Dana Bull is a Realtor®, landlord, and investor who started buying property right out of college and racked up a couple dozen apartments in the Boston area before her 28th birthday, while working full-time. Now she’s dedicated to helping first-time buyers and first-time investors make smart real estate purchases in the Greater Boston Area. You can contact her through her website at danabullrealtor.com.
Are you a sucker for a good house hunt? I sure am! There’s something about the chase … the thrill of finding “the one” that keeps me coming back for more.
As a real estate agent who specializes in working with Millennials and a Millennial myself, I understand that it can be an overwhelming process — especially for new buyers. I’ve heard every question under the sun. Why is everything so expensive? Should I rent or buy? Is Eastie actually up and coming? Do I really need to put 20 percent down? (The answer is no, btw.) What do you think of Dorchester? Is 800 square feet big for Charlestown? Wait, why is everything so expensive again? Above all, the most common question that I hear is this: Where should I start?
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Don’t forget to cancel all of your Sunday plans for the foreseeable future in order to attend open houses.
Jockeying for an urban perch can be fun and exciting when you know what steps to take. So for all of my young professionals out there who are considering a Boston abode, here’s my quick and dirty guide to home buying in Boston.
Define your real estate goals
It might go without saying that the first step is to think about what you want. It’s great to start with some high level objectives. There’s no need to get too far into the weeds during this early stage, but at least brainstorm the type of property that you want to buy (or can likely afford) and which neighborhoods you want to narrow in on. As you get further into the process, you can really home in on the details.
Build your real estate team
You might be wondering if you really need a real estate agent? The answer is yes. I’m not just saying that because I am a real estate agent. Unless you’ve committed the lead laws to memory and understand the intricacies of an escalation clause, then you’re going to want a pro. By bringing a real estate agent onboard early, you can leverage their connections for lenders and attorneys and create a cohesive team.
Determine your true purchasing power
Eeek! This is where sh*t gets real. At this point, you’ve probably done some basic math to figure out what you can reasonably afford to buy. Maybe you’ve even plugged some numbers into a mortgage calculator. Now you need to take things up a notch by speaking to a lender for a pre-approval.
Find your dream home
Here’s the part where you become a complete web troll on the housing sites. Get on Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, or (shameless plug) sign up for email alerts through my website. Plan to spend countless hours analyzing new inventory. Don’t forget to cancel all of your Sunday plans for the foreseeable future in order to attend open houses. You need to be aggressive in this market. It’s fun though, I promise!
Strategize your bid and submit the offer package
Once you find a place, it’s time to put together a bid. To make your offer most competitive you’ll need to decide which contingencies are must-haves and which terms you can eliminate. Your real estate agent can provide a lot of guidance in this area and make sure all of the appropriate documents are signed. Your agent will present the bid along with an earnest money deposit (typically $1,000). Keep your finger crossed for an accepted offer!
Home inspection and due diligence
If you get good news, you can take a quick breather and do some extra due diligence. If a home inspection was part of your offer, then you can take the opportunity to hire an expert to assess the property.
Bring in a real estate attorney
After the home inspection, you’ll need to bring an attorney into the fray. Over the course of the next few weeks, they will work diligently to review contracts and perform a title search on the property. While the attorney technically represents the bank, their job is to ensure a smooth transaction and they can be a great resource for you.
Pack your bags, and kiss your landlord goodbye… welcome to home ownership!
Sign the purchase and sale
Once you’re ready to move forward, you’ll sign the purchase and sale and put down an additional deposit (usually 5 percent of the purchase price). The P&S is a legally binding contract. Short of failing to secure financing, it’s difficult to get out of the deal if you have a change of heart.
Finalize your loan
With a fully executed P&S in hand, your loan officer will be working full-steam ahead to get your loan approved. This process includes hiring an appraiser to determine the current value of the home. You’ll also need to secure homeowner’s insurance to cover the property, as the lender wants to make sure the asset is protected.
Close on the property
Finally, you’ll sit down with the attorney and sign a small measure of your life away. Pack your bags, and kiss your landlord goodbye… welcome to home ownership!
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