While the year 2020 has presented some major challenges for many people, there have been some upsides as well. For instance, interest rates have set record lows a few times this year, creating a rare opportunity, especially for first time home buyers. So what does the buying process look like in the Boston area?
Once you have spoken with your real estate agent and identified neighborhoods and types of properties you are interested in, and established a price range through your lender, here is a general overview*:
1. Start viewing homes. Visiting open houses and viewing properties by appointment with your agent are both great ways to see available options. Our website is a great place to search homes available for sale in the Boston area.
2. Make an offer. Once you’ve found a property you are interested in, make an offer. This is one of the most important steps in the process. Your real estate agent will provide you with a market analysis to help determine a price to offer, guide you through the various aspects such as timing and contingencies, and help position the offer as strongly as possible. Generally, a $1,000 deposit is due with the offer and the seller is usually given a 24 hour deadline to respond.
3. Home inspection. When the offer is accepted, a home inspection is typically the next step, and usually takes place within 7-10 days of an accepted offer.
4. Review condominium documents (if applicable) and other items. This is also the time when you generally review the condominium documents (if you are purchasing a condo). Your attorney should review them as well. The master deed, declaration of trust, rules and regulations, condo budget and recent condo meeting minutes can all provide important context on the building – for instance, is the association budgeting for capital improvements, are there any restrictions on renting out the condominium, are there are pet restrictions, etc. This usually takes place within 7-14 days of an accepted offer.
5. Sign the Purchase and Sale Agreement (P&S). The P&S sets out, in greater detail than the offer, the terms of the purchase/sale. With the P&S, the deposit also increases – typically, the deposit is increased from the $1,000 deposit made with the offer to 5% of the purchase price (though this can vary greatly). Generally, the P&S is signed within around 14 days of the accepted offer.
6. Obtain your mortgage commitment letter. Throughout the process, you will be working with your lender to provide them the information that they need to approve the loan. The lender’s approval is given to you in a “commitment letter”, which they typically issue to you within 30-45 day of the accepted offer. Note that this timeframe varies depending on current processing times, so check with your lender. Commitment letters also typically contain conditions, so they are not a “guarantee” of financing – this is also something you should discuss with your lender. Here is a list of some common mistakes to avoid while your mortgage is in process.
7. The final walk-through. Usually done the day before or the morning of the closing, the final walk-through is a short visit to the property (usually 10-15 minutes) to ensure it is in the condition that was expected (e.g. any repairs that were required to be made have been done, furniture has been moved out, appliances are all still in place, etc.).
8. CLOSING! This is when you sign A LOT of documents. But once the deed is recorded, the home is officially yours!
* Please note that while this is a general outline, there is no one-size-fits-all. The steps, deposit amounts and timeframe will all vary case-by-case. Closings may happen quicker, for instance if you are paying with cash, or slower. For guidance on your particular transaction, have a discussion with your real estate professional.