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10 Steps To Buying a House on the Cape

  The steps you should take in buying a house on Cape Cod.

  1. Team up with an agent.

    Upon your first meeting with any agent to discuss a specific house, you will be presented with the Massachusetts agency disclosure form to review. You may elect to sign it or not. You may elect to work with agents in any one of three ways. It is your choice. The agent must tell you what type of agency can be offered to you. A buyer's agent is your best bet because you will get the most value from the transaction by having someone 100% loyal to you. You're paying the same amount of money anyway; why not benefit from the experience and knowledge of your own special agent? You may want to interview or audition several candidates for this position; but once you find someone you have confidence in and rapport with, promise to work exclusively with that one agent. The agents are all working off the same inventory of listings, so any agent can show you virtually any listing. That's their job! But looking at houses is just the beginning of the home-buying process. The services the Realtor brings to the job are considerable. The following steps are all things your agent will guide you through. Remember, buying a house is a purchasing decision that carries one of the highest price tags and biggest emotional roller coaster rides of anything else you'll probably ever buy.

  2. Obtain a preapproval or prequalification certificate from a lender.

    This is a printed document that will be referred to in the offer you make. If you don't have this evidence that shows the Seller how serious you are, your offer may not be duly considered. Your offer may be in competition with another buyer who has this certificate in hand. You will feel a lot more empowered to buy if you have the security of knowing that you've got a bank behind you. Another way to look at this step is that you'll ultimately need to apply for a mortgage or some type of financing to cover this purchase. The sooner you have it in place, the sooner you'll have the benefit of it. It's the same application fee, now or later.

    Here are some links to companies that can provide you with financing information:
    Mortgage Loan links from LendingTree.com

    Interest Rate Survey

    Mortgage Calculators

    Pre-Qualification Wizard

    Mortgage Forum

    If you want to save money for your retired life, then the 401(k) Retirement Plan is the best option as the major attraction of these plans is that the contributions are taken from pre-tax salary and the funds grow tax-free until withdrawn. In addition to it you are always welcome to visit the mortgage forum and discuss your problems & queries with the experts.


  3. Make an offer.

    An offer is a legally binding statement of your interest in buying a property. It spells out the money you are willing to pay and the time frame for the purchase that is best for you. You will make your offer conditional upon satisfactory inspections of the structural and mechanical systems. These inspections should occur within a week or two of making the offer. In addition, the offer will have a financing contingency covering the need for the bank to okay several things about the house. Legally, your offer must be in writing and with a binder of money. Typically, the binder is $1,000 and is credited toward the sale price.

  4. Negotiation period.

    It may be a matter or hours or days for the negotiations to come to a conclusion. This is one of the most emotional phases of the process. Sometimes the negotiations linger into the home inspection phase, too.

  5. Your offer has been accepted.

    Your offer has been accepted! This is like being officially engaged. You now have a legal interest in the property. The inspections must be set up immediately and the bank notified that you have found a property. The bank appraiser's inspection visit will be scheduled by the bank through the listing agent. If the septic report, soil percolation test and water quality tests weren't completed prior to the listing of the property, now they must be put on the fast track by the listing agent. The bank will assign, perhaps with your consultation, an attorney to handle the title search and mortgage paperwork. It is a conflict for the buyer and seller to have the same legal representative, so everyone will first want to know who the seller's legal representative is.

  6. Home Inspection

    Since May, 2001, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has required home inspectors to be licensed and Realtors to give out information about how to find one. In addition, the law states that only buyer's agents may recommend a home inspector to you. In contrast, seller's agents and subagents by law may only give out the general list of inspectors. This is another example of how you are better off using a buyer's agent. Full details are at Board Of Registration of Home Inspectors.

  7. The Purchase and Sale Agreement is signed.

    Generally at this point the inspections have been completed, and it is only the bank's full commitment that is outstanding. This is the step where you put down your ten per cent deposit, which goes into an escrow account at the real estate agency that listed the property. A personal check is okay. You sign the agreement first and then the Seller signs. It isn't the custom on the Cape for this to happen at a formal meeting, but rather it happens in two stages and sometimes by mail since one or both parties to the agreement may live off-Cape.

  8. Utility Transfers

    Contact the utility companies to arrange for their services to be put into your name the day of the closing. The seller will be contacting them to request final readings and to okay the transfer to you on that date. These arrangements can be made 10 days or so prior to the closing if that date is known for sure. If the house has oil heat, the oil tank needs to be topped off just prior to the closing. The buyer will pay the seller for a full tank of oil, and the oil company will certify the exact amount and price of oil in the tank.

  9. The Walk-Through

    On the day of the closing you will check out the house to make sure there are no surprises. Generally, the house is to be empty and "broom clean." One hopes there is no trash or junk left behind. Any work that was to be done must be completed. This is a time of heightened excitement, anticipation, and sometimes exhaustion.

  10. The Closing

    This is a meeting at the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds or at the office of the buyer's lawyer. The buyer puts down the rest of the purchase money at the closing. The closing attorney provides you with a detailed list of instructions. Sometimes the seller doesn't come, but sends a representative. The listing agent will have a certificate from the fire department confirming that the house has working smoke detectors in the appropriate places and that the house numbers on the house are correct and visible from the street for emergency vehicles. In some towns there is also a special letter from the Board of Health certifying that the septic system is in compliance with the town's regulations for real estate transfer purposes. In other towns, the engineer's report is sufficient. The buyer puts down the rest of the money and signs the mortgage documents. The bank will want to have proof of homeowner's insurance from your agent. The Seller presents a new deed conveying the house to you. Your attorney or the bank attorney will put this new deed on record with the Registrar, confirming that you are now the new owner! You may now bring in your furniture - the place is yours! You'll get all the keys, but you may want to change or rekey the locks.