Working With Your Realtor
Mortgage Information: If you will be financing the purchase of your home with a mortgage and already have a lender, go ahead and get pre-qualified so that you and your Realtor know the price range that you will be working with.
If you do not already have a relationship with a lender, your Realtor can refer you to one or more firms that they know and trust. Since the vast majority of real estate purchases are financed, your Realtor likely knows which firms are best equipped to fit your particular situation.
Getting Started: Your Realtor will ask you to sign a Confirmation of Agency form, which contains detailed information about the responsibility of your Realtor under Tennessee law, an Explanation of Terms, and a form to be signed prior to preparing any offer to purchase. This is not a contract which obligates you, but simply a statement of which agent is working for which party, or that the Realtor is acting as a facilitator in the transaction. If offers are made on multiple properties, a separate form must be used for each property.
You may also be asked to sign a buyer agency agreement, which can be exclusive or non-exclusive.
Finding the Right Property
Assess your needs: Having established your price range through lender prequalification, the next step is to recognize what you must have, what you need, and what's most important to you. Typical questions are the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, and geographic area.
You may want to tell your realtor if you have your heart set on a newer home, or if you're willing to consider one that is older in order to gain more square footage or amenities for the price.
Finding your home: Your realtor will utilize a number of different sources, including the Multi-Listing Service (MLS), an online, searchable database of all area properties listed for sale. However, real estate professionals network extensively, and are often aware of opportunities before they are available to the public.
He or she will also be able to offer relevant information that the MLS does not provide — nearby schools, parks, commute time, or resale values may prove to be important considerations.
Purchasing your Home
The Offer: Your realtor can offer expert guidance on how much to offer on a given property based on a number of factors, including how long the property has been on the market, the overall pace of home sales in the area, and how competitively the property is priced. He or she acts as your liasion to the listing agent, who in turn represents the seller.
It's common to have one or more counter offers, and your realtor can advise you of options that may be available to sweeten the offer without necessarily raising the price. Soon after the offer is accepted, it will be necessary for you to place a small deposit (earnest money) in escrow, written to your realtor. That money is kept in a separate account, and cannot be removed until the sale is completed or cancelled.
Closing the Sale: Once the purchase terms have been successfully negotiated, your realtor continues as your advocate in ensuring that a home inspection is properly completed with findings to your satisfaction, and that a number of legal requirements are met. These include a lead-based paint assessment (for homes constructed prior to 1979), ensuring that there is a clear title to the property, and many other conditions.
When these items are completed, a closing date is set where all parties meet to exchange signatures and payment is made. At that point, congratulations — it's all yours!