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For first-timers, buying a home can be an intimidating and terrifying experience, punctuated by moments of uncertainty and utter frustration. You might wonder what strange land you’ve wandered into and feel like you’re about to completely lose your mind.
This doesn’t mean you’re crazy; it means you’re normal. And if you know what to expect heading into the process, you can navigate it like a cool-headed pro and keep from being a funny story at the real estate agency’s holiday party.
Stressful things will happen at many different junctures, and chances are you’ll experience at least some of these possibilities:
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1. Scatterbrained Agents
This one hits you right out of the gate. You find a great house online and call the listing agent, expecting someone who’s eager to make a big sale to answer the phone and quickly set up an appointment. Much to your disappointment, you get sent to voicemail and are forced to leave a message. A day or two goes by without any sign of life, and you start to grow impatient or perhaps a little angry. Do they not care? Did the house already sell?
Agents deal with many properties at the same time. One will call you back, and when she does, she’ll set up a time to see the house within the next few days. This, too, will be annoying to you. You’ve now waited almost an entire week to see the property — but don’t freak out. You’re on the schedule.
When you finally arrive at the house for your tour, the agent will likely struggle to get the key out of the lockbox. He or she will shuffle through a stack of papers and perhaps make a few phone calls in search of the right combination — and you’ll be standing there, dwelling on the five days you’ve spent arranging this visit.
Don’t lose your cool. She’ll find the combination, she’ll open the door, and you’ll get to take a long-awaited tour of your dream home.
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2. Drawn Out Negotiations
Loving the house as you do, you want to make an offer. Your agent will need to gather a lot of paperwork before this can happen — a process that can take a few days. Be sure to remain patient here; this is just the beginning of what will likely be a long, tedious process.
Once you get all of the paperwork together and sign what feels like hundreds of documents, you’ll submit an offer you think the seller just has to accept. You envision the seller jumping for joy when he sees how reasonable it is, and you’re convinced he’ll say “yes" on the spot — but this almost never happens. You might not hear anything for days.
Once the seller does respond, you’ll be extremely lucky if he accepts your first offer. He’ll probably make a counteroffer, and if you’re not crazy about it, you can choose to counter that offer, and he can counter your counteroffer — and so on. Each round of offers requires a fresh batch of signatures and paperwork, and this can stretch on for days or weeks. You’ll want to freak out every time you hear the word “counteroffer," but don’t; this is a natural part of the process.
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3. Mountains of Paperwork
If you thought your real estate agent liked paperwork, wait until you meet your lender.
You’ve already been preapproved for a loan, but now that it’s time to apply for an actual loan for an actual house, you’ll be asked for copies of financial documents you never knew you had. It will seem ridiculous, and you’ll wonder why he didn’t ask for all of it in the first place. Just remember the lender is on your side; he wants you to get this house, so don’t freak out.
If you’re applying for an FHA loan, that can take 30 to 45 days to process from the date of the purchase agreement. It’s a long time, but that’s just how it is. Don’t let it get to you.
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4. Scary Inspection Reports
Before a lender will approve a loan, he’ll require a home inspection. Inspectors make a living off of finding a multitude of defects, so be prepared for your delightful little dream home to have a termite problem, a leaky roof, mold growing in the basement, or electric wiring that needs repair. Unless it’s a brand-new house, nothing in that inspection report should shock you.
Once the list of issues finds its way into your hands, it’s normal to ask the seller to shoulder the cost of a few of the repairs. This in itself can be a negotiation process, so be prepared for some back and forth. It’s worth it to have most of the problems fixed before you move in. That way, you can focus on enjoying your new home, rather than focus on finding a plumber to unclog the basement sink.
If the inspection report is especially scary, consider asking the seller to pay for a one-year home warranty. This will end up making any further issues that pop up much, much cheaper to fix.
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5. Rocky Closings
I don’t know why, but nearly every closing I’ve attended has been delayed in some way. So when you’re finally ready to close on the house, don’t be surprised if the appointment is pushed back an hour. It could be anyone’s fault — the lender, the seller, or the title company — but don’t stress it. You’re so close to hearing the rewarding jingle of your new keys.
Once it’s time to write the check for the final closing costs, be prepared for the amount to be different than what the mortgage company told you it would be beforehand. This might be due to some math error on the company’s part, but be ready for it, and don’t stress about it. Once you’ve written that check and signed the last paper, you’re done. You own it!
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There will be times during the homebuying process that will make you want to give up and live in a van down by the river. But if you keep a cool head throughout the not-so-cool parts of this experience, you’ll have plenty of reason to celebrate. Throw a big party for your family and friends, put that patio to use, and make some new memories.
Then, send a thank-you note to that scatterbrained agent of yours because, looking back, it was all worth it.
About the Author: An entrepreneur at heart, CEO Mike Kalis leads the team at Marketplace Homes, a Detroit-based brokerage that specializes in new construction sales and property management. In addition to his managing partner role at Marketplace, Mike is a venture capitalist and investor in ZipTours, a startup that helps homebuyers and renters see a home with an agent streaming live to their smartphone. When he’s not busy creating new real estate solutions, Mike loves wakeboarding, playing guitar, and spending time with his family.