A: The first part of the process begins with a call to your favorite mortgage company, bank or lending institution. If you need some suggestions we have plenty to refer you to. You should get pre-approved. That way we can find houses in the right price range for you. If you begin before going to the bank and start by looking at $200,000 houses, only to find out they will only approve you for $125,000, you will be disappointed with any house you see.
Q: What is the difference between prequalification and preapproval?
A: Loan prequalification is a simple process. It takes into account very basic information regarding your financial status and gives you an amount for which you may qualify. Prequalification gives the Realtor® and you a price range in which to begin your search for a home.
Preapproval is a much more involved process. The lender will take all pertinent information regarding your finances and perform an extensive check of your current financial status. From this they will ultimately determine the exact amount for which you will be eligible and what type of loan is best for you... Being preapproved lets the seller know that you have gone through an extensive financial background check and there should be no unexpected obstacles to buying the home. You can see how being preapproved would be more attractive to a seller than just being prequalified.
Q: Do I have to call the listing company or listing agent of the property I would like to see it?
A: No, we participate in a Multiple listing Service (MLS). Participants in an MLS pool their inventory and cooperate with other Realtors® to give you a wider selection. You can work with one agent, who will have a better feel for what type of home you are looking. This helps save time, because the agents tour new listings weekly, thus we have knowledge of the properties that will meet your needs. We can then call the other agencies to set up appointments to look at all the properties in which you are interested all at one time or whenever your schedule allows.
Q: The bank says that I am qualified up to $200,000. Will that be the price range of houses you will show me?
Not necessarily. You don't want to be "house poor", meaning that you are working strictly to be able to make your house payments. We will only show you properties that you are comfortable with the payments. If they say you can buy a $200,000 house, but the most you are comfortable making the payments for is $140,000, then we will look at homes in the $140,000 range.
Q: You found the perfect house for me. Now what do I do?
A: We come to the office and start writing the offer. When writing the offer, there are many items to consider. How long has the house been on the market? How badly do I want the house? How motivated is the seller, but more importantly, how motivated am I? One thing you want to avoid is putting in a "lowball" offer. This will irritate sellers, as they will not think you are a serious buyer and may not even counter your offer. If it's absolutely the perfect house for you and you want to be sure you get the house, offer a respectable price. This usually, but not always, buys the house. Sometimes multiple offers will come in and then the battles begin. That is where being preapproved vs. prequalified can come into play.
Q: What if I write an offer, but can't get my loan. What happens?
A: Offers are written contingent on your being able to get financing for the house at acceptable terms. If you cannot get the financing, the contract becomes void and your earnest money is returned.
Q: Earnest money, what's that?
When you write an offer on a property you put down earnest money, kind of like a down payment, to show the seller you are serious about buying the property. This amount is usually a minimum of 1% of the price you are offering, depending on the price of the property. This amount is applied toward the purchase price at closing. If you have a change of heart or get buyer's remorse and back out of the contract, the seller is entitled to the earnest money as liquidated damages at the very least.
Q: What if I make an offer on a property, but it doesn't appraise for the amount of the offer?
A: If the property does not appraise, then you will not be able to get the loan, so your earnest money would be returned. However, if the property does not appraise for you, it probably would not appraise for other buyers, unless a different appraiser has a different opinion. The seller will probably consider selling for the appraised price.