Steps to Buying a home in Charleston
The home buying process is becoming more complicated every day. See how a Gatehouse Realtor can help you throughout the entire process.
Step 1: Find a Good Real Estate Agent
Congratulations, you've already finished step 1 by coming to Gatehouse Realty. Our agents are knowledgeable and experienced in all types of real estate negotiations. Remember, it doesn't cost you anything to use a buyer's agent!
Step 2: Determine How Much House You Can Afford
Before you get too excited about your dream house, you need to figure out how much you can afford. There are countless tools on the internet to help you calculate mortgage payments, but the best way is to speak with one of Gatehouse Realty's preferred lenders about your finances. They will look at your income, credit, and debt, then give you an overall estimate very quickly. They can also introduce you to a variety of loan options in addition to giving you a pre-approval that will help you when presenting offers to sellers.
Step 3: Shop For Homes
This is the fun part, but sometimes can also be overwhelming. Narrow down your search area to specific locations and price ranges. Think about what is most important to you - proximity to work or school, neighborhood amenities, style of home, lot size, etc. - and your Gatehouse agent can help you find neighborhoods that meet your criteria. Have an open mind when you start looking, and narrow down your search as you go. Remember, there will always be tradeoffs between price, size, quality and location.
Step 4: Make An Offer
So you've found the perfect house - now what? Once you have reviewed comparable sales, or "comps", with your Gatehouse agent, you can make an offer on the property of your choice. Many home buyers think that the price is the only variable that sellers will consider, but in reality there are other parts to a real estate offer such as closing date, inspection contingencies, closing costs concessions and many more. Your agent will explain all of the different terms of the offer and how they may be perceived by a seller. There will often be one or more rounds of counteroffers before both parties are satisfied and we have a contract.
Step 5: Have A Home Inspection
Congratulations! If you've made it to step 5, the seller must have accepted your offer. Now you have what's known as a "due diligence" period, which you should have asked for in the offer, during which you can inspect the home and research things such as the HOA. You should speak with a few licensed home inspectors from our preferred list and determine which one offers the service and type of report you would like. The inspector will examine everything from the appliances to the structural soundness of the house and provide you with a detailed report of every system. The report will give you leverage to negotiate some repairs to be completed by the seller before closing, and also allow you to prepare for future maintenance expenses.
Step 6: Finalize Your Mortgage
As soon as you have your signed contract, you should begin working with your lender on your mortgage. Even though you have been pre-approved, you don't have a full commitment from the lender yet. They will need a lot of documentation - things like paystubs, bank statements and tax returns - to finishing analyzing your finances and determine your ability to repay. Don't be surprised at the amount of paperwork the bank asks for - they are being extra careful these days after the recent real estate boom and bust. They will also need an appraisal completed to verify the value of the property. Remember, the bank won't lend you more than the home is worth. All of this information then goes to an underwriter, who approves the loan, and you're ready to close!
Step 7: Close The Deal!
You're almost there! The home passed inspection, appraised for the right value and your mortgage is approved. Now you just have to close on the home, a process which most first time buyers don't really understand. In South Carolina, a closing attorney handles the paperwork and money transfer associated with your transaction. At the closing, you will sign a huge stack of papers, mostly relating to your mortgage. The seller will sign the deed, which gives you title to the home. You will bring a downpayment, the bank will provide the loan, and the attorney will disburse the funds to all the right parties - county taxes, commission, mortgages, etc - and pay off the seller. Then you get your keys and the real fun begins!