Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by your agent will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.
Do you already know where you want to buy? If you want a condo, townhome, or single-family home? Which features do you like and dislike? What’s available on the market now? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to start researching. In addition to looking for homes that interest you, also take note of any changes in asking prices. This could give you valuable insight into housing trends in specific neighborhoods and help you when the time comes to make an offer.
Notice I said to decide on your budget—not determine how much the mortgage company will give you. In many cases, a mortgage company will pre-approve you for more than you’re comfortable spending, which is why you need to determine the monthly payment you feel comfortable with before talking to a lender. This likely includes doing a full household budget and taking into consideration what changes other than a mortgage payment will occur once you move into your new home. If you’ve lived in an apartment or with roommates, you may overlook new expenses like garbage, water, or HOA fees that could easily blow your budget.
Just because you think you can afford a certain payment every month doesn’t mean the mortgage company will agree. Just as they may approve you for too large of an amount, they may also approve you for a lesser amount or deny you a mortgage altogether. Lack of time at a job, insufficient credit, past bankruptcies, or other financial issues can cause major problems when trying to secure a mortgage. Before you get your heart set on a home, talk to a mortgage professional to find out what amount you can qualify for. This will also be an advantage when you make an offer on a home, as some sellers won’t entertain offers from those who aren’t already prequalified for a loan.
Can you shop for, look at, and ultimately make an offer on a home without a real estate agent? Technically yes, but why would you when it costs you nothing for an agent like me to take much of the stress off your shoulders? Not only will I help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but I also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. I may be able to steer you away from certain homes or neighborhoods, suggest hidden gems, or give you pointers that will help you find your dream home for the right price.
This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). I will arrange showings of homes you’re interested in that are within your price range. Take notes about what you like and don’t like, and make sure to pay attention to details. Turn light switches on and off, open and close doors, and run the faucets in various rooms. Don’t limit your inspection to the home itself. Make sure to take time to explore the neighborhood and keep an eye on traffic at certain times of the day, the parking situation, and how close it is to necessities like schools and grocery stores.
Once you have selected the perfect home, work with your agent to craft a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes on the market. Depending on what the home is listed at and whether the current environment is a buyer’s or seller’s market, your offer may be below, at, or even above the asking price. I will be able to help you negotiate if you receive a counteroffer and reach an agreement. At this point, the house will go into escrow.
In most cases, your offer will be contingent on having the home inspected to ensure there is no major structural damage or large repairs needed. I can help you arrange this, and you can schedule it within days of making an offer. If there are no major issues, the process goes to step eight. If there is, you can renegotiate your offer based on what needs to be fixed, or you can withdraw it.
Now is the time to go back to the mortgage lender who pre-approved or pre-qualified you and choose your mortgage. You will be presented with various options based on your unique financial situation, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, 15-year, 30-year, or special programs such as VA loans or FHA loans. Work with your mortgage lender to select the option you feel the most comfortable with.
Your lender will have your new home appraised so they have their independent value of it. The appraisal is to ensure that all parties involved are paying a fair price for the house.
No one looks forward to all the paperwork involved in buying a home, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Fortunately, everything will be arranged by your lender and title company and, when you’re finished, you’ll know you are the legal owner of your new home.
After signing the final paperwork to complete the purchase, you are now the owner of a new house. It may take a few days for your loan to be funded once the paperwork has been returned to the lender, but once that check is delivered to the seller, you’ll be all set to move into the home of your dreams.
Many sales agreements mention asbestos by saying "the buyer is aware asbestos may be used in the construction of this home." This can be a little unsettling. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and when exposed, tiny particles can be released into the air you breathe.
Asbestos is a common insulator used in many homes, and was used for everything from siding to tape wrapping for furnace air ducts and even sometimes in "popcorn" ceilings. There are several remedies that range from the simple to the complex.
Your home inspector can tell you if asbestos is present in easily visible places such as siding, taping, and insulation, and recommend remedies if necessary.
Heating and cooling systems are some of the most important investments you'll ever make in your home. Heating and cooling accounts for 44% of your home's energy use. Various systems include electric, gas, propane, oil, and even wood-fired.
The method of distribution can be forced air, under floor boilers and pipes, baseboard, zonal, gravity, heat pumps, ceiling wires and, of course, wood stove and fireplace. Some have higher purchase prices, while others cost more to maintain or operate.
The more energy efficient an appliance is, the less it costs to run and the lower your utility bills. Use this knowledge to evaluate the asking price of any home. You'll be money ahead as you factor its heat source into any offer!
The most important thing to be aware of with insulation, other than the safety issues of urea formaldehyde and asbestos (covered elsewhere), is the R value, or the insulating factor. The higher the number, the better the insulator.
Don't be too shocked if the insulation in the 15 year old home you are considering isn't near the R value of a brand new home. While there is no question you could save on heating bills by adding more insulation, sometimes it can take many, many years to recoup the costs.
Often, gas or power companies have financial assistance programs including low interest loans or even grants available if you boost your insulation. Talk to your home inspector about any upgrade recommendations before purchasing your next home.
When purchasing a home, you will need to acquire homeowners insurance. In fact, all lenders will require a policy be in force prior to funding the loan. Make sure you have enough coverage, should anything happen. Policies refer to "replacement costs" that may not cover everything.
You should ask your insurance agent a lot of "what if" questions. The deductible amount also plays a big part in setting your premium. Higher deductibles lower the number of claims, and reduce your insurance costs.
Check with your insurance agent for more information on these issues, and any others. If you don't have an insurance agent, we have access to several top-notch agents we can refer you to with confidence.
All sellers with homes built prior to 1978 are required to fill out a lead-based paint disclosure form and provide you, the buyer, with a lead-based paint educational booklet in any sale. Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes.
Lead may cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children 6 years old and under are most at risk, because their bodies are growing quickly.
On the other hand, there are millions of homes with lead paint out there, and many have been painted and repainted several times so the lead paint is well covered up. If in doubt, have the paint tested and evaluated either at a local laboratory, or with one of the home test kits available at your local hardware store.
You will spot several different types of plumbing systems in any housing market, including our own. Copper, galvanized, rigid plastic, polybutylene, and soft plastic are but a few. Certain systems are more prone to having certain problems.
Galvanized water pipe is most prone to rusting on the horizontal surfaces (such as under a floor) versus vertical surfaces (running up a wall) and it corrodes from the inside out. Some rigid plastic systems have been recalled, while others have fared very well.
The most reliable types seem to be made of copper, but again there can be issues to check: are the hangers plastic lined? Are there any lead solder joints? A good home inspector can help you identify any problem areas before you buy. There are several reputable inspectors in our area that I would be happy to refer.
When you are checking out homes, there are several items in our market you need to be aware of - including man-made siding. A lot has been said about L.P.( Louisiana Pacific) OSB (Oriented Strand Board) products, and they have borne most of the bad press.
But did you know that there can be issues not just with LP, but with Omni Board (made by Masonite) Stimson Fortestex, Weyerhauser and others? You need to know, Siding replacement can cost tens of thousands of dollars!
When the time is right, ask us about ASHI home inspectors and the benefits of making your offer contingent upon YOUR approval of a home / siding inspection where necessary.
Many newer homes are now being sided with artificial stucco siding, or EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems). This is essentially polystyrene foam with a base coat, reinforcement mesh, then another base coat and then a finishing coat of stucco over the top. This is a terrific product, as it adds insulation value to the home, not to mention classy looks. However, it can also be a serious and very expensive repair if it isn't installed correctly and/or water gets behind it.
There are several manufacturers of artificial stucco, and many builders installing it. Having it inspected allows you to know if there is a problem, and even if there isn't, you will be aware of the areas you need to keep caulked, and what to look for in case of trouble.
Single pane, double pane, thermo pane, triple pane windows, plain glass, leaded glass, low "e" glass, wired glass, and tempered glass, too. Wow - There's a lot to know!
Some children have been known to shatter a window or two. Tempered glass can prevent this. Fogged thermal pane windows might need to be replaced if their seals are broken. New argon gas filled windows work well to insulate, while low-e coatings reduce the heat transfer for south facing rooms.
There is a lot of information available on the web, but this site seems to be one of the best ones out there. We will be happy to show you the different types of windows and glass as we show you around homes, so be sure to ask us.
The type of wiring in residential homes generally depends on when the home was built, where it was built and if it has been updated. In the older homes, knob and tube type wiring was the norm, replaced later by encased plastic-sheathed wiring.
In most cases the newer plastic-sheathed wiring is copper, insulated with plastic and then wrapped with insulation and another layer of plastic for protection. Breaker boxes are another story; sometimes a well-meaning home owner can inadvertently make things unsafe.
It is always wise to consult a reputable home inspector and even an electrician before you buy. A little homework today can save you a lot of money down the road.
One rule I follow when working with someone is if they practice what they preach. Tim owns the property and fully understands the real estate market. Very patient, informative, and understanding of his client's needs. Thank you!
Working with Tim was a great experience while purchasing my first property. He was extremely helpful in answering questions and walking through many many houses with me before we found one. I would recommend Tim to anyone looki...
Tim was a great partner in helping sell our condo. He was on top of things and always showed that he cared. The transaction was pretty complicated but he was patient and was able to coordinate things to provide us with a good o...
Tim is an old family friend and a fantastic Realtor®. He assisted with the purchase of a house in the Chicagoland area. On top of helping me buy my house, Tim was extremely generous with referrals for a lender, contractor, and ...
I've done 4 transactions with Tim, and all have gone perfectly smooth! Not only has he sold three properties for me, plus helped me find a rental home, he even assisted when I moved from IL to AZ connecting me with a Realtor® f...
Tim Sotis is an amazing Realtor®! He helped us sell our mom's 60-year-old home. He gave expert advice as to what home improvements needed to be done before placing the house on the market and he had all of the contractors neede...
Tim sold 3 properties for me along with purchasing one as well. He's a very hard worker, takes a lot of pride in to what he does, and listens to his clients. He goes out of his way to make sure things go smoothly and makes sure...
Tim Sotis goes above and beyond in helping make the sale of your home possible. In addition, he keeps you updated on everything. He also makes recommendations To ensure the sale of your house promptly. If I ever find myself nee...
Tim and his team are phenomenal. He put in a lot of work to make the deal happen on both selling our home and getting our purchase solved. He is always willing to go above and beyond to solve any (inevitable) issues. Even a mon...
Tim’s team stands out in a world where customer service is a dying art. When I retained Tim to help me downsize, I did not expect such excellent customer support not only from him but the vendors he recommended to get my home r...
This was my first time purchasing a home and Sheena made sure I understood everything along the way. Whenever we had questions she had answers! She is very knowledgeable and just awesome in general! Would definitely recommend h...
We’ve helped buyers, sellers, and investors navigate the residential and commercial realty markets in Chicagoland for over 35 years.