Buying a home can be stressful. After all, you need to get pre-approved for financing, find the perfect home, make an offer and then hope it’s accepted. If the seller likes your terms, that’s a win worth celebrating, especially if you were going up against other eager buyers.
If you’re ready to buy a house, applying for a mortgage is the just the first step. There are a few more things you need to do after your offer gets the green light.
6 Steps to Buying a House After Your Offer is Accepted
While you’re just starting your journey, try not to feel overwhelmed by what’s ahead of you. This guide will walk you through what to do next.
1. Make Your Earnest Money Deposit
When you enter into a contract with a seller, they may expect you to offer an earnest money deposit. So, what is earnest money? Essentially, it’s a show of good faith that you plan to go ahead with the home purchase.
Earnest money deposits are usually between 1 and 3% of the sale price. You have to come up with this cash, and then your real estate agent or broker can hold it in an escrow account. Later, it can be applied to your down payment or closing costs.
Make sure your contract specifies if and when you can get your earnest money back if the sale isn’t finalized. Consider asking your agent to include a clause that makes the deposit refundable if, for example, your financing falls through or the home appraises for less than what you offered.
2. Get an Appraisal
One of the most important parts of mortgage underwriting is the appraisal—an estimate of the home’s value. Lenders use the appraisal to make sure the home is worth the amount you want to borrow.
The lender will schedule the appraisal as part of the loan application process. As the buyer, it’s your responsibility to pay for the appraisal. Generally, appraisals average between $300 to $400.
But what happens if the home appraises for less than what you offered? The lender may allow a second appraisal if you can prove that the appraiser made an error or omitted key information (like comps) when drafting their original report.
Another option is to ask the seller to lower their asking price to match the appraisal value. Negotiating this kind of deal can be tricky, though, especially if the seller isn’t highly motivated. You could consider making up the difference in cash to seal the deal. Or, you could strike a compromise by asking the seller to lower the price slightly and offer more cash.
In the worst-case scenario, the only remaining option may be calling the purchase off. Remember, however, that depending on the wording of your contract, you may not be able to get your earnest money back.
3. Schedule Your Inspections
Scheduling your home and pest inspections is another important step and you should aim to do this sooner, rather than later. If there’s a serious structural or pest-related issue, you may only have a limited window to cancel the home-buying contract. You can schedule inspections yourself, independent of the appraisal date.
The purpose of the home inspection is to make sure the house is physically sound and that there are no major issues. A typical home inspection checklist for buyers includes things like ensuring the home doesn’t have structural issues, faulty wiring, issues with the plumbing system, problems with the HVAC system, and broken windows or doors.
The pest inspection checks for termite damage and other signs of pest-related issues. Home inspections can run between $200 and $400, and the average fee for a pest inspection is $75. If the property has a septic tank, you should strongly consider having that inspected as well.
4. Buy Homeowners Insurance
By now, you should be excitedly counting down to closing. You’re almost there! And at this point your lender may be asking you for proof of homeowners insurance, so have that ready. Once you get a policy, the insurance company should prepare the documentation your lender needs to verify your coverage.
The biggest question is figuring out how much insurance you need, so ask your insurance agent to help you come up with the right number. Remember, homeowners insurance is designed to cover things like fire, wind and lightning damage, or theft. If you live in a flood or earthquake zone, you may need additional coverage for natural disasters.
5. Schedule the Walk-Through
The walk-through is the last hurdle to clear before you can gleefully skip to the closing table. Ask your agent to attend the walk-through to make sure you’ve covered everything on your home walk-through checklist, including:
Making sure all the light switches work
Running the water in the kitchen and bathroom to check for leaks
Testing out the stove, microwave, dishwasher, fridge, and any other major appliances you’ll acquire in the sale to make sure they work
Checking all the windows and doors to make sure they don’t stick and that the locks work
Flushing toilets and running the garbage disposal
Checking the walls, floors and ceilings for any signs of damage
Running the AC and heating system
Making sure the house is clean
If there are any issues, the walk-through is your opportunity to point them out. Your agent can help with getting any problems resolved quickly to keep your closing from being delayed.
6. Get Ready to Close
Closing is the very last thing to do in the home-buying process. This is when you exercise your writing hand and sign the mountain of paperwork the lender requires, pay your closing costs and collect your keys.
In terms of closing costs for buyers, these may vary depending on your loan. Currently though, you can typically expect to pay between 2 and 5% of the purchase price to cover the various fees required to finalize your loan. These include credit-check fees, legal fees, and mailing fees. The amount you’ll need for closing will vary, based on the details of your loan, and your lender should tell you beforehand exactly how much you need. Depending on what your lender requests, you’ll need to pay the closing costs using a wire transfer, cashier’s check, or a certified check. That’s something your local bank branch can help you with.
As far as how long closing takes, plan to block out at least an hour for the signing. The closing agent then files the paperwork with your county recorder or register of deeds office to make it official.
After that, the home is yours! You’ll get additional documents from your lender in the mail explaining your options for paying your mortgage. Generally, your first payment is due one full month after the last day of the month in which you closed, which gives you time to prepare.
Once your offer’s been accepted, there’s still plenty to do before you can sign off on your mortgage paperwork and start packing up to prepare for move-in day. The one thing you don’t want to do is drag your feet. Mortgage underwriting can be completed in less than a week—but it could also take a couple of months, depending on your situation. The sooner you get to work after your offer is accepted, the sooner you can settle in to your home sweet home.