Your Home Offer Was Accepted. What’s Next?
David Collins8-minute read
February 23, 2023
Having your offer accepted on a new home purchase is one of the most significant and emotional financial transactions of your life. Not only are you committing to the responsibility of paying a monthly mortgage, you’re also choosing the home and the community you might be living in for many years. It’s a big moment.
You’ll feel excited, relieved and, likely, a little bit nervous, too. After all, you’ve gone from a home search filled with possibilities to a settled decision. What has likely been a primary obsession for weeks, if not months — the up-and-down journey to buy a house — is now over. But there is still work to do, with hurdles to clear before the purchase is legally binding and the house is truly yours. As we’ll see, these steps are necessary to protect you, the seller, and the lending institution you are partnering with on a mortgage.
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11 Things To Do Once The Seller Accepts Your Offer
The home buying process doesn’t end once the seller accepts your offer. You’ll have to complete steps to assure the seller that you’re equipped with the proper financing to close the sale, and the seller will have to open the house up for appraisal and inspection to assure all parties that the house is sound. Once all of these measures are accomplished, you’ll sign the necessary paperwork at closing.
1. Deposit Earnest Money
Earnest money is a payment you’ll deposit with a third party, such as a law firm, real estate broker or title company, which is then held in escrow until closing, when it’s then applied to your down payment or closing costs. It’s a very small fraction of the sale price (usually 1% to 3%) that you can make as a check, money order or wire transfer. Combined with the preapproval letter from your lender, earnest money gives confidence to the seller that you’re a serious buyer with the financial means to close the deal.
2. Secure A Home Loan
Provided your finances are secure enough to afford the home you wish to buy, getting a home loan should be readily achievable. It can be a time-consuming process for your lender’s team to review your application documents, so hopefully you’ve started that process by getting preapproved for a loan before you begin your house search.
Once the seller has accepted your offer, you’ll need to provide your lender with more documentation, including bank statements, pay stubs, credit card statements and, perhaps, other personal financial information.
3. Have The Home Inspected
Another step after having your offer accepted is to schedule a professional home inspection. In fact, most real estate agents will include language in your offer stating that the purchase is contingent on the house passing inspection.
You can find your own home inspector, but most real estate agents have relationships with several licensed home inspectors. it’s wise to choose an inspector who does not do renovations or repairs. Those who focus solely on inspections have more objectivity than a builder who may try to get your business by pointing out problems with the structure or mechanicals. Paying for the home inspection is the buyer’s responsibility. The cost for inspection ranges between $200 and $500, with the U.S. average about $340, according to Forbes.
A home inspector will do a very thorough examination of the house’s physical structure and functional mechanical systems, including heating and cooling, plumbing and electrical service. Depending on the size of the house, a home inspection can take several hours to complete. They’ll determine things that need to be fixed immediately or issues that will need to be addressed in the near future. Depending on how expensive these fixes may be, you can negotiate to lower the price or ask the seller to resolve the issues before agreeing to buy.
4. Have The Home Appraised
Another hurdle to clear after your offer is accepted and before you can close is the home appraisal. A home appraisal is ordered by your lender for its protection as well as yours.
The appraiser will determine the fair market value of the house through an examination of the property and the sale prices of similar, recently sold homes in the same neighborhood. If the appraiser determines that the house is not worth the sale price, you may be forced to ask the seller to come down on their price, or your lender may require you to bring extra cash to the closing to make up the difference. This situation can happen in a red-hot seller’s market where multiple bidders drive up the price on the home. An appraisal can also protect you as the buyer in the event that the home’s value is too low to justify your borrowing a larger amount of money.
5. Review The Title
A real estate title is not a physical document but an abstract legal concept that states who is the rightful owner of the property. It will also detail prior owners and if there are any liens on the property. The seller holds the title but you’ll have the ability to have it inspected by a title company which you’ll hire. The key thing to assess is that there are no other entities, such as the mortgage company of a previous owner, that have a claim on the title.
6. Transfer The Utilities
It’s important to think well ahead of moving day for setting up utility services for your new home. First, identify all the utility providers in your new town. Depending on which utility, there may be multiple competing companies to choose from. However, in some communities, certain utilities may only have one provider. The local town hall or city manager’s office is a good place to start this assessment. Depending on the community and how your new house is equipped, you’ll need to consider some or all of the following: electricity, natural gas, home heating oil, propane, water and sewer, cable television, high-speed internet and home security.
As soon as you know your move-in date, contact all of the utility companies you’ll be using and set up a start of service date. Nobody wants to move into a house that is cold or without water service. Since some of these companies schedule installations 2 to 3 weeks out, it’s best to contact them as early as possible. Ideally you’ll have all of your utilities, especially those responsible for heat, light and water, up and running the day before you move in.
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7. Obtain Homeowners Insurance
You will need to show your mortgage company proof of homeowners insurance before your home purchase can be finalized. There are many policies available either online or from your local insurance office. Basic coverage includes repairs or replacement on your house in the case of damage by fire, vandalism, accidents or natural disaster. Policies often exclude flood or earthquake, which can be covered by purchasing supplemental insurance specific to these disasters. Homeowners insurance also protects you from liability if someone is injured on your property. Things that are not covered are basic wear and tear or damage due to mold, animals or insects.
8. Schedule Home Repairs
If there were issues brought up during home inspection that required negotiations with the seller, presumably those have been worked out. Now it’s time to schedule repairs that really must be done before you move in — for example, replacing the furnace or fixing a dangerous wiring issue. If your agreement was to have the seller address these issues, those repairs should be done before you close on the house. If it was agreed that you would do them but with financial compensation from the seller, you can still schedule the work to be done after closing but before you move in.
If you have the luxury of having extended time before moving in to do large-scale renovations or other projects, you can consider tackling those before you move in. These can be anything from a kitchen remodel to a new roof. Other cosmetic projects, such as painting or refinishing wood floors, are extremely disruptive to have done while you’re living in the house. Consider having these done before you move, while the rooms are empty.
9. Complete A Final Walkthrough
It’s a good idea to ask for one final chance to look at the house shortly before the closing. This can be a brief once-over look at the premises to make sure it’s same condition you remember from the much more thorough inspection. If the seller had agreed to make some repairs after the inspection, the final walkthrough is also the time to look at the state of those repairs. Another purpose for one final look at the property is to give you peace of mind that the house is in the same condition as when you agreed to buy it. This will help when it’s time to sign on the dotted line.
10. Schedule Your Closing
Once you’ve gone through the steps above, and the seller has accepted your offer and earnest money, there are still things that your agent and lender, the seller’s agent and the title agency need to work through before final closing. Usually, a date is agreed upon by all parties to ensure a smooth transaction on the chosen day. When the buyer is going through a basic mortgage process, the time from an accepted offer to closing is 30 to 60 days.
11. Close On Your New Home
After what is often a long, emotional and stressful home search, you’ll be ready to close. The closing meeting is typically attended by you, your agent, the sellers and their agent, and the title company representatives. Some states may require an attorney be present as well. You’ll be signing a lot of documents to finalize the sale. You’ll also bring a certified or cashier’s check for the down payment. Your lender will wire the balance of the money to finalize the sale and the house will finally be yours.
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You’ll Want To Prepare For Common Problems
It’s quite a journey still ahead from the time your offer is accepted until you get your keys. And that’s assuming everything goes well. There are several problems that could arise along the way. Not all of them have to be a dealbreaker, but sometimes they’re significant enough that you simply have to walk away. Here are a few of the more common obstacles you might face after your offer is accepted.
There Are Issues With The Home
If there are serious defects or problems with the house, these will usually be revealed during the home inspection. These can be minor problems, such as a cracked window or broken toilet, which the seller will readily agree to fix. But there can also be major issues, such as a roof that needs replacement or a leaky basement, either of which can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars to remedy. In such cases, if the seller will not agree to make repairs, you might opt to walk away.
The Appraisal Comes In Low
Sometimes the appraised value of the property is less than what you’re offering to pay for it. A low appraisal does not have to kill the deal, however. In most cases your lender will ask you to pay cash to make up the difference between the appraised value and the sale price.
Your Mortgage Plan Falls Through
You should also be prepared for the chance that your mortgage plan falls through. There may be sudden or unexpected changes in your financial situation that cause you to no longer qualify for your prequalified loan amount – or a loan at all. These can be things that are out of your control, such as the loss of your job, or things you can avoid, such as using credit to make a large purchase after your preapproval, which reduces your credit score.
The Bottom Line
The search for your new house can be an emotional roller coaster, so when you’ve found a house you really want and hear the words “offer accepted,” you’ll naturally want to celebrate. But there is still work to do. You’ll need to keep your finances in order and the house must pass inspection and be appraised at a similar value to what you’re offering for it.
Assuming all of these hurdles are cleared and you’ve obtained a homeowners insurance policy, you can close the deal on your new house. It all starts with getting prequalified for financing, so if you’re ready to start the journey toward a new home purchase, it’s best to start the mortgage approval process today.
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