As a first-time home buyer, there’s a whole lot to learn. This is likely the biggest investment you’ve ever made – and the more you know, the better your decisions will be. So grab a glass of wine, sit back, and prepare to learn how to buy a house, townhouse, villa or apartment.
STEP 1 – GET PRE-QUALIFIED FOR A MORTGAGE
The first step to buying a property is finding out how much your bank is willing to lend you. When you pre-qualify for a mortgage, your lender will look at your income, your debts, your deposit and your credit history. The pre-approval should be in writing and will include a guaranteed interest rate (usually valid for 90 days). Pre-qualifying will ensure that you know how much finance you can get, which in turn will help you know what price range of homes you should be targeting in your search. It allows you to focus your house hunting efforts and eliminates the risk and uncertainty of financing once you find your perfect home.
STEP 2 – DEVELOP YOUR WISH LIST
Knowing what you need and want in your home is critical. What are your must-haves, your nice-to-haves, and your no-way-absolutely-nots? How many bedrooms do you need? What kind of outdoor space do you want? What about counter-tops, appliances and floors? You can’t get what you want if you don’t know what you want. Of course, location will be a big decision – which neighbourhood makes you feel at home?
STEP 3 – PICK YOUR TEAM
Buying a house or condo will likely be the biggest purchase you’ll ever make – but don’t worry, you don’t need to do it alone. You’ll want to start by picking a great real estate agent to assist in your search. You’ll also need a lender to take you through your financing options, and a conveyancer / solicitor to help with the legal aspects of the purchase. There are literally thousands of professionals out there (of varying quality no doubt), so be sure to ask your friends and family for recommendations, do your research and don’t be afraid to interview multiple people.
STEP 4 – HOUSE HUNTING
Now that you’re pre-qualified for a mortgage, narrowed down your search and picked a great agent to work with, it’s time to start looking at listings and houses. While the internet is a good place to start, your real estate agent will send you custom listings that match your criteria. House hunting will involve screening listings electronically, previewing properties online, and then finally going out to look at homes. This is your opportunity to get a feel for the different Illawarra neighbourhoods, refine your wish list, and ask questions. While a wish list seems kind of scientific and is a useful tool in deciding which properties to visit, the truth of the matter is that most people walk into their perfect home and just feel it. Of course, it helps when it satisfies your needs and wants too, but don’t underestimate the power of ‘just knowing’.
STEP 5 – MAKE AN OFFER
Congrats! Your house hunting efforts have paid off and you’ve found the right home for you: it satisfies your wants/needs, it’s in your price range, and it feels right. The formal offer process is both exciting and nerve-wracking. We begin by asking you to formalise your offer in writing (email is fine) including your terms and conditions. Once you’ve submitted your offer, the seller can accept it, reject it or sign back a counter offer. Be aware that there may also be additional offers made by other parties on sought after homes. During these back-and-forth negotiations, you may need to compromise on small things, but a good real estate agent will work hard for you and their seller.
STEP 6 – MEET CONDITIONS AND PROVIDE DEPOSIT FOR EXCHANGE OF CONTRACTS
Conditions are requirements within the Agreement of Purchase and Sale that must be met for the sale to go through. Your offer may be subject to formalising your finance, your conveyancer / solicitor will wish to review the contract on your behalf, and you will also want to obtain a pre-purchase building inspection (or an equivalent strata report in an apartment or villa complex). And of course, you’ll need to submit a deposit - an amount often expected is 10% of the purchase price, which is held in trust by your real estate agent until settlement takes place. Once the conditions have been met, contracts will exchange, the agreement and sale is firm and now it’s just a matter of waiting for your settlement date. And of course, packing and planning!
STEP 7 – SETTLEMENT
You’re almost an Illawarra homeowner! Settlement is the point at which the ownership and possession of the property are transferred from the vendor (seller) to you. It takes place once all the legal and financial obligations have been met. Settling the purchase will be a team effort: in addition to yourself, your real estate agent, conveyancer / solicitor and your lender will all be involved in finalising your purchase. Then it's time to collect your keys!