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Buying a Home in Central Texas

Buyer's FAQs

What do I need to know about the home buying process?

The home buying process is usually quite fun, but it can also be frustrating, so be prepared to experience highs and lows as you go through the steps required. You’ll get to look at lots of homes, some of which will be gorgeous, other of which will be not quite so nice. You’ll have to provide a lot of financial information, and you’ll have to sign a lot of papers!

What do I need to do to get started?

You’ll want to have a fairly specific list of wants and needs in terms of what you’re looking for in a new home. Where do you want to live? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Is a pool a must-have? How much money do you want to spend? You’ll want to find an experienced real estate professional to help you sort everything out and help you get the best house for your needs.

What financing is available and how do I find the one that's right for me?

A wide variety of financing programs are available, and your mortgage broker will explain these to you in depth. Be sure to ask about programs for first-time buyers and for armed-services veterans, if those situations apply to you. Ask your Realtor for advice, too, on the plans presented to you by your mortgage broker.  

How much money do I need to buy a home?

It depends on the home, the location, and your personal situation. There are programs that allow you to close on a home with zero down-payment however most Buyers invest 3.5% up to 20% of the purchase price on their new home.

Can I buy without a down payment?

There are some government-sponsored programs that facilitate no-down-payment loans; your lender will be able to help you understand if you qualify for these and if they make sense for you.

How do I find the right home?

Create a list of features and functionality your dream home should have. If you’re shopping with a partner, be sure the two of you are on the same page in terms of what you’re looking for. A good Realtor will be able to find homes that fit your criteria and show them to you if you want to see them. Your time is valuable and your Realtor should be diligently searching for you. Additionally you may find a home on the internet that looks promising; let your Realtor know and schedule an appointment for you to tour. You will probably wantto visit a property more than once to decide if it’s right for your family.

When I want to visit a home, how do I schedule an appointment?

Work with your real estate agent, who will set up an appointment with the seller’s representatives.

How can I learn more about a home's neighborhood?

Again, the internet is your friend. You can research things like home prices, school districts, crime statistics and more. Look for neighborhood association websites, where you can learn about the community aspect of a neighborhood. Consult your Realtor — he or she is obligated to have some insight about neighborhoods you’re interested in. If you’re really brave, you can even knock on doors. Folks who live in the neighborhood can be great resources and they’re often very willing to brag about how awesome their community is.

How many homes should I visit?

This varies. Some buyers visit three or five homes; others visit 15 or 20. If you find the perfect home right off the bat, that’s wonderful. Another aspect of home shopping to keep in mind: Don’t look at more than four or five in a single day. You’ll be overwhelmed and won’t be able to remember which house was which!

What should I look for when visiting homes?

Consider these questions when touring a home: Does the home meet your criteria? Does it appear to be well-maintained? Look for obvious red flags such as water damage or cracked wallboard. Also, outside, consider: Does the yard meet your requirements? How does the neighborhood appear? 

How can I learn more about a home's neighborhood?

Again, the internet is your friend. You can research things like home prices, school districts, crime statistics and more. Look for neighborhood association websites, where you can learn about the community aspect of a neighborhood. Consult your Realtor — he or she is obligated to have some insight about neighborhoods you’re interested in. If you’re really brave, you can even knock on doors. Folks who live in the neighborhood can be great resources and they’re often very willing to brag about how awesome their community is.

What is an offer and what does it entail?

An “offer” is an official proposal to purchase a home according to terms set forth in a contract. When you find a home you wish to purchase, you and your real estate agent will craft a legal document, promulgated by the state, specifying all the terms you wish to incorporate into your offer. It will the price you are willing to pay for the home, as well as any requests or contingencies you wish to include — replacing the roof, for example. 

What is a counteroffer?

This is a response from the seller to your offer. Say the seller was asking $300,000 for the home. You offered to pay $250,000, but the seller thought that offer was too low, so the seller makes a counteroffer of $275,000 to you. You can accept the counter, or make your own counter, or choose to stand firm and begin searching for an alternative property.

How do I know when to negotiate and what for?

Ask your real estate agent. You may be new to this, but if your Realtor is seasoned he or she will know what you may be able to obtain in a negotiation, and what is best left alone.

What should I expect when I go under contract?

You should hire an independent inspector to examine the home. Based on the inspection, you may ask the seller to complete particular repairs. An appraisal will likely take place. Your lender and title company will continue to request documents and signatures from you. You obtain final loan approval, complete a pre-closing inspection, go to closing, and then celebrate!

What is an inspection and why do I need it?

An inspection is usually conducted by a professional who is trained to carefully examine your home for anything that is wrong or could go wrong in the near future. He or she will check that your roof, for example, is in good shape. The inspector will check your HVAC, easily visible plumbing and electrical functionality as well. They will check to make sure the foundation is in good shape. 

As the buyer, you want to ensure you’re not purchasing a home that has a lot of problems, or if problems are indeed identified, you may want to ask for adjustments to the contract to get any major items fixed.

What do I do with the home inspection report?

With your Realtor, assess which of the deficiencies on the report you will ask the seller to remedy and which deficiencies you will accept. This is a second time for negotiation and a top Realtor will help you through this process.

What is a home warranty and why is it important?

A home warranty is sort of like an insurance policy or service contract that is purchased from a third party and renewed annually if desired. After a deductible, it covers repairs of specified things such as ductwork, plumbing, appliances, electrical, etc. 

It’s good to have a home warranty because unexpected uh-ohs can pop up after you take possession of the home, and a home warranty brings peace of mind, knowing repairs will be covered.

What should I look for when purchasing a home warranty?

You’ll want to look at the policy’s deductible, and examine the coverage limits.  What is the process for getting a service professional out to your home when the need arises? How flexible is the warranty if you want to make changes or upgrades? Are there coverage or replacement limits?

What does it mean to close on a home?

The closing is the final step in a real estate transaction. It is often a meeting usually held at the title agency’s office where the final documents are signed and where moneys  — and perhaps keys — are handed over. Some closings take place with both sellers and buyers present in the same room. Sometimes closings are held separately for buyers and sellers. Still other closings are executed remotely, where some documents may be signed digitally and others are mailed back and forth for signatures.

What is an option period?

The option period is a defined period of time set forth in a real estate contract that allows the buyer to terminate the contract for any reason. It is usually 7 to10 days. This is typically the time during which buyers conduct inspections and perform any due diligence regarding schools, crime rates, historical appreciation, etc.  In Texas, a small fee is charged to the buyer for this option, and the fee is usually applied to the purchase if the buyer closes on the property. 

What does a title company do?

A title company ensures that the title associated with a property is legitimate and clean — title agents make sure the seller has a right to sell the property. The title company also issues title insurance for the property, which protects the lender and/or owner against claims against the property in case there is a subsequent dispute over the ownership of the property.  

At closing, the title company provides the necessary documentation, walks the parties through signing, collects closing costs and distributes funds. The title company also ensures that all documents are filed with the proper entities.

What is the home appraisal?

A home appraisal is an independent, unbiased estimate of the market value of your home. It helps the mortgage company confirm the loan they are granting is in line with the value of the home.

What do I do after I close?

Move in and celebrate! It’s your home now; start enjoying it!

What can I expect when closing on my home?

Expect to sign a lot of papers. When you get to closing, all the hard work is already done and you won’t have to produce any additional documents (other than your ID); you’ll just wear out your hand writing your John Hancock many, many times under the guidance of a title agent. You may have to hand over a check or money order, or that may have been taken care of prior to the closing meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting, you may hand over the keys to the property to the buyers or title company. Some closings take place with both sellers and buyers present in the same room; others are done separately. Still other closings are executed remotely, where some documents may be signed digitally and others are mailed back and forth for signatures.