We partnered with expert DMV Real Estate agents, Jen Vo and Charlie Carp of Keller Williams Capital Properties, to break down the home buying process and share tips to make your purchase experience as smooth as possible.
Where to Begin
If you’re thinking of buying a home, the first step is choosing a trusted, local Realtor or lender. Which one should you reach out to first? There is no right or wrong answer.
A great Realtor will have a go-to list of several fantastic lenders they can connect you with and vice versa. If you already have an agent or lender you know and trust, connect with them and ask who they love to work with.
Don’t be surprised if you receive contact information for three or four lenders/agents. Plan to interview several to see who will be the best fit for you and your family.
Why are Realtors and Lenders Important?
Your real estate agent and lender will be the most important people on your home-buying ‘team’ as both are absolutely essential in the purchase of your new home.
Your agent will be key in making sure you see all the homes that best meet your needs; not just the ones you see while scrolling through zillow, but the off-market and coming-soon options as well.
They will ensure that the offer you make on your dream home will be as strong and appealing to the sellers as possible and will be tasked with negotiating the best price and terms of contract for you.
When a seller and their agent are reviewing an offer, they are going to want to know that you’re backed by a lender that is local, credible, and responsive to make sure the deal makes it to the closing table.
This is important because out of state lenders are not accustomed to the DC area market time frames and can cause appraisal issues which can put you at risk for damages if you can not settle.
“The process of buying a home is so exciting, but can seem a bit overwhelming especially in the beginning. It is your real estate agent’s job to make sure you are being educated throughout the process and feeling comfortable every step of the way. With the right support, buying a new home is such a fun experience!” says Jen Vo, who was voted the 2019 ‘Best Realtor for Families’ by Washington Family Magazine.
When to Begin
Begin as soon as possible! Thinking of buying a year from now? Then it’s a fantastic time to start putting your team together.
Connecting with a lender that far in advance can be extremely beneficial. They can help put you in the best position possible to obtain the best rates and terms once it comes time to apply for a loan.
They will take a look at your credit history, debt to income ratios, student loans, etc. and advise you of what can be improved upon and how.
Remember, the higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate will be, and a great lender is more than happy to help you improve your credit- that is a FREE service they provide to their clients!
How to Find Your ‘Team’
If you don’t already have a relationship with an outstanding real estate agent or lender, start by asking local friends, family, and colleagues who they have worked and had a positive experience with.
If you’ll be moving to a new area where you don’t know anyone, you can search Facebook for neighborhood groups and ask the locals who they would recommend. Personal recommendations are always best, but you can always do a google search.
However you find your real estate agent or lender, make sure you do your research before you hire them to represent your best interest.
When interviewing, find out if this profession is their full-time job or a side gig. Are they a neighborhood (or market) specialist? Will they be working with you personally from start to finish, and if not, who else will be involved in the transaction?
Remember that buying a home is one of the biggest financial investments you will make in your lifetime so ask as many questions as it takes until you feel completely confident and comfortable in your choice.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to sit down and have a buying consult with your agent. You’ll create a list of “must-haves” and “wants” (essential criteria vs criteria you’re willing compromise on) and discuss other key factors, such as location.
Charlie Carp of Carp & Son with KWCP always tells his buyers they have ‘homework’ to do when deciding which areas to look for homes in. “There is so much to take into consideration when moving in or to the DC area. There are an endless amount of options when it comes to neighborhoods, so it’s important to consider what is best for you and your family’s situation. Suburb vs. city living, commutes, schools, and budget are all factors to take into account.”
Your agent will be able to help, but The Real Estate commissions prevent them from providing details on how great the schools are (because schools can be rezoned), or how ‘quiet and safe’ a neighborhood is (the agent’s definition of ‘quiet and safe’ may differ from yours).
Make sure you are doing your due diligence by calling the local school board and stopping by the police station to get crime statistics. Do NOT rely on the internet to give you the most up to date information.
Then it is time for your agent to take you out and see the homes that best fit your criteria. People typically see between seven and twelve homes before putting in an offer.
Once you and the sellers agree on the price and terms of the contract, you’re ratified and on your way to the closing table!
At this point your home-buying team will expand to include inspector(s), a title company, possibly general contractors and plumbers, and probably a moving company. Your Realtor will connect you with companies they know to be trustworthy and dependable.
Expenses of Buying a Home
Many first time home buyers are surprised to learn that there are other fees to consider when buying a home aside from just the down payment.
Buyers in the DC area should expect to bring 3-4% of the sale price to the table for closing costs. Closing costs are the fees and taxes collected by the title company associated with the transfer of real estate.
“Take my advice and always estimate on the high side.” says Charlie. “Your lender will be able to give you a more definite number, but when first considering putting an offer on a home it is better to overestimate as opposed to having to scrape together extra funds last minute.”
Closing costs can be negotiated (also known as ‘seller help’ or ‘concessions’), but other costs to consider will be for various home inspections and the appraisal.
Depending on the size and location of the home, your basic home inspection should cost between $500-700. Additional inspections (wood destroying insects, well, septic, radon, lead paint, environmental testing, etc.) if needed, will come with additional costs.
The appraisal will be charged to your credit or debit card at the time of completion and you should expect the cost to be between $500-600.
The Closing Table
The last stop in the home buying process is closing. This is the day when papers are signed and keys are exchanged. The process of getting to the closing table can take less than a month if you’re buying with cash, or sometimes over a year if you’re purchasing a foreclosure.
However homes typically close 30-45 days after the contract is ratified, assuming the home being purchased is not a short sale/foreclosure and the buyers are obtaining financing. As long as you have a strong home-buying team on your side, it should be a great experience from start to finish!
Carp and Son is a dynamic Real Estate team based out of Keller Williams Capital Properties in Bethesda led by Charlie Carp. The father-son duo have a combined 40 years of Real Estate experience to help buyers, sellers, and investors successfully navigate the DC Metro market with a hands-on educational approach.
The team is rounded off by Jen Vo, a second generation Realtor who was voted the 2019 ‘Best Realtor for Families’ by Washington Family Magazine. Thinking of buying or selling a home? The Carp and Son Team would be more than happy to help, please find their contact information below.