Congratulations! Your work has paid off. Your offer has just been accepted, and you’re on your way to becoming a homeowner, maybe even for the first time.
For first-time homebuyers, the time between having an offer accepted and closing on a home can be a really confusing time, which is one of the many reasons to hire a buyer’s agent.
The point is, now that the offer has been accepted, you’ve got several things to do.
Finalize your mortgage application
We’re going to assume you’ve been preapproved for a mortgage. If not, this process will take a little longer. If you’ve been preapproved, this is the time you’ve got to prove your finances are in the shape you said they were. You’ll need to collect all your financial documents, including tax records, bank statements and others, and deliver them to your mortgage lender who will forward your completed application to underwriting for evaluation. If you’ve done your homework, this should go smoothly.
Keep your finances steady
Yes, it should go smoothly, unless you decide to quit your job or buy a new car or commit some other act that rocks your financial boat. Just don’t do it. Remember, your preapproval was based on the set of factors you presented to the mortgage company when you started looking for a home. Take out a new line of credit or make a dramatic change to your employment status, and you could jeopardize the whole process.
Do your due diligence
Now that your offer has been accepted, it’s time to learn all you can about your new home. First up is a home inspection. Be sure to make the home inspector aware of any special conditions attached to your financing (for example, FHA home inspections can be a little stricter than inspections for other financing). You’ll also likely be required to have a radon test and an inspection for wood-destroying insects. Depending on the property itself, you may choose to have other inspections, such as septic, well or roof inspections.
Get an appraisal
Your mortgage lender will arrange for a home appraiser to come out and determine your home’s value. The point here is to protect the lender, who doesn’t want to loan more than the home is worth. The appraiser will determine fair market value, then the lender will ensure the value is enough to cover the total amount financed should you later sell the property or default on the loan. This can be a nerve-wracking waiting game, but if you’ve made a fair offer on the home and aren’t borrowing at the very top of your eligibility, you should have no problems.
Secure homeowner’s insurance
Your lender will require you to obtain homeowner’s insurance to cover the loss of the home. Shop around for insurance, starting with the company that insures your car, as you might be eligible for a multi-line discount. Be sure your policy covers the replacement cost of the home and carries enough to cover your personal belongings. If you have some cash saved, get a lower premium by carrying a slightly higher deductible.
Complete a walkthrough
The final walkthrough is your chance to be sure the house is in the order agreed upon in the sales contract. Any negotiated repairs should have been completed, and the house should be in reasonably clean condition. Check to see if appliances or other items that are to convey with the home are still on the property. Also, check for any fixtures that might have been removed that may have left a wall in need of repair.
Finally, the day has come. Be sure you’ve made arrangements to have the funds you need at closing. This sounds obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. You must either arrange for the funds to be wired or come to closing with a certified check from your bank. Cash is not allowed, and neither are personal checks unless there is enough time to verify them before closing. Just make doubly sure you know what’s required and arrange accordingly.