Morris, a D.C. real estate agent and investor, writes an occasional column aimed at demystifying the home-buying process. In the second of two columns, Morris discusses what buyers can expect after their offer is accepted.
Hooray! Your contract has been accepted. What happens now?
Having realistic expectations at this part of the process is particularly important because the dynamic of the transaction quickly shifts once the contract is ratified.
The countdown to closing begins and the focus is now on meeting the contractual deadlines and completing the financial approval process. Understandably, this can be a stressful time and the best case scenario is when everything goes according to plan. But the reality is that often the only thing that is predictable about the home buying process is that very little is predictable.
Understanding the steps in the process, while anticipating some level of uncertainty is the best course of action. Many of the crucial stages of the transaction, like the inspections and the title work, are just getting started.
No one knows at this point what the outcomes will be and unrealistic expectations, incorrect assumptions and the resulting heightened negative emotions will almost certainly guarantee an unhappy experience, even if you’re successful in purchasing the property. As much as possible stay positive, be responsive, keep your end goals in mind, and remember that although this may feel personal, it’s business.
Here are some tips to help you successfully complete the transaction:
- Expect quick deadlines and reams of required documents from your lender.
Once you find your home of choice and your offer is accepted, the process accelerates dramatically. Home purchases in the D.C. area typically take about 30 days from the date of contract ratification to settlement. A lot has to be accomplished during that time, and being flexible and responding quickly to requests from your real estate agent, title company and mortgage lender are key to making sure all of the many deadlines and requirements are met.
Be prepared for daily requests for financial and other personal documents from your lender up until the day of settlement. During this tedious process, try to remember that your lender is not the enemy, but rules are rules and required documents must be provided. They will require more financial information than you can imagine. Provide whatever they need as quickly as you can.
Once the application process has started, do not deposit any money other than your paycheck into your account without discussing it with your lender first. Every cent that goes into your account from that point on will have to be explained, in writing and proof of the source of the funds provided.
Do not open any new credit accounts or make any big purchases until after settlement, with “big” being a relative term. Doing so may affect your debt-to-income ratios or negatively impact your credit score.
- Your attitude can make or break a deal.
I’ve seen situations in which a buyer dislikes the sellers before even meeting them, imagining character flaws or sinister motives based on the most minute of interactions. Likewise, buyer’s agents can approach the transaction like the listing agent is the enemy and decisions during negotiations are theirs to make and not their clients.
Try to remember that pleasantness and professionalism are not signs of weakness and, in fact, keeping your cool is a sign of strength. Don’t ever assume that you are the only buyer out there or that your high or all-cash offer will compensate for your attitude and behavior. I’ve seen rude buyers and/or rude agents with higher offers get passed over because of the negative impression they generated.
- Expect delays.
Although the real estate sales contract spells out pretty clearly how the transaction should go, inevitably something unexpected will happen. Expect delays and build time for them into your plans. Do not schedule your move to your new home a day or two or even a week after closing. Factor potential delays into your moving plans so that you’re not forced to move out of your apartment or cancel movers at the last minute.
Your lender may take longer to close than expected; title issues may be found that need to be cleared up; the sellers’ purchase of their next home may run into trouble; the potential issues are endless and time to fix them may be required. Expect something to happen, and if nothing does, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Understanding the rules of the game, having realistic expectations, and using that information to your advantage can help you successfully navigate an often complicated and stressful process.
Djana Morris is a real estate agent with Long & Foster and a real estate investor. You can contact Djana through her Web site: www.WhereToLiveInDC.com.