FishHawk Real Estate Buyers Guide
The Home Buying Process
Below is a quick FishHawk Real Estate Buyers Guide detailing the home buying process. This process should give you a good starting point and idea of what to expect when purchasing a home. This is just a quick list and guide. I will be working with you to 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 Close
1. Begin the Process
Beginning the home buying process is simple. You need to decide you want to buy a home. Please check out my 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 how much money per month you are comfortable spending. While you are working on your budget please factor in the following expenses. You will have your mortgage payment, property taxes, hazard insurance, utilities, and in a lot of communities, HOA and CDD fees. Each property will be a little different, but in general, for single-family homes in FishHawk Ranch, HOA expenses are usually in the $50 to $450 a year range, and the CDD is between $1200 and $3000 per year. The CDD is typically a 20 or 30-year bond, so once the home is 20 (30 on some of the newer built homes) years old, the CDD will no longer be charged. (Not the entire CDD amount will go away). 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.
Additionally, you will need to be prepared for closing costs, prepaid items, and a down payment. Closing costs do vary, they usually are between 3% to 6% of the purchase price of the home. In some cases, I may be able to negotiate the seller covering up to 3% of the closing cost and prepaid items. Your down payment can range from 0% for a USDA and VA loan to 20% for a conforming loan with no mortgage insurance. Fannie Mae now offers a 3% down payment loan, and FHA offers a 3.5% down payment loan. Just keep in the back of your mind that will need a down payment and closing costs to be able to close on the property.
2. Get Pre-Approved
A mortgage pre-approval 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. In today’s real estate market, most sellers require a mortgage pre-approval when an offer is submitted. Some sellers even require it before they will approve a showing request on their home. 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 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. The pre-approval, 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 historic lows, there are very little savings by getting an adjustable-rate mortgage. There are many different mortgage lengths you can choose from, 15 years, 20 years, 30 years, 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 that person a lot, and by the time you are finished, you will feel like they know as much about you as your doctor does.
Once you start thinking about purchasing a home, here are the ten 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 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, please let me know. I will be happy to point you toward some more professionals that I have used before and that I trust.
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 heard about FishHawk Ranch and are thinking about buying somewhere in the FishHawk Ranch area. The FishHawk area is home to some of the best neighborhoods in Tampa. Finding the right area and community is an essential ingredient in 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 want 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 particular 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 compiled a FishHawk area schools page.
Create a wishlist of the things you want in your next home. The wishlist can include a particular number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, how many car garage, pool, etc. You can focus on specific features you can’t live without—like an outdoor kitchen, pool, walk-in closets, or granite countertops. Use my free MLS Home Search tool to start gathering a list of homes that match your criteria. You can also search for FishHawk Ranch homes that are for sale a price range search below.
- FishHawk Ranch Homes For Sale up to $200,000
- FishHawk Ranch Homes For Sale $200,000 to $300,000
- FishHawk Ranch Homes For Sale $300,000 to $400,000
- FishHawk Ranch Homes For Sale $400,000 to $500,000
- FishHawk Ranch Homes For Sale $500,000 to $800,000
- FishHawk Ranch Homes For Sale over $800,000
Last but certainly not least, interview and hire a local REALTOR® that is an expert in the area that you are searching to represent you, 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. An excellent 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. You must have qualified representation as well.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a few favorites, visit each property with your REALTOR®. I try to limit the home showings to around six homes (there, of course, are exceptions) on any given day. Any more 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 relevant information at your fingertips 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 prefer house B over house A, move house B to the top of the pile and house A to the bottom. While touring the home, give each room a good walk-through and imagine yourself living there. Sometimes you need to use a little vision. Don’t get discouraged or sidetracked by simple items that you can easily change, like the 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. It is currently a seller’s 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 seller’s market, and you need to act fast. If I am your REALTOR®, I will most likely know what I think each home we are in should sell for. If you are not using me, 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. Negotiations are typical, and for me, one of the most fun parts of the buying process. Do not make a low-ball offer on a house you 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 house 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 subsequent negotiation, in my opinion, is a science. Ask me, and I will be happy to explain the theory behind it to you.
Once you and the seller have agreed on a price and both the buyers and sellers have fully signed and initialed the offer, you now have a legal and binding 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 in the $1,000 to $10,000 range depending on the purchase price of the home. Keep in mind, the higher your deposit, the stronger your offer. 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, most of the time, your earnest 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.
7. Preparing to Close
The last steps before closing involve a survey (if the seller does not have a current one), appraisal, home inspections, and title search. If not paying cash, you will now be waiting on your financing to get finalized. The mortgage financing approval period 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 two years of tax returns, two months of bank statements, and generally your most recent two 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 provide your REALTOR® instructions on what they will need for you to close. You will need to prove your identity, and in most cases, have funds wired to the title company in advance. The day before closing, after the seller completely moved out of the house, you and your REALTOR® will want to do a final walkthrough of the home. This walkthrough is to make sure the home is left as per the contract. You want to verify that all the appliances that are supposed to remain have been left in the house. All personal property has been removed. The home is broom clean. And that there was no damage done to the home.
Finally, the closing day is here! Typically 72 business hours after you receive a Clear to Close, you can close on the property. Usually, the day before closing, you will wire any funds that you will need to close to the title company. On closing day, you’ll sign contracts to finalize the mortgage, pay the seller, and pay closing costs. The property title will be transferred to you, and you can move into your new home! In Florida, you usually get the keys to your new home at the closing once we are funded and fully closed.
Remember if this is your primary residence to apply for a Homestead Property Tax Exemption. You can do that about three weeks after you close at the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Website.
What I Can Do For You
Please click over to my Buyer Services Page to see how I can make your buying experience better!
If you are looking for a great REALTOR®, I am at your service! It would be my pleasure to assist you with buying your home anywhere in the Tampa Bay area.