Assembling your Homebuying Team

John Moffatt
Byย John Moffatt

Getting ready to buy your dream home? Whether youโ€™ve already started doing your research or arenโ€™t quite sure where to begin, weโ€™re here to help you get home. Weโ€™ve taken our best homebuying guidance and broken it up into bite-size to-dos.

Given todayโ€™s hot housing markets, having the right team in place is just as important as getting your finances in order. This post is all about assembling your homebuying team, so youโ€™ll be fully prepared to make a winning offer.

Your to-do list:

  • Compare lenders

  • Interview real estate agents

  • Research real estate attorneys

  • Research home inspectors

  • Research home insurance providers

Compare lenders

The first step is to find the best lender for your needs. For example, a lender who provides guidance and advice may be important to you. Or one who is easily available through text or email. If youโ€™re house hunting in a competitive market, look for lenders that provide a pre-approval letter that you can use to strengthen your offer. Or if youโ€™re interested in affordable lending discounts, ask any potential lenders if they offer savings based on your location or through programs like HomeReady and FHA. Regardless of your personal needs, make sure you take note of each lenderโ€™s pre-approval process -- if your experience with a certain lender is frustrating and difficult at this early stage, it may be time to find a new lender.

Before moving forward with any lender, you should get an official Loan Estimate (LE), which is a standard document that provides a clear and concise summary of all the features, costs, and risks associated with your new mortgage. Beyond the rate, look out for any origination or lender fees, as well as how much the lender is charging you for any points. This post explains exactly how to compare the LEs you get from different lenders.

Interview real estate agents

Seven out of every ten homebuyers donโ€™t interview their agent before deciding to work with them. And not all agents are created are equal -- as the industry saying goes, 20 percent of the agents do 80 percent of the business. So the real estate agent you choose could make the difference between landing your dream home in a few weeks or losing bids on houses that arenโ€™t a great fit. Ultimately, you want an agent with a proven track record of winning bids in both the areas and price range youโ€™re looking in.

Research real estate attorneys

A real estate attorney will help draw up, review, and negotiate the terms of your contract, including contingencies, clauses regarding timelines and deadlines, and repair agreements. Real estate attorneys are there to protect your rights, review all closing documents and disclosures, and help resolve issues that could arise related to title insurance or environmental law.

Attorneys are required by law in some states. Those include Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Keep in mind that there may be more people involved in the home buying transaction, including people from the title or escrow companies. However, they are generally chosen by the sellers, so you wonโ€™t have a say in who youโ€™re working with. Roles and responsibilities will vary by the transaction (for example, some title companies also handle escrow, while others donโ€™t).

Research home inspectors

Unlike an appraiser, who is a third party typically contracted by your mortgage lender to estimate the value of the property, a home inspector works for you. Their job is to give you a detailed assessment of the condition of the home before you close. A home inspector will look for code violations, water or structural damage, and major systems that may need repairs or replacement, like electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, insulation, and ventilation. Theyโ€™ll also look at the homeโ€™s foundation, exterior, roof, walls, ceilings, floors, and windows. A typical inspection will take 2-3 hours and cost a few hundred dollars. There is a wide range of services that home inspectors offer, so itโ€™s important to ask what they include in their inspection report (and how much they charge). You may need to hire a specialist for things like an energy audit and pest control.

Since youโ€™ll likely need to do an inspection soon after your offer is accepted, itโ€™s good to research inspectors before youโ€™re ready to make an offer. To find a licensed, certified home inspector, consider searching the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).

What you do with the results of your home inspection will likely vary depending on how competitive your market is. Small repairs or upgrades generally are costs a buyer is expected to take on. However, if there are major repairs required, it may be time to renegotiate โ€“ or walk away from โ€“ the purchase agreement.

Research homeownerโ€™s insurance providers

Homeownerโ€™s insurance protects you (and your lender) if your home is damaged or destroyed. Your lender will likely require you to provide an estimate of your home insurance cost as part of your application, followed by confirmation of your insurance payment before the loan is finalized. Home insurance costs can depend on your homeโ€™s value, location, and the type of construction, as well as the value of your personal belongings. Make sure to get a few quotes and carefully review whatโ€™s covered in different policies.

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