Buying Tips


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The Buying Process

You've made the decision to buy a home in the Tampa Bay area. Home ownership is one of the biggest and most important investments you will make during your lifetime. Whether you are a first time home buyer or an investor, the following steps are used when purchasing a home. In addition, real estate has been a reliable way to invest your money long term. Many people are looking to purchase a second home as an investment property to earn rental income while paying the mortgage. This approach allows your tenant to pay the mortgage payment that you can eventually sell or use the rental income during your retirement years.

Step 1 - Pre-Approval

The very first step in the home buying process is to contact your mortgage lender to be pre-qualified for a loan. If you do not have a preferred mortgage lender, please contact us and we can provide you with a list of loan officers for you to choose from. When you speak with your mortgage lender, they will ask you for information about your income, credit score and monthly expenses. During this time, the mortgage lender will be able to estimate the approximate loan amount you qualify for the new home purchase. The mortgage lender will also provide you with detailed information you will need regarding your down payment, closing costs and monthly payments. Based on this information, you can determine the amount of money you want to spend on a new home. Once you and your mortgage lender are satisfied with the mortgage terms, it's time to move to the next step.

Step 2 - Avoid Additional Debt and Changing Jobs

During the time from working with your mortgage loan officer until you close on your new home, you should avoid making additional purchases such as buying a new car or obtaining additional credit cards. Changes such as these will impact your credit score and can change the interest rate that you qualify for and can change your debt to income ratios that may prevent you from purchasing the new home. You should also try to avoid changing jobs during this time period as well as mortgage companies like to see long term employment and may require you to be at your new job at least 30 - 60 days before approving the mortgage loan.

Step 3 - Choose an Experienced Tampa Bay Realtor

Trying to purchase a home on your own can be very stressful and confusing. A local real estate agent has the expertise to help you navigate the real estate market. Many people start searching the internet for their next home, not realizing that some of the information is outdated and the home is already sold. We only display current homes for sale based on the Mid Florida Regional MLS system. Please feel free to use our MLS Search to view homes based on criteria such as price range, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, subdivisions and/or school districts. Our website also has a page that allows you to search by County & City in order to focus on a particular area. You can also contact us and we will set up a free search on the Mid Florida Regional MLS system that will e-mail you immediately or once a day when a home is added to the MLS system keeping you fully informed of homes meeting your search criteria.

Step 4 - Determine the Area You Would Like to Live

The Tampa Bay area includes Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Determining where you would like to live will probably be driven based on proximity to work, hobbies and school districts. Please feel free to use our City Search to help you focus on a particular area. Pinellas County offers close proximity to many of the most beautiful beaches in the United States, shopping, entertainment and home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Hillsborough County is centrally located and is convenient to downtown, the airport, shopping, restaurants and is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Pasco County offers many new subdivisions as well as rural areas and is convenient to beaches, new shopping malls, hospitals and major highways which allows you quick access to the Tampa Bay area. Please feel free to see our Area Information page for more details.

Step 5- Determine your "Needs" and your "Wants"

When you take a few minutes to think about your needs vs. your wants, they will be two different things. Be honest with yourself on the items that you absolutely need in your new home and communicate that with your us. We will work hard for you to find the best possible match at the best price available. Please feel free to use our House Hunter: Pro application to determine your needs and wants based on a 10 point scale. Then, as we visit the properties you will have an opportunity to score each home on its features and this application will help score and help you identify the appropriate home for you and your family. The House Hunter: Pro application will save you time and money by getting to that decision point faster with a real scoring model that works. We are currently the only Tampa Bay Realtors offering this application to buyers free of charge!

Step 6 - Previewing Homes

Once we understand you needs and wants, we will find the most appropriate homes to preview. Some homes require a 24 hour notice, so please communicate your availability in advance so we can plan accordingly. We will schedule the homes for previewing and walk through the homes with you to help point out the features (positive and negatives) in each home. We will assist you and provide as much information as available to us in order for you to make the best decision when purchasing your home.

Step 7 - Making an Offer

We always tell our buyers that when you walk into a house that is for you, you will know it. There is a feeling when you know it's the right house that you say to yourself, I could live here. When this occurs, it's time to act promptly to make an offer. If you love the home, then chances are there are other buyers that will love it too. We want to avoid getting into a bidding war with other buyer and paying more for the home than you needed too. When you make an offer, we will research the neighborhood sales statistics to guide you on a fair offer price based on market conditions. An offer is made up of three elements; Price, terms and contingencies. The price is the amount you are willing to spend for the home, the terms are the items such a financing and timing factors such as inspection periods, etc... The contingencies. are options that allows you to inspect, or perhaps review additional documents that may not have been available during the offer period. Once an offer is submitted, the seller will have three options. They can 1) accept the offer at the current terms and move forward with the purchase, 2) reject the offer or 3) counter your offer with different price, terms or contingencies. If you receive the counter offer, you will have the same three options to respond to the seller. Once all parties agree and all documents are signed, then you will have an executed contract between the buyer and seller. A "Good Faith" deposit or "Earnest Money" deposit will be required. This amount varies based on purchase price and/or seller requirements and can average from $1,000 to $5,000. This deposit is typically held by the title company until closing and is applied to your closing costs that will be due at the closing on your home.

Step 8 - Executed Contract

Once you have an executed contract, we highly recommend you hire a home inspector for approximately $300 - $400. The home inspector will inspect the home to determine what items are operational and which items need repairs. They will also look for some of the major items such as soil movement or settling issues, roof leaks, and wiring and plumbing issues. Every home will have some items that need repaired and it's the home inspectors job to find them. Don't sweat the small priced items, but look closely at the items that may be a larger expense. During this time, your mortgage lender will be collecting your documentation and submitting the loan application to the underwriting department for final approval. They will order a licensed appraiser to perform an appraisal to determine the market value of the home. You will also need to purchase homeowners insurance as required by your mortgage lender.

Step 9 - Closing

The day before or the day of the closing, we will visit the home again to make sure the seller has removed all of the items and the home is in the same condition as when you submitted the offer. During the walk-thru we will also verify all repairs were completed. The closing is normally performed at a title company that the seller selected. The title company representative will explain all of the closing paperwork and answer any questions you may have. You will need to bring a certified check to cover your down payment / closing costs at the time of closing. Once all the paperwork is signed by both parties, the title company representative will present you with the keys to your new home!

Step 10 - Moving In

Congratulations on your new home! Before moving in perhaps it would be an excellent time to paint, make repairs, replace any carpet, etc... while the home is empty. Whether you are moving across town or across the country, you can use the list of moving services to determine the best company for your particular needs.

Now that you are a homeowner, it's time to implement a maintenance plan. It is in your best financial interest to protect your property by watching for water leaks and normal wear and tear items. Performing routine maintenance will be more affordable than an expensive repair down the road.

Once your purchase is complete, it doesn't mean your relationship with us needs to end. We will continue to stay in touch and be a resource for you and your family. Our mission it to be your friends and your agents for LIFE!