10 Steps to Buying a Home in New Jersey
Thinking of buying a home in Westfield or one of its surrounding Northern New Jersey communities? Make sure you know what to expect—whether you’re a first-time buyer or a real estate aficionado. Here are all the steps you need to know for buying a home.
Step 1: Figure Out What You Can Afford
Determine what you’ll be able to afford in mortgage payments each month, as well as what you can invest initially as a down payment. This handy mortgage calculator can help you estimate your monthly payments.
Keep in mind additional costs like closing costs, fees, homeowners insurance, and taxes will all add to the overall costs. Be sure to check your credit score, and remember that just because you don’t have a traditional 20% down payment, doesn’t mean you can’t buy a home!
Step 2: Shop for a Loan & Get Preapproved
Finding a trustworthy lender and determining what type of loan you’ll qualify for will help you figure out how much home you can actually afford. Get recommendations from me or check with the Better Business Bureau, and be sure to talk to at least three or four lenders before making a decision.
Need recommendations for lenders in and around Westfield? Just ask me!
Step 3: Find Out the Selling Price of Homes in Your Location
If you have a preferred location or neighborhood, determine the actual selling price of homes in that area—not just their listing price—to confirm whether you can actually afford that location.
Have a particular neighborhood in New Jersey you’d like to check? Request your neighborhood sold report here!
Step 4: Find an Agent
You don’t have to work with an agent—but it is extremely recommended. Your agent should be someone you know you can trust, an expert on real estate in your area and neighborhood, and very proficient in working with buyers of your experience. Meet with your agent and have a consultation to establish what homes and towns would meet your requirements. While the big sites can provide you with homes for sale, a licensed Realtor can provide the same information, let you know when homes are no longer available to be shown (the Attorney Review period is not shown on the biggest sites, only MLS). A Realtor can also preview homes for your and give you advice about purchase prices and locations.
Step 5: Find Your Home
This is the fun part, where you get to tour homes. Remember to make notes, and really hone in on your perfect dream home! Make sure you keep detailed records of the homes you visit, noting things you liked, didn’t like, pros and cons, etc. Taking pictures can also help keep your memory fresh. I offer my clients a Buyers' Book that gives information on each home they tour and room to add personal notes.
Buying a home in Westfield or Northeastern New Jersey? Start searching for your dream home today!
Step 6: Make an Offer
When you find that perfect home, work with your agent to determine a competitive but reasonable offering price. You’ll want to choose a number that is comfortably within your price range, but also won’t cause the seller to immediately reject your offer and can compete with any other offers the seller might receive. Your Realtor can check with a listing agent to ask questions and find out whether there are other offers on a home. Realtors also write up offers and guide you through signing the necessary disclosures. Work closely with your Realtor to allow them to negotiate the very best offer for you. Sometimes it's not just about price!! The Realtors will also ensure that signatures are obtained on the final agreed offer.
Step 7: Attorney Review
In New Jersey, after an offer is accepted the Realtors, for both buyers and sellers, send the contracts and disclosures to Attorneys of their clients' choice for review. This time is called Attorney Review and the attorneys firm up the contracts and make sure their clients have the best terms possible. During this time, nothing is finalized. Once the attorneys and their clients have agreed on the contracts, they will have you "sign off" and you will no longer be in Attorney Review.
Step 8: Under Contract
With Attorney Review completed, you now enter a stage known as being "Under Contract". Deposits will be requested (the first stage of the money that you will be putting down and is not part of the mortgage) which are generally sent to Attorneys. You will also need to book a home inspector and proceed with your mortgage application. Home Inspections are a contingency to the contract which need to be satisfied. Ask your realtor to recommend trusted home inspectors to check through the house and check for any potential defects or problems. In New Jersey, it is generally recommended that you also have an inspection for wood destroying insects, radon and abandoned oil tanks. A home inspection is to discover structural, mechanical or environmental problems - it's not for cosmetics. If necessary, you can request through attorneys that the seller repair any issues you find. Your attorney will also order a Title Search to ensure a clean title on the house before closing.
Step 9: Finalize Your Mortgage Approval
Work with your chosen lender to submit your mortgage application, review predicted closing costs, and have the home appraised. The bank will send an appraiser to the home to ensure that you have paid a reasonable price. They will generally use comparison sales of similar homes that have sold in the past 6 months within a 2 mile radius of the home. Once the home has appraised, your personal information and the information on the home will go to the bank's Under Writing department to prepare for closing. Common closing costs include attorney fees, title insurance, appraisal fees, home inspection fees, courier fees, government recording fees, and taxes.
Step 10: Close & Pay
It’s time to close! Make sure you change the utilities into your name for the closing date. Cancel any utility accounts you may be paying for a previous home and remember to have the Post Office forward your mail. Don't forget you will have to contact your bank to arrange for the final deposit for closing. Before closing, you will meet your agent at the house and conduct a "walk through" when you assure the home is clean and in the same condition it was when you purchased it. Your agent will then accompany you to your attorney's office to finalize the paperwork, sign your contracts, and pay your final down payment and closing costs. Be prepared for a whole lot of signing!! Finally—the keys to your new home!
Still Have Questions or Ready to Get Started?
If you’re thinking of buying a home in Westfield or Northeastern New Jersey, then it’s time to contact Jackie Safran. I'm your local real estate expert, and not only can I answer all your buying questions, I can help connect you with the resources you need to make an informed decision so you’re sure to find your dream home at just the right price.