This hopefully will be a survivor’s guide to those who have wandered into the real estate industry, or are about to take the first step to home ownership, and are fairly unsure of what to do, and worse, what they need to know. Hence a quick course to give you the bare minimum of knowledge that will keep you moving down the road to financial freedom. When I say bare, I mean really basic information that everyone should know, and conduct their business within the framework of these rules.
Get pre-qualified for your sake and no one else's. Know what you can afford before looking. Look with a professional who knows your price range (you told this person and showed them your pre-qualification letter). This will save frustration, a tremendous amount of time, and save you from your first major mistake.
When you make an offer, it must be contingent on a minimum of three things: loan approval, approval of the physical inspection and the appraisal being equal or greater than the purchase price. Do not let anyone talk you out of these three items, including your own real estate agent. You can't buy the house without a loan, you won't want the house if too much is wrong with it, and you can't afford to pay the difference between the appraised value and the purchase price if the purchase price is higher.
As an addendum to the previous paragraph, you need to have an appraisal and inspection on new houses. I once bought a new house where the glass slider was installed upside down and I had the toughest time locking the door. Needless to say my inspector missed it, but when I sold it, the inspector for my buyer didn't miss it. The builder fixed it, as they were still there building other phases.
Closing the purchase can be, but doesn't have to be, traumatic. If you are getting gift funds, get them early. If you have the funds in your account for three months you will not have to provide verification of the gift or the donor's ability to give the gift. If you are going to liquidate some assets, don't cut the time short. Have the funds ready for the down payment at least a week early. And now we will discuss insurance.
Years ago no one bothered to call for the insurance until the day before it was ready to close. Not any more. Insurance can be a problem and you will not be able to close without it unless you aren't getting a loan. Start working on the insurance when your offer is accepted and the escrow is opened. You never know what you can run into, such as a fire danger area where certain roof types (shingle or wood shake) may not be insurable. You could find yourself in a liquid-faction area in California where earthquake insurance would be prohibitive in cost, or in a hurricane area in the South.
Roger Schlesinger's Mortgage Minute is heard on hundreds of radio stations and daily on the Hugh Hewitt radio show and Michael Medved shows. Roger interacts with his hosts and explores the complicated financial markets in order to enlighten his listeners and direct them along their own unique road to financial freedom.