Are you in the market for a new home? Congratulations! What an exciting time for you and the family! The process of buying a new home is a big adventure, but it can also feel a little intimidating at the beginning, especially if you’re new to the process. Fortunately, with a little help, you’ll find that the experience can also be a lot of fun, and you’ll meet plenty of interesting and helpful folks in your home-buying journey!
Along the way, you may find yourself asking questions such as “what is a mortgage lender” or “what is a title company,” but don’t fret. You’re in good company with most first-time home buyers, but you don’t have to go into the whole process blind. We’ve put together a guide to some of the key individuals, institutions, and companies you will be working within the home-buying process and what their roles mean to you as you’re buying your first home. Think of it as a “who’s who” in the home sales business!
If you’re having a home built rather than purchasing one that’s move-in-ready, the home builder will be an important point of contact for you throughout the process. They’re in charge of the actual nuts and bolts (or boards and nails, as the case may be) of building your new home. Most home builders, such as those who’ve built homes at Santa Rita Ranch, have been in the business for decades, meaning that you can trust them to provide quality craftsmanship, excellent customer service, and architectural beauty that will help make your new home a place that you and your family will love for years to come.
Real Estate Agent
While not every home shopper enlists the aid of a real estate agent at first, most folks rely on real estate agents to help them find homes on the market that fit their interests, needs, and budget. Sometimes also called a “buyer’s agent,” the real estate agent who works with you can help by sorting through listings, scheduling home tours, and providing advice for home shoppers. They’re handy allies to have when you’re navigating your way through the many open houses on the market, and they’re always ready to work with you to help you find the home you’re looking for. They also help with paperwork, negotiations with the seller’s agent (when appropriate), and finalizing the closing.
Real Estate Developer
Not every home buyer interacts directly with a real estate developer. Often, the developer’s work goes unnoticed, even while it’s vital to your enjoyment of your new home. A real estate developer is in charge of the infrastructure for a group of homes, whether that’s a few homes clustered together on a block or larger master-planned communities like Santa Rita Ranch. At these larger communities, the developer plays a vital role, not merely in planning out streets and utilities, but in creating an entire lifestyle for the community. A developer provides the various amenities that residents enjoy and makes space for schools and other services.
Sometimes called a loan officer or mortgage loan originator, the mortgage lender will be your primary point of contact for financing your home. Since most of us don’t have the cash on hand to pay for a new home out of pocket, we go through a lender. While the specific lender definition may vary depending on whether you’re going through your own bank or another institution, the lender will be who you work with to get approved for your loan and to pay it each month. In fact, you might want to talk to a loan officer before you even start shopping. Your loan officer can help you understand how much you can afford, what you’ll need for a down payment, what current interest rates look like, and what types of mortgage loans are available. He or she can also answer any questions you may have about the application process.
If you’re buying a house, how do you know how much it’s worth? If you’re selling your home, how do you know how much to charge? That’s where an appraiser comes in. They’re a third party that determines the value of a home through a variety of processes including an inspection and analysis of the property itself and a comparison of how other, similar properties in the area have sold. They aren’t directly employed by either you or the lender. Instead, they act as a neutral arbiter to let everyone know that they’re getting a fair deal.
When you’re buying a home, what are you actually buying? If you’re among those home buyers who have wondered, “what is a title company,” here’s the answer: The title company handles the paperwork that ensures that your ownership of the place is legitimate. Sound complicated? The title company ensures that the seller has the right to sell you the home and that you have the right to buy it. They also handle the escrow accounts, which hold funds until closing, and the title company oversees the actual sale of the home, transferring the title from the previous owner to you.
Property Inspector/Home Inspector
Unlike the appraiser or the title company, the home inspector works for you, the buyer. In fact, you hire them as part of your due diligence before buying a new home. This means that they look over everything about the house, from plumbing to wiring, and let you know if there’s anything that you need to take into account. However, they don’t work for free. Most home inspectors charge around $300 to $400, so it’s a good idea to wait to hire an inspector until you’ve found a house that you’re very serious about buying.
Homeowners insurance works much like any other insurance, from health insurance to the insurance you have on your car. In fact, your home policy may even go through the same insurance company you already use. However, you will have to get homeowners insurance before your lender will go through with the loan. This helps to protect both their investment and yours by insuring the house against fire and other hazards.
Homeowners Association (HOA)
These days, most homes belong to a homeowners association that helps to safeguard the property values of all the homes within the community. An HOA also cares for common areas, including private roads, lawns, and amenities such as swimming pools. If you buy a home in a master-planned community like Santa Rita Ranch, the HOA handles the maintenance and upkeep of all the amenities that our residents enjoy. To pay for these common areas and amenities, members of the HOA pay out regular dues, usually either monthly, quarterly, or annually.
If you’re working with a home builder to create a new home, you’ll have the opportunity to select the “finishes” that go into it. That includes all the little touches throughout the interior of the home: cabinets, countertops, flooring, wallpaper, and even fixtures like faucets and lights. The design center is where you pick those things out. Most home builders have model homes available for you to tour, and they sometimes feature built-in design centers. Others have larger, centralized design centers where you can choose from a much larger selection.
As you can see, many people are involved in the process of finding your dream home and securing a mortgage. Understanding everyone’s role helps make the process fun and exciting. As you meet more of these folks along the way, you’ll know that you’re getting closer and closer to homeownership!
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