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Steps To Buying A Home

The Keri Shull Guide to Buying

Buying a home is a big deal. There’s a lot to learn about the process of purchasing a new home —or maybe it’s a new condo or a townhouse. Whether you have bought a home before or are looking to buy your first house, start the process by reading through Keri Shull’s Guide to Buying to make sure you don’t miss any important steps. This will likely be the biggest investment of your life, and we want it to be the greatest investment you ever make.

Click through the tabs above to find out about:

  • 1. Agents, Lenders, & Wishlists
  • 2. The Reality Check Analysis
  • 3. How to Search for Homes
  • 4. Crafting an Offer & Closing Day

The Keri Shull Team Advantage

Our Team knows a lot about buying houses. For the last decade, we’ve helped hundreds of buyers be successful. We’re so confident in our home buying abilities that we offer a VIP Buyer Guarantee to all of our clients. If you’re not happy with your new home, we’ll buy your house back or sell it for free. We want you to be completely satisfied with your home purchase, and we rarely fail in this mission.

The Keri Shull Team gives buyers a unique advantage. In today’s market, there is a relatively low inventory of houses in comparison to the high demand for homes in the area. That’s why our agents aggressively procure properties before they hit the market, so that you have Priority Access to listings. Our Team sells nearly 400 homes a year; compare that to the average independent agent who sells only four or five homes a year...We get more access to more properties working together as a TEAM!

When you choose the Keri Shull Team, you’re choosing success. We put our client’s best interests first by performing a Reality Check Analysis before we even start searching for houses. Our full Team approach to the home buying process guarantees that you will find the home of your dreams in less time and for less money.

Throughout each step in this Buyers Guide, look for the Keri Shull Team Advantage to find out exactly what you’ll get when you buy a home with Keri Shull. You’ll get an edge over the competition by working with our experienced, integrated real estate team, but don’t just take our word for it. Meet with the Keri Shull Team today to learn more about the Keri Shull Team Advantage first hand!

Drafting Your Dream Team

First, start with the most important step in the home-buying process: draft your dream team! Surround yourself with a team of experts to make your home buying experience the best it can possibly be. Buying a home is a lot of work, but if you choose the right team, the majority of the work will be done for you by those who know the industry inside and out.

Choosing a Real Estate Agent or Team

You do not have to go through the home buying process alone; in fact, we argue against it. We recommend buyers meet with an agent a year before they plan on moving into their new house, two years if they’re looking to buy new construction. If you don’t think you’re ready to sit down with an agent, that usually means you should! The more time you can spend getting to know your agent and letting your agent get to know you, the more successful you’ll be when buying a home

It's very important for buyers to feel like they click with their agent. You need to feel confident and comfortable throughout the home buying process in order to really get the house you want for the price that fits your budget. The more information you’re willing to share with your agent, the better off you’ll be, so take the time to meet with different agents until you’re sure you’ve found the one for you.

Choose an experienced real estate agent or team that has your best interests in mind with extensive knowledge of your preferred locations. The agent you choose should be able to teach you everything there is to know about the market you’re buying in so that you feel totally comfortable throughout every step of the way. Don’t be afraid to meet with several different agents before deciding on the right one, and always ask each agent or team the following questions:

  • 1. What is their specialty in the industry?
  • 2. Do they have priority access to homes?
  • 3. How much business are they doing?
  • 4. Do they have preferred vendors?
  • What if you aren’t happy with your purchase?

It’s also a good idea to talk to past clients to see what they think about their experience. We recommend reading reviews and testimonials online, or looking at realtor rankings reports to fully vet an agent before you decide.

When you form a good relationship with your real estate team, it will be easier for you to talk openly and honestly about your criteria, especially financing. Choosing a real estate agent first allows you to create a game plan customized to you, your wants, your needs, and your budget.

What to Expect in Your Initial Meeting

Once you’ve chosen the right agent for you, it’s imperative that you set up a face to face meeting to go over the game plan. The initial meeting should be eye opening for both the buyer and the agent.

A good agent will be focused on walking you through the buying process from A to Z,so that you know what to expect moving forward. They will answer any questions you may have about house hunting, financing, or negotiating a deal. Don’t be afraid to question your agent’s methods to better understand the process. It’s important for you and your agent to form a strong partnership, and that only comes with honest conversation, trust, and respect.

The most important part of the initial meeting between the buyer and the agent is when the agent asks the buyer to explain what they're looking for in their new house. Your agent should ask you about your needs, your wants, your preferred location, the type of home you want, and your budget. If you haven’t already developed your wishlist, set aside some time to write down your preferred:

  • Neighborhood/Location
  • Type of home
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Appliances
  • Finishes
  • Floors
  • Storage space
  • Outdoor space

You don’t know what kind of home to look for if you don't know exactly what you need and what you want in your future home. You need to determine your can’t-live-withouts, your great-to-haves, and your never-no-way-no-hows. Then your agent should ask even deeper questions to fully understand why you want the things that you want. Your agent needs to know why these things are important to you, so they can understand your priorities.

As the buyer, you can expect to spend a lot of time in this initial meeting really picking apart your criteria with your agent. The time spent in this meeting will save you more time during the home search because you will both be on the same page right away

The Keri Shull Team Advantage

When you meet with the Keri Shull Team, your first conversation is absolutely free with no strings attached. We want to get to know you and make you feel comfortable before trying to convince you to work with us. Our main goal in our initial meeting with you is to answer all of your questions about every step in the home buying process. We promise to put your best interests first. You will leave your meeting with the Keri Shull Team feeling confident about buying a home.

Choosing the Rest of Your Team

Apart from choosing an agent, you will also need to choose a lender to finance your new home, and this is where it can get tricky. There are mortgage brokers and lenders who use predatory tactics to prey on inexperienced home buyers. Lenders will bait buyers with low rates only to lock them into bad deals at the closing table. Since most new home buyers have never financed a mortgage before, they don’t know they’re getting swindled until it is too late.

In some cases, buyers will choose a lender before choosing an agent. However, we recommend choosing an agent first so you can take advantage of your agent’s financing experience and avoid predatory lenders. A good agent will be able to explain how a mortgage works, recommend lenders that will give you an honest loan rate, and be there by your side to advise you on all of your financing options.

You may also want to find a real estate lawyer to join your team when buying a home. Your lawyer will make sure you understand all of the legal aspects of purchasing property which will be helpful when you’re getting ready for Closing Day. Lastly, we strongly encourage you to enlist the help of your family and friends. They are your everyday support system, they know you best, and they can help you keep your priorities straight.

Once you have finished drafting your dream team, you can move forward confidently knowing that you have a team of winners on your side.

The Keri Shull Team Advantage

When you choose the Keri Shull Team, you’re not just getting the best real estate team in the DMV — you’re also getting access to the best lenders in the area. Throughout our years in the industry, we’ve worked with lenders we’ve come totrust and rely on for competitive, honest rates. When you work with us,we meet with you early onin the home buying process for a Pre-Qualification Conversation. We’ll call our preferred lenders for you and do the leg work on your behalf. We will team up with you to go over your budget, review the interest rates, and verify that you feel completely confident with your monthly payment.

More Home Buying Resources

The Reality Check Analysis

Once you’ve drafted your dream team and developed your wishlist,it’s almost time to start searching for houses. Most agents want to immediately start showing their buyers active listings on the market, but then they’re skipping a very important step in the home buying process: the Reality Check Analysis.

How It Works

Developed by the Keri Shull Team, the Reality Check Analysis is a tried and true method of establishing a starting point in the house hunting process by analyzing recently sold homes that match the buyer’s criteria. Homes sold in the past three months that match up based on your wants, needs, ideal location, and price point are compiled into a list of comps for you to review. Your job as the buyer istogothrough the list of properties and identify the ones you would have bought.

Once you’ve identified the properties you would have bought, your agent can use the results to extract important information out of the listings. By knowing which homes you would have been interested in purchasing, your agent can study the statistics of the sales, like ifit was bought above or below asking price, how many days the listing spent on the market, and if there were any closing cost assistances. Knowing all of this information before searching for active listings enables you to save valuable time because you can get to the heart of what actually exists in the market right away and target your home search effectively.

If you wouldn’t have bought any of the homes in the list of sold comps, don’t bediscouraged. You may get the false impression that the home you’re looking for doesn’t exist, but it only means that you’ll need to make some compromises tofind the right house. Perhaps you will need to expand your location, adjust your price point, or add a missing feature to the property yourself. If you wanted a two car garage, but there aren’t any homes with that feature, consider properties with extra land for you to build one.

The important thing to takeaway from the Reality Check Analysis is that it will allow your real estate agent to better understand what you’re looking for and the types of properties you're interested in buying. This in turn enables your agent tomake better decisions when searching for your ideal home which will save you time and energy in the home buying process.

The Keri Shull Team Advantage

Most agents don’t perform the Reality Check Analysis and never even consider sold properties as a buying tool. Thankfully, we are not most agents. When you buy a home with the Keri Shull Team, you’llbe able to identify exactly the type ofhome you’re looking for from real life examples before you even start your search. Then you can save time looking at the wrong houses and spend more time checking out properties that match up with your specified criteria, location, and price point.

More Home Buying Resources

House Hunting Like a Pro

Arguably, the most fun step throughout the home-buying process is the search itself. Today, the majority of house hunting is done online. There are numerous listing websites available for home buyers to utilize in their search. Even social media platforms now advertise homes for sale. However, old fashioned house hunting methods are still viable in today’s market too. Visiting open houses with your agent, cruising neighborhoods for “For Sale” signs, and hearing about homes for sale by word of mouth are still effective ways to find your dream home.

House Hunting Online

In this day and age, you can see so many more houses while searching for your home online than anyone was ever able to see in the past. There are hundreds of listing websites available which can make it difficult to know where to look. Thankfully, we know some great listing websites and are happy to point you that way:

  • realtor.com —As one of the most well known listing websites, we have to include it as one of the better sources for finding houses online. Like its competitors, it has an extensive inventory, but most of the listings are not theirs to advertise. You’ll have to go through extra steps to target a specific listing found on this website.
  • zillow.com — Zillow is a good resource for searching for homes online because it contains listings nationwide. However, Zillow’s feed is often a day or more behind real time MLS listings. To find out more about Zillow’s listings delay, watch Keri explain it in authoritative detail.
  • kerishull.com — Our top recommendation for looking for homes online would of course be to use the free Keri Shull Online Home Search tool. If you hesitate to take our word for it, try it out for yourself. The Home Search tool provides dozens of listings all over the DMV area, and you can filter your search by specifying a variety of criteria regarding the home you want. It will even show you nearby schools, area statistics, and demographics.

Dos and Don’ts for House Hunting Online

We also have some general dos and don’ts for searching for homes online:
  • •Don’t get caught up in the small things like paint color or staging — these are quick fixes and you can customize the house to your liking once it’s yours!
  • •Don’t rely solely on listing photos. Photographs don’t always do the house justice and it could look totally different in person.
  • ªDo read between the lines of the listing. The descriptions can be misleading with tricky phrasing, so be sure to read through carefully.
  • •Do remember that the asking price is not the same as the sales price. In competitive markets, the sales price can be quite higher than the original asking price. Sign up for our monthly Neighborhood Reports to learn more.
  • •Do research the many acronyms used in MLS listings, so you won’t be confused.
  • •Don’t forget HOA fees and other maintenance fees that go along with buying a condo. These extra fees can make a big difference in your budget.

The Keri Shull Team Advantage

When you work with the Keri Shull Team, you obtain Priority Access to hundreds of homes in the area just like a realtor would, which allows you to find out about new listings before they even goon the market and before the general public has a chance to view them — pre MLS! This will truly give you an edge on the competition. Learn more about our Priority Access List and sign up today.

House Hunting in Person

Online listings can help narrow down your search, but you will never get the true feel of a home unless you see it in person. By arranging a personal showing, you give yourself the opportunity to get a real feel for the neighborhood, ask questions on the spot, and refine your wishlist. Sometimes the only true way to know if a house is for you — with or without a wishlist —is to walk into the home and know that it is the one for you.

Your agent can arrange private appointments for you to view houses on the market or you can attend open houses. Not all properties will host open houses, so don’t rely on them as your sole method of visiting houses in your search. Working with a top real estate agent like Keri Shull can guarantee that you will visit homes in person on your schedule and not miss out on a home by waiting around for the open house.

Dos and Don’ts for House Hunting in Person

Here are our trusted dos and don’ts to keep in mind when searching for homes in real life:

  • • Don’t get caught up in things you can change. Just like when house hunting online, look past the aspects that need touch-ups and see the big picture.
  • • Do take your own photos and notes. When you’re visiting a lot of houses, it can be easy to start confusing listings. As long as you don’t post the photos online, you can take your own for personal reference.
  • • Do make a plan ahead of time. You’ll probably have more than one target neighborhood, so plan out your route accordingly to make your search as efficient as possible.
  • • Don’t fall for a house based purely on the staging. Remember that the furniture probably doesn’t come with the house; make sure to imagine your own pieces fitting into the space.
  • • Don’t ignore the neighborhood. It happens to everyone. They get caught up in the house and overlook a bad neighborhood. The location is just as important as the house itself.
  • • Do wear slip on/off shoes to protect the house you’re seeing and keep the floors clean. You may be the one buying this house, so do as you’d want
  • • Do let your realtor do the driving. While your agent handles the navigation, you can have more time to check out the area and neighboring houses.
  • • Do further investigate things you consider as drawbacks to the house. If it’s on a busy street, come back at rush hour to see how loud it is.
  • • Don’t only house hunt in person when the weather is nice. Every house looks better on a sunny day. Experience the home at varying times of day.

The Keri Shull Team Advantage

The Keri Shull team can help you house hunt both online and in person. Contact us today to hear about the Keri Shull Reality Check, a critical step in the home-buying process that will eliminate time-wasting and expand your list of potential houses that could be“the one.”

More House Hunting Resources

The Art of Negotiation

When you’ve successfully found the home of your dreams, it’s time to craft anoffer. The process of making an offer on the house you really want can be nerve-wracking, but this is the exciting part too. Thankfully, your agent will have lots of experience negotiating offers and will be able to guide you through the process step by step.

Crafting the Perfect Offer

Negotiation is an art form. There are a variety of tactics and methods used by real estate agents to craft the right offer, but your agent must know how to negotiate like a pro to ensure you get the best deal on your new home. If the seller doesn’t accept the initial offer, it will be up to your agent to negotiate on your behalf.

When negotiations are going back and forth between the buyer and seller or you’re involved in a bidding war, it’s important to know that having an experienced realtor by your side can make this process less stressful and ensure you get the best deal. Sometimes compromises have to be made, but a good agent will make sure you’re still getting what’s most important to you.

In order to make an offer on a home, an Agreement of Purchase and Sale must be ratified first. The Agreement of Purchase and Sale contains your preferred price, any inclusions like furniture or appliances, your ideal closing date, and any additional conditions that must be met for the deal to be final. After you’ve submitted your offer, the seller has a few choices: he or she can accept your offer, reject it, or counter offer.

Common conditions usually found in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale include specific financing conditions, home inspections, and time for your lawyer to review the entire contract. You’ll also need to place a deposit down on the home you want to buy. The deposit typically amounts to5%of the purchase price.

Once you and your agent have crafted the perfect offer, submitted it to the seller, and had your offer accepted, it’s time to get ready for Moving Day. If you haven’t already lined up a buyer for the house you’re vacating, don’t panic. There is still time for you and your agent to work on selling your home before you move into your new one.

The Keri Shull Team Advantage

We have the art of negotiation down to a science. We’ve bought and sold a lot of houses, so we know what’s required to craft the perfect offer and secure your dream home. We always put the buyer’s best interests first, so you can rest assured that we will go to bat for yo uat the negotiation table. When you buy a home with the Keri Shull Team, you’ll have a negotiator with years of experience, top notch skills, intimate knowledge of contracts, and winning strategies for bidding wars.

Closing Day

At long last, the day you’ve been waiting for — maybe all your life. When you’ve had your offer accepted, it’s time to get ready for Closing Day, which is the day you finalize the contract, switch over the property deed into your name, and move into your new house.

The closing process will begin a few days before you actually own the house. You’ll need to be in close contact with your Dream Team — this of course includes your agent, plus your lender and your lawyer. Your team will need critical information from you in this final part of the home-buying process to finalize the deal. You will need to provide the down payment and you’ll also have a lot of paperwork to read over and sign. Fortunately, your agent and your lawyer will be able to assist you with this step to make it easier.

Aside from the down payment, there are other costs you need to consider that will come upon Closing Day, such as:

  • Any Land Transfer fees
  • Lender fees
  • Appraisal costs
  • Legal fees
  • Taxes
  • Adjustments if applicable

Your lawyer will be able to help you calculate the total cost. You will need to provide a certified check for the balance owed before the property is officially transferred to your possession from the seller. Only then will be able to finally pick up the keys to your new home.

Once you’ve completed the closing process, your quest to buy your dream home comes to an end, but your new life is only beginning. Hopefully, Keri Shull’s Guide to Buying helped make the process easier if you’re a first time home-buyer; if this wasn’t your first time, we hope you still learned a thing or two. Now go start enjoying your dream home!

The Keri Shull Team Advantage

The Keri Shull Team has developed and nurtured relationships with other real estate agents throughout our time working in the DMV area, so we frequently have the advantage of knowing who we will be sitting across from at the closing table. This allows us to get you the best deal and make Closing Day as stress-free as possible for you and your family. If you’re ready to buy a home with the Keri Shull Team, contact us today to get started!

More Home Buying Resources