Here is a quick FishHawk Real Estate Buyers Guide. It should give you a good starting place when buying a home. Remember this just a quick list and guide, your REALTOR® will assist and guide you through this fun and exciting process.
- Begin the Process
- Get Pre-Approved
- Choose a Location
- Find a FishHawk Realtor and Begin Your Search
- View the Property
- Make an Offer
- Preparing to Closing
1. Begin the Process
Beginning the process is easy. You need to decide you want to buy a home. Please check out our 5 Questions to Ask Yourself to See If You Are Ready to Buy a Home to determine if you are ready to buy a home. Before you begin looking at homes, a mortgage pre-approval is a must. From there you will need to create a budget and figure out much money per month you are comfortable spending. Keep in mind while figuring out your budget that you will have additional expenses in addition to the principle mortgage payment. You will have property taxes, hazard insurance, utilities and possibly HOA and CDD costs. Each property will be a little different but in general single-family homes in FishHawk Ranch incur HOA expenses in the $100 to $300 a year range and the CDD is between $1200 and $2500 per year. The CDD is typically a 20 year bond so once the home is 20 years old the CDD will no longer be charged. If you are interested in a specific property and want to know the exact HOA and CDD, contact me, I will be happy to break it down for you. Also you will need to be prepared for closing costs and a down payment. Closing costs vary greatly but can be as high as 6% of the purchase price of the home. In some cases you may be able to negotiate the seller covering up to 3% of the closing cost. Your down payment can range from 0% for a USDA loan to 20% for a conforming loan with no mortgage insurance. Fannie Mae now offers a 3% down payment loan and FHA offer a 3.5% down payment loan. Just keep in mind you will need a down payment and closing costs in order to close on the property. Your lender will go into further detail with you.
2. Get Pre-Approved
This is the first serious step to buying a home. Unless you are paying cash for the entire amount of the property you will need a loan. Find a lender, credit union or mortgage broker and get a mortgage pre-approval. Some mortgage professionals like to do a mortgage pre-qualification but ask for a mortgage pre-approval. It takes a little more time and requires additional information and paperwork from you but it is well worth the extra time. In today’s real estate market most sellers require a mortgage pre-approval when any offer is submitted. If for some reason the seller does not require a pre-approval, having one will give you strength when negotiating and confidence when you submit an offer. In general there is no charge to get a pre-approval.
A mortgage pre-approval will give you a really good idea of how much of a mortgage loan you will qualify for. That does not mean you should find a home at the top range of what you can afford. It just means it is what you can qualify for. This along with your budget and what you are comfortable spending each month should dictate the price range of the homes you will be searching for. Be sure to discuss your mortgage options with your mortgage professional. There are a lot of different mortgage options and products available like adjustable rate, fixed rate or interest-only mortgages. Unless you are an investor or only planning to be in a home for a short time a fixed rate loan is probably your safest bet. With mortgage rates at historical lows there is really no savings by getting an adjustable rate mortgage. The are many different mortgage lengths you can choose from, 15 year, 20 year, 30 year etc., find the one that is right for you, your goals and your budget. Choose the lender or mortgage broker you feel comfortable with. You will be dealing with the person a lot and by the time you are finished you will feel like they know as much about you as your doctor does.
Most REALTORS® will not start showing you homes until you have a mortgage pre-approval or pre-qualification completed. Mainly there are two reasons for this. One, they want to make sure you are looking at homes you can truly afford and in your price range. And two, in general a buyer that gets a pre-approval is less likely to be a safety risk for the REALTOR®. Remember that a mortgage pre-approval is not a guarantee the final loan will be approved but it is a great starting place.
Once you start thinking about purchasing a home here are the 10 real estate mortgage rules to follow:
- Do not change jobs, become self-employed or quit your job.
- Do not buy a car, truck or van (if you do I hope you really like it, you may be living in it)!
- Do not use charge cards excessively or let your accounts fall behind (try to keep balances under 50% of the available credit).
- Do not spend money you have set aside for closing.
- Do not omit debts or liabilities from your loan application.
- Do not buy any furniture, appliances or any other large items.
- Do not originate any inquiries into your credit (don’t apply for a car loan etc.).
- Do not make large deposits without first checking with your loan officer (you will need a paper trail of the money).
- Do not change bank accounts.
- Do not co-sign a loan for anyone.
Try to keep your debt low and your available credit high. If you need a mortgage referral let me know. I will be happy to point you toward some more professionals that I have used before and that I trust.
To help you prepare for a mortgage application I’ve created a Mortgage Application Items Needed Checklist. This will assist you in gathering the needed paperwork for your loan.
3. Choose a Location
Location, location, location. I’m guessing that because you are looking at the FishHawk Real Estate Buyer’s Guide you are probably thinking about buying in the FishHawk Ranch area. If so, I think that is a great choice, if not, finding the right area and neighborhood is a very important ingredient to finding the right home for you. Think about your commute, schools, your daily activities and the things you would like to be near and do. Whether you like the water, nature parks or amusement parks, there’s a neighborhood for everyone. Choose a location that will enrich your daily life and provide you and your family with the things you care about most.
If there is a certain area or neighborhood other than FishHawk Ranch that you are interested in, let me know. I will be happy to provide you with a neighborhood report for that area. For your convenience I have already compiled a FishHawk area schools page and FishHawk Neighborhood Report.
Create a wish list of the things you want in your next home. This can include a particular number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, how many car garage, pool, etc. You can focus on certain features you can’t live without—like an outdoor kitchen, pool, walk-in closets or granite counter tops. Use my free MLS Home Search tool to start gathering a list of homes that match your criteria.
Last but certainly not least interview and hire a local REALTOR® to help you with your home search and negotiations. Please take a look at 15 Great REALTOR® Interview Questions to assist you with this task. Make sure you are comfortable with them and that they are experts in the area you will be searching in. A great REALTOR® will know the home values, amenities, builders, schools etc. Remember as a buyer, hiring a REALTOR® to help you is usually free. One question I get asked all the time is can I use a REALTOR® if I am purchasing new construction? The answer is not only can you but you absolutely should! Remember that the agent onsite at the builder’s model works for and represents the builder. It is very important that you have qualified representation as well.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a few favorites, visit each property with your REALTOR®. Personally I try not to show more than 5 homes in any given day. Anymore than that starts to get confusing as one house tends to run into another. A good REALTOR® will print out copies of the MLS listings for you so you can have important information at your finger tips when viewing the homes. Take notes on your copy of the MLS listing to help recall what you liked and did not like about each house. If you like house B better than house A move house B to the top of the pile and house A to the bottom. While at the home give each room a good walk-through and imaging yourself living there. Sometime you need to use a little vision. Don’t get discouraged or sidetracked by things you can easily change like wall color, appliances, carpeting and landscaping. Once you’ve found your dream home get ready for the next step and Make an Offer! I cannot stress this enough right now, this is currently a sellers market so once you find the home of your dreams move fast because that home may go under contract FAST!
Once you’ve chosen a property, you’ll need to make an offer. As noted earlier it is a sellers market and you need to act fast. Your REALTOR® should do comps of the area and guide you on an offer price that you are comfortable with. There will probably be some negotiation and back and forth on the price. This is normal and for me one of the most fun parts of the buying process. Do not make a low-ball offer on a house you really want. If you do you run the risk of insulting the seller and losing the home forever. Remember this may have been the seller’s dream home at one point and the home raised their family in. They are probably looking for someone that will care for the home the same way they did. You are much better off making a low-side offer that entices the seller just enough to accept. Making the offer and the following negotiation in my opinion is a science. Ask me an I will be happy to explain the science to you.
Once you and the seller have agreed on a price, you will receive an executed contract. You’ll need to make an earnest money deposit (EMD) which will go into escrow. In the Tampa Bay area the earnest money deposit is generally around $1000 – $3000 for a financed offer. Deposit amounts can vary in different areas. The larger the deposit the more serious the seller will view the offer. The deposit serves as a sign of good faith to the seller that you are serious about purchasing the property. In the Tampa Bay area your deposit money will be held by a third party usually a Title Company or Attorney of the Seller’s choice while you finalize your inspections, financing and prepare to close on the property.
The last steps before closing involve a survey (if the seller does not have a current one), appraisal, inspections and title search. If not paying cash at this point you are probably waiting on your financing to get finalized. Financing typically takes anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to complete. During the financing process be prepared to prove your finances, maybe multiple times! At a minimum you will need the last 2 years of tax returns, 2 months of bank statements and generally your last 2 pay stubs. The lender will probably call your employer to check your current employment status right before closing. Once the underwriting of your loan is complete and the lender feels you are qualified they will give a Clear to Close. Each title company closes a little different so they will give your REALTOR® instructions on what they will need for you to close. You will need to prove your ID and in most cases have funds wired to the title company in advance. The day before closing, after the seller is fully moved out of the house you and your REALTOR® will want to do a final walk through of the home. This walk through is to make sure the home is left as per the contract. You want to verify that all the appliances that are suppose to remain have been left, all personal property has been removed, the home is broom clean and that there was no damage done to the home between the time you went under contract to the walk through.
Finally! The closing is here!! Typically 72 business hours from the Clear to Close, you can close on the property. On closing day, you’ll sign contracts to finalize the mortgage, pay the seller, and pay closing costs. Now, the property title will be transferred to you and you can move into your new home! Unless it is a Fannie Mae home you typically get the keys to your new home at the closing table. Remember if this is your primary residence to apply for a Homestead Property Tax Exemption. You can do that at the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Website.
As a special thank you for my buyers. If you buy a home using me as your REALTOR® I will ensure you receive a 1 year home warranty on the home you buy. This will give you some additional peace of mind buying your new home! Please click on the photo and print out the coupon. Do me a favor and ensure you get it to me 2 weeks prior to closing so I can ensure the home warranty is setup for you.
I hope you found the FishHawk Real Estate Buyers Guide helpful. If you have any specific questions feel free to contact me, I will be happy to answer them for you.
If you are looking for a great FishHawk REALTOR®, I am at your service! It would be my pleasure to assist you with buying your home.
You are now on your way to finding the home of your dreams. Have fun and good luck!