Buying 101 01

Buying 101:

Follow these ten steps to a successful home purchase.

Do You Know What You Want?

Whether you are a first-time home buyer or entering the marketplace as a repeat buyer, you need to ask why you want to buy. Are you planning to move to a new community due to a lifestyle change or is buying an option and not a requirement? What would you like in terms of real estate that you do not now have?  Do you have a purchasing timeframe?

Whatever your answers, the more you know about the real estate marketplace, the more likely you are to effectively define your goals. As an interesting exercise, it can be worthwhile to look at the questions above and to then discuss them in detail when meeting with local REALTORS®.

More than 2 million people in the United States have earned real estate licenses.

However, real estate is a tough business with a steep dropout rate, and the result is that only a small percentage of those with licenses actively help buyers and sellers.

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) includes 1 million brokers and salespeople, individuals bound together with a strong Code of Ethics, extensive training opportunities and a wealth of community information. NAR members are routinely active in PTAs, local government committees and a variety of neighborhood organizations. Being actively involved in community affairs provides REALTORS® with a better understanding of the area in which they are selling.

Few people can buy a home for cash. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), nearly nine out of 10 buyers finance their purchase, which means that virtually all buyers -- especially first-time purchasers -- required a loan.

The real issue with real estate financing is not getting a loan (virtually anyone willing to pay lofty interest rates can find a mortgage). Instead, the idea is to get the loan that's right for you -- the mortgage with the lowest cost and best terms.

Millions of new and existing homes are sold each year. There's no shortage of housing options, but with so many choices the challenge becomes finding the property which best meets your needs. The housing market is complicated because the stock of homes for sale is always in flux. If it were possible to have a complete list of every home for sale at this very moment in a given community, such a list would become obsolete within seconds as new homes become available and properties now for sale are put under contract.

There's no doubt that choosing a home is a big decision and you want to do it right. As a buyer, here's what actually happens. A home has been placed on the market for which the seller has established an asking price as well as other terms. In effect, this is an offer. At this point, you have three choices: accept the seller's offer and create a contract; reject it and not make an offer; or suggest different terms and make a counter-offer. If you choose this last option, the seller may accept, reject or make a counter-offer.

Often the cost of real estate financing is routinely greater than the original purchase price of a home (after including interest and closing costs). Because financing is so important, buyers should have as much information as possible regarding mortgage options and costs.

Realtor.com® provides consumers with extensive mortgage information as well as a variety of loan calculators. Local REALTORS® can provide mortgage information, discuss financing options and recommend loan sources. In addition, some REALTORS® also originate loans.

REALTOR® groups, working with legal counsel, have developed forms that are appropriate for realty transactions in specific communities. Such documents include numerous sale conditions and their wording should be carefully reviewed to assure that they reflect the terms you want to offer. REALTORS® can explain the general contracting process in your community as well as his or her role.

While much attention is spent on offering prices, a proposal to buy includes both the price and terms. In some cases, terms can represent thousands of dollars in additional value for buyers -- or additional costs. Terms are extremely important and should be carefully reviewed.

No one would drive a car without insurance, so it figures that no homeowner should be without insurance.

The essential idea behind various forms of real estate insurance is to protect owners in the event of catastrophe. If something goes wrong, insurance can be the bargain of a lifetime.

Go to any local courthouse and you can find property records detailing real estate ownership in your community -- sometimes records that date back hundreds of years. These records are important because they provide today's owners with proof that they have good, marketable and insurable title to the property they are selling.

Equally important, such records enable buyers to provide proof of ownership when they sell.

You've done it. You've looked at properties, made an offer, obtained financing and gone to closing. The home is yours. Is there any more to the home buying process?  Whether you're a first-time buyer or a repeat buyer, there are several more steps you'll want to take. Those papers you received at settlement are extremely valuable, so hold on to them! In the short-term they can help establish tax deductions for the year in which the property was purchased. In the future, such papers will be important for tax purposes when the property is sold, and in some cases, for calculating estate taxes.

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