Piermont from the pier

Buying Real Estate: A Primer

Each and every real estate transaction is different, although they all share common elements. Whether you are a first-time buyer or a veteran, you are likely to find this outline of the steps involved in the purchase of real estate helpful. Typically, buyers are very excited about buying a new home, or land on which to build, and they don't take the time to adequately prepare. This can lead to frustration and failed efforts to purchase the property that you really want. I urge you to invest the time and energy to become informed and "ready." You will be happy you did!


I have a bias here, but a good agent will be invaluable to you from beginning to end. Experienced agents who have been in the business for a long time can direct you to other professionals, i.e., mortgage lenders, attorneys, builders, service providers, etc. I have, since 1995, established working relationships with many who I believe are "the best," and I enthusiastically recommend them to my clients. Understand that there is no financial incentive to me if you choose themó¦my "reward" (and yours, too!) is a smooth transaction with few surprises.

I recommend interviewing several agents to find the "right" one. Who is the "right" one? Only you can be the judge, but you should feel comfortable together and communicate effectively. You needn't be best friends, but you should like one another because you are likely to be spending a lot of time together! As you consider agents, heed your intuition and you will probably make a good decision.


Banks, mortgage companies, mortgage brokers, credit unions — all will issue you a written pre-approval, usually at no cost. It's important tounderstand the difference between "pre-qualified" and "pre-approved." Lenders pre-qualify buyers based on information received by them that is subject toverificationóit's helpful, but it has no "teeth." A pre-approval, however, is a commitment to make the loan subject to a satisfactory appraisal and a fully executed Purchase & Sale Contract. It's almost as good as cash and is the strongest position for you to be in when negotiating with a seller. My recommendation is to never go shopping until you are pre-approved!


Now the fun begins! You've found a great agent, you know how much you can afford, and you've found a lender who has committed to loaning you the money. It's now time to meet with your agent to discuss your needs and wants - your "must haves" and "would like to haves." Geographic areas are defined and a price range that is comfortable for you is decided upon. I ask my buyer clients to "paint me a picture" so that I have an understanding that goes beyond the technical specifications of square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, and location. It is with this assembled body of knowledge that I begin the search; by programming my MLS computer with your customized criteria, scouring the papers and magazines for unlisted properties (For Sale By Owners), and initiating other creative methods of locating properties that meet your needs.

All properties that meet your criteria are forwarded to you immediately via email, phone, fax, or mail for your review. If time and market conditions permit, it's best if you drive by the properties prior to making appointments to view them. This enables you to screen locations and neighborhoods to make sure they meet your qualifications. And, I understand that your goals and objectives can change. Constant communication will help me stay focused on your needs so that we can find the property that is right for you.

Finding the "right" property can take days or months. Supply and demand in our market at any given time will have a profound effect on the number of properties that we see, as well as how broad or narrow your search criteria are. As long as you are realistic in your expectations, though, patience and diligence are the keys to success.


Once you have found a property you wish to buy, I will complete a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) which is an objective comparison of similar properties that have sold in the recent past. This should help us understand whether or not the property is fairly priced and to then develop an overall negotiating strategy. It's at this point that we sit down and formalize your interest in the property with written Offer to Purchase that is presented to the seller.

I can't emphasize how critical this component of the entire process is. You must be adequately protected with the inclusion of terms, conditions, and inspection clauses that minimize your risk. All required disclosures must be included and signed. Dates and deadlines must be realistic and carefully considered. It's a "big picture approach" that requires experience and expertise. Make sure your agent has it!


Once the negotiations are over and you and the seller have come to an agreement, the seller’s attorney will draw up a contract and your attorney will review it making any changes necessary to protect you and your position. When we have a fully executed contract (a contract signed by both you and the seller) it is time to take care of the contingencies in the contract that allow you to cancel if they are not satisfied. Examples of a few typical contract contingencies are; home inspection, radon or water test, identification of property boundaries, review of covenants or easements, septic inspection, mortgage appraisal and financing approval. Occasionally, some of these items will be addressed prior to a contract being fully executed.

Your attorney will request a title search of the property you are buying and get a title opinion that is a legal overview based on research at municipal offices. Any easements, deed restrictions, liens, or title "defects" are included in this title opinion. And, if there are defects that would prevent the transfer from happening, your attorney notifies the seller, or the seller's attorney, who assumes the responsibility of fixing the problems.

Making sure all the contingencies are satisfied and coordinating, scheduling, attending, and follow-up of all inspections is part of my job - you are not left to take care of all these details on your own! In addition, we will make sure all contracts, addenda, notices and paperwork are properly signed and/or initialed, and that all appropriate parties receive copies. The paperwork and follow-up requirements for a real estate transaction can be complex and daunting - your agent needs to be "on task" for these very important details throughout the transaction.


The closing takes place once all the contract contingencies have been satisfied and the lender has issued you a formal commitment for financing. You will be “clear to close” and the closing can be scheduled.

Prior to the actual closing, you will need to; contact utilities to arrange for future billings to be sent to you, purchase a fire and hazard insurance policy (Homeowner's Policy), discuss title insurance options with your attorney, and make sure you have the necessary funds needed to close in the form of a certified check. Once again, I will be there to help you accomplish all of these tasks. And, I will accompany you at the pre-closing walk-through - usually the day before, or the day of, the closing. This important last minute detail ensures that the property is in substantially the same condition as when you contracted to purchase it, and that any agreed upon repairs have been completed.

The actual closing takes place at the bank, a mortgage company, or closing attorney's office. Your attorney will attend the closing and explain in some detail all of the documents you will be signing. And, once all the papers are signed, you are the new owner!