Anatomy of a Purchase
There is no template for every transaction. With so many moving parts it's almost impossible to reasonably predict exactly how a transaction will play out. But here is a general timeline in which most typical transactions will find themselves:
Formulating an offer can take a few hours, depending on how much research is required. Aside from the actual offer page, a contingency addendum, a copy of a recent preapproval (usually produced within a month of the offer), a cover letter and a deposit check (generally this is $1000 and it can almost always be a personal check) are included. I don't recomend cash. When at all possible, I use Docusign digital signature software which saves a ton of time.
Negotating the offer
This can take minutes, hours, days or weeks. It will largely depend on the circumstances. But usually, for the most part, it's safe to assume that under normal circumstances, negotiating an offer will take just a day or two at most.
The discovery process
After the offer, and before the Purchase & Sale is signed, there is a period of due dilligence for the buyer. This involves a home inspection, a document review (where necessary), and some time to finalize the details of the Purchase & Sale. Allow for 10-14 days from accepted offer to signing the Purchase & Sale.
It is also at the moment the offer is signed that you'll want to enlist an attorney. The attorney will help with document review, putting protective language into the Purchase & Sale and generally providing good counsel if/when things become tricky.
Purchase & Sale
The day that you execute the Purchase & Sale (known more regularly as a P&S) is the day that you're also required to make your earnest deposit--a figure that will have been negotiated in the offer. This is usually based on a percentage of the purchase price (typically around 5%).
It will be important to find out, in advance, whether the broker or escrow holder will accept a personal check or require a cashier's check as procuring the latter may require some pre-arrangements.
Immediately following the P&S execution, both the seller and the buyer spring into action. As the buyer, this is when you will officially apply for your loan--it's likely your lender will have already been getting your 'ducks in a row' but you can't start actually shooting at them until you have the P&S. Unless of course you're paying cash, in which case there are different steps involved in researching the title and ensuring that it is 'clean' and ready for sale.
The seller's side, for their part, will begin preparing the property for sale: this includes preparing the title, getting certificates, water readings (or 6D certfificates), and possibly addressing any inspectional issues that were incorporated into the P&S. For the buyer, the loan application can take anywhere from 3-4 weeks to 6-8 weeks. Some loans, like the FHA 203K can take longer while other more conventional loans can process more quickly.
At some point between your application and the closing (usually closer to the end), your lender will provide a letter of committment. The letter will state one of two things: They have reviewed the application fully and have "agreed to process the loan and deliver the funds to the closing table" OR they will say the same but include one or a few conditions that the buyer will need to satisfy before they will wire the funds.
Providing everything along the way has gone smoothly and the original closing date is still the target, there will be a few things for which you'll want to prepare. You'll need to converse with the lender and closing attorney to get a figure of exactly what funds will transact at the closing table--you'll need to know how much additional funds you'll need to bring, an itemized list of all the costs associated with the closing (basically a preview of your HUD statement), and any additional informaiton/documentation you'll want to have prior to walking in to the closing room.
In addition, usually at some point within 24 hours of the closing and often an hour or two before the close, you will have scheduled a walk through. The walk through is your opportunity to see that the sellers have left the house in the same condition as when you agreed to buy it, that they have addressed any concerns (if any) from the home inspection, and that there are no personal belongings or unexpected tenants that weren't previously argreed upon. A walk through is ALWAYS a good idea.
The closing itself, depending on how complicated your loan happens to be, will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. You'll also find that the actual place and time is often left to the last minute as it's not always easy for the attorneys and lender to coordinate too far in advance. More often than not, the closing would be at the county's Registry of Deeds.
Ask your buyer agent to walk you through the various iterations of what you should expect.
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