulations or necessary addendums, financing contingencies, and the projected contract and closing dates. Sometimes sellers send back a counter offer, and you can counter back and forth until you have agreed-upon terms or you decide to walk away. But once accepted, you’ll officially be under contract.

Congratulations! While being under contract is an exciting milestone in the home buying process it’s also a point where there’s much to be done. Now is the time to call your lender, an inspector and an attorney. The inspection will come first as the findings will allow you to proceed under the currently agreed-upon terms, renegotiate or walk away if necessary. Moving forward, your lender will order an appraisal to make sure you’re not paying more for the property than it’s worth. Your attorney will perform a title search to confirm there’s nothing in the property’s history that would prevent it from being sold. And your lender will be busy going through all of your financial information and getting your mortgage ducks in a row.

This stage certainly takes a village and you’ll likely encounter some bumps in the process, but your realtor is there to help you every step of the way. Afraid you can’t meet the inspector? Need to know the last time the oil tank was filled? These are exactly the types of issues realtors handle every day for their clients.

Finally, closing! Once all the inspections, appraisals and seemingly endless amounts of paperwork are done, you and your lender will schedule a closing date. Prior to this date a final walk-through will be conducted to ensure the property is in the agreed-upon condition. On the closing date you and your realtor will meet with the seller, their agent and your lender. You’ll need to bring your license and checkbook for the closing costs. At long last you’ll sign your loan and receive the deed and keys to your new home. And that’s it, you’re a homeowner!

This is just a general description of each step. Once you’re ready to begin the home-buying process you’ll want to sit down with your realtor as they can get much more specific about each step and answer any questions you may have. Your lender will be another excellent resource to fully explain the financial process, the different types of loans they offer, and what you qualify for. Never hesitate to ask questions! This process requires a lot of support, and the more you understand the easier it will be for you.

Heather Morse of Charlotte is a Greentree Real Estate agent. For more information email heather@vermontgreentree.com.