How to Buy a House in 2021... Without Making a Mistake.
How to buy a house for the first time
Buying your first home can be one of the biggest investments of your life. This page was created as a resource to help our South Coast MA community with buyer info for their home buying questions and needs. Feel free to browse around, run some free searches using our New Bedford area MLS search tools, and anytime you have further questions or see something you might like, feel free to ask questions.
Step 1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage first. THEN, then find a Real Estate Agent
This should actually be your very first step in the home buying process. Even before you locate a real estate agent and attempt to browse around for homes.
Well, think of it this way. Imagine finding the absolute home of your dreams and you get excited to put in your offer. The listing agent, as well as the seller of that home, is going to want to make sure you can qualify to buy it and will likely request to see your preapproval letter even before they respond to your offer, no matter how good it is.
If you don’t already have one available to show them, you’re going to feel rushed to get one, quick!
(A prime opportunity to make your first mistake!).
So, you stay up late ransacking your house trying to locate all the docs you’ll need, rush out the next morning to find a new mortgage professional. (hello! Stressful!) You eagerly sit there in front of them, exhausted with bags under your eyes from lack of sleep, unblinking, hands clasped in your lap, biting your bottom lip while you anxiously await their response. Only to find out that the home is just outside of your budget. You are crushed. What a letdown! All that work for nothing!
If you had only known.
OK. got it. So then What?
Now go out and find yourself a good mortgage broker or lender. If you have a relationship with a local bank, they will likely also have a loan department. Ask around. Who did you friends & family use to get their mortgage? Who is advertising great rates and has good reviews?
Want a boost forward?
- Request Preapproval Online
Get pre-approved, view your progress, securely upload documents and message your Loan officer easily as you go!
Many mortgage brokers and lenders have relationships with individual real estate agents already, and will likely want to “assign” you to one of their preferred agents. While that’s great, and you can certainly take their suggestions if you trust your lender, YOU are ultimately in charge of the decision on who to choose as your real estate agent. And it’s an important one, at that. Remember, do what’s best for you.
What will my Lender need?
- Tax returns & W2’s from past 2 years (and your last few current pay stubs)
- Bank Statements (do you have any assets? checking accounts, savings, 401k, etc?)
- Employment Verification (they will likely verify with your employer)
- Docs: (SSN#, Driver’s Lic)
Learn more about what it means to have a mortgage pre-approval, and why it’s a major advantage when buying a home.
Step 2. How to Find a Real Estate Agent
So, now the fun begins right? Not so fast my friend.
That all depends on who you choose to help guide you in your search. So how do you choose?
According to MLS, there are over 25,000+ active Real Estate Agents just in the State of Massachusetts.
Just how is a buyer or seller supposed to choose?
Below, you'll find some helpful tips to help guide you in the right direction before you make a commitment that could be a costly mistake.
We'll also provide you with a FREE Buyer's Guide to help guide you along from start to finish.
Now it’s time to find a real estate agent to work with.
Many buyers think it will cost them MORE money to have someone representing them as a buyer’s agent and have someone in your corner. But the truth is, in most real estate transactions, there are 2 agents involved. One representing the seller, and another representing the buyer. Typically, a commission is already allocated towards paying the buyer’s commission and that is paid for by the seller. So, as a buyer, it shouldn’t cost you anything extra. How cool is that? Of course, there are exceptions to this, but when in doubt – reach out to your buyer’s agent and as always, be sure to read all contracts before you sign.
Buying a home can be a major life event for most people. Especially if you are a first time home buyer, you’ll want to work closely with an experienced REALTOR® who will be able to help guide you through this process and help educate you with buyer info and resources to help you make informed decisions. With so many agents to choose from, it’s hard to decide who might be the most experienced, professional, and ethical agent to work with. Of course, we hope you’ll work with us, but let us help you decide:
Finally, when you do choose a real estate agent, make sure they do the work for you. I can’t tell you how many times I start working with a home buyer and they are absolutely shocked when I call or email them about a house I think they’d want to see, and then gathering all of the research I’ve found on the house, and got questions answered that they didn’t even dream to think of, before they’ve even asked the question! And get this… Yes, folks, your buyer’s agent should be scheduling your appointments for you! So many times I get calls on my own listings from buyers only to find out that they have a buyer’s agent.. but they are doing all the work! Why are you making these calls? Your buyer’s agent needs to be scheduling appointments on the houses you choose to go see, doing research for you, pulling comps, etc. Otherwise, what exactly is a buyer’s agent for? Just to present beside you and hold your hand? Let them do their job, which is to provide you with a much-needed service, and relieve you of a lot of the stress of home buying.
When I first start working with a buyer and I see the fear in their eyes, (If you’ve worked with me, you’ve heard this before) I tell them, This should be a piece of cake, just wait until we are at the closing table and I’m handing you the keys. Your first comment to me will be, “That’s It?”
Although there are occasions where things don’t go as smoothly as planned for one reason or another, this is what any good buyer’s agent should do for their client.
Buying a Home should be a fun and pleasant experience! Moral of the story: Make sure you choose the best real estate agent to help you with research on buyer info.
If you haven’t already, the Real Estate Agent will help you locate a mortgage professional who can get you pre-approved for a mortgage.
(After all, you need to know how much you can afford before you start looking.)
Step 3. Time to Look for a Home
Finally! Let the Fun Begin!
Decide first. What are you looking for in a home? Write them down and share this with your Realtor. Make sure that you actually want and need these features.
Do you really want and need that pool? Remember, pools need maintenance and cost money. Consider all angles when looking for specific features before you narrow down your search too much, as you may miss out on the house of your dreams because you were being “too picky”.
Some features can be added on later, or you may even find that you were better off without it.
Once you’ve figured it out, it’s time to start searching for homes!
Step 4. Make an Offer
I won’t go too much into detail here, as your real estate agent will be your best resource to initiate this step. But, here are the basics:
- What is the home’s value VS the asking price?
Ask your real estate agent to pull comps to help give you an idea of areas values.
- Put it in writing.
Your agent will draft up an Offer to Purchase and will include your preapproval letter with it. Be sure to outline all of your terms, conditions.
- Multiple Offers? Don’t despair. some people assume that because there are multiple offers, they don’t want to be in a “bidding war” and will often walk away from the chance!
I don’t recommend this. Don’t make this personal. Don’t do this “out of principle”. C’mon, if you were the one selling the house, would you care that buyer #3 walked away out of principal and not wanting a bidding war? You’d probably focus more on the other 2 people who actually put pen to paper and made you an offer. I am very often on the listing agent side of a multiple offer situation, and we sometimes get a lot of “low ball” offers. Sometimes, a few buyers will walk away with their agent stating the “no bidding war” claim. I really think the scary scenarios they see on HGTV is to blame. 😉 #Drama
Love the house? Put the darn offer in! What’s the worst that could happen? They say no. Done.
But get this…What if they say YES? You may very well be the BEST offer! And if they come back asking for more and you’re not willing to go higher? Just say no and remain firm. plain and simple. (if you’re serious, of course). Why? Because if you walk away with NO offer, you may never realize that the house is still on the market and none of the other offers were accepted. You may very well walk away think you lost it.. only to find out months later that it took weeks after you walked away for them to get a reasonable offer, and then find out what it really sold for (likely what you would’ve offered, maybe?) Who knows! I’ve seen it too many times before. Lecture Over…moving on.
Step 5. My Offer has been Accepted! What Now?
- Continue working with your mortgage professional. He or She will need more from you.
- You’ll sign the actual Purchase & Sales Agreement. (Be sure to read it thoroughly). Your agent will (should) sit & read this with you, but you also have a right to have your attorney review it.
- DO NOT GO ON A SHOPPING SPREE! We know you’re excited but resist the urge.
Find Out More: 8 Things to Avoid When Buying a Home
- Home Inspection (usually within 10 days from the contract, unless negotiated otherwise). Talk to your agent. Please, get an inspection!
- An appraisal will be done (if financed) to ensure the home appraises for the sales price.
- Commitment – Once the above is done, your mortgage company will issue a final commitment letter. Yay, you made it!
- Schedule a Closing – discuss with your agent & mortgage broker what day/time & location would be best to schedule a closing. (refer back to your contract terms)
Step 6. It’s Closing Day!
How exciting! Closing times vary, but the process usually takes about an hour. You’ll probably want to do a final walk-through of the house with your agent, to make sure that everything is as it should be, that the house is still standing, and that everything that should pass with the home has been left behind. (no damage, clean/broom-swept and any other terms that were in your contract).
Then, it’s off to meet the closing attorney to sign documents! Once the documents have been reviewed, signed, and it has gone on record at the Registry of Deeds, the keys are passed on to you and… Congratulations, you are a new homeowner!
*We hope you found this information useful. Please note that the above information may not be completely thorough and is being provided for a beginner’s informational purposes only. There are so many scenarios that can happen in a transaction and each one is different. But these are the basics, and your agent will be able to help guide you throughout. Be sure to seek professional guidance and information directly from your mortgage professional, real estate agent and/or attorney.
Best of Luck!
*Updated March 2021
Click Here to Search literally ALL of the homes available in Massachusetts that are in the MLS.
Note: This is the broadest search you can run… and will show you everything. So, if you don’t want to get overwhelmed, and you have a slight idea of what you’re searching for in a home, we recommend using a more filtered search using the additional tools below. Like search by style, location, etc.
Curious to see what SRG has for our exclusive listings? You can check them all out here.