You probably started the home buying process in one of two ways: you saw a home you were interested in buying or you consulted a lender to figure out how much money you could borrow before you found a home (sometimes called pre-qualifying). The next step is to sign an agreement of sale with the seller, followed by applying for a loan to purchase your new home. The final step is called “settlement” or “closing,” where the legal title to the property is transferred to you.
At each of these steps you often have the opportunity to negotiate the terms, conditions and costs to your advantage. These pages will highlight such opportunities. You will also need to shop carefully to get the best value for your money. There is no standard home buying process used in all localities. Your actual experience may vary from those described here. These pages takes you through the general steps to buying a home, to eliminate, as much as possible, the mysteries of the settlement process.
Buying and Financing A Home
The real estate broker: frequently, the first person you consult about buying a home is a real estate agent or broker. The most common practice is for the seller to hire the broker to find someone who will be willing to buy the home on terms and conditions that are acceptable to the seller. Therefore, the real estate broker you are dealing with may also represent the seller. However, you can hire your own real estate broker, known as a buyer’s broker, to represent your interests. Also, in some states, agents and brokers are allowed to represent both buyer and seller.
Even if the real estate broker represents the seller, state real estate licensing laws usually require that the broker treat you fairly. If you have any questions concerning the behavior of an agent or broker, you should contact your State’s Real Estate Commission or licensing department.
Sometimes, the real estate broker will offer to help you obtain a mortgage loan. He or she may also recommend that you deal with a particular lender, title company, attorney or settlement/closing agent. You are not required to follow the real estate broker’s recommendation. You should compare the costs and services offered by other providers with those recommended by the real estate broker.
Selecting an Attorney
Before you sign an agreement of sale, you might consider asking an attorney to look it over and tell you if it protects your interests. If you have already signed your agreement of sale, you might still consider having an attorney review it. An attorney can also help you prepare for the settlement. In some areas attorneys act as settlement/closing agents or as escrow agents to handle the settlement. An attorney who does this will not solely represent your interests, since, as settlement/closing agent, he or she may also be representing the seller, the lender and others as well.
If choosing an attorney, you should shop around and ask what services will be performed for what fee. Find out whether the attorney is experienced in representing home buyers. You may wish to ask the attorney questions such as:
What is the charge for negotiating the agreement of sale, reviewing documents and giving advice concerning those documents, for being present at the settlement, or for reviewing instructions to the escrow agent or company? Will the attorney represent anyone other than you in the transaction? Will the attorney be paid by anyone other than you in the transaction? Please note, in many areas of the country attorneys are not normally involved in the home sale. For example, escrow agents or escrow companies in western states handle the paperwork to transfer title without any attorney involvement.