Home Buyer Checklist

Finding a house, or suitable land on which to build, involves an investment of time. The process of buying real estate can feel like a roller coaster ride. You can minimize the ups and downs if you take time now to ask yourself these questions:
What community do you want to live in?
What neighborhood do you want to live in?
How much money does it cost to buy a home in that neighborhood?
What is the maximum amount of money you can spend on a house?

Save yourself time by writing down the answers to these questions now. When you have decided on your target area, here are the steps that take you to your new home:

  • Find a home in the community that you want to move to, using online resources, a broker, and word of mouth. Many of the best houses are sold by word of mouth, without being offered to the public through advertising or real estate listings. Talk to your friends and family members about your search for a home. They may know someone who is planning to sell. Make sure the house you look at fits within the requirements you wrote down on the list above.
  • Select a real estate broker. If you decide to hire a real estate broker or sales agent to help you find a house, the agency relationship you agree on will determine what real estate services you get from your agent. Call the agents you are considering, and document how quickly they returned your call. Do an initial interview over the phone, and when you meet you will both be prepared. Buying and Selling a Home in Massachusetts Booklet.
  • Get your financing lined up. The list of lenders and links on the next page can help you find the best interest rate. If you complete the mortgage application process before you find a suitable house, you will be in a better position to make an acceptable offer when you find the house you are looking for. Obtain your commitment from your mortgage lender and fulfill any conditions that need to be taken care of to finalize your loan, such as paying off credit card balances or other loans. Mortgage Rate Lock Consumer Brochure.
  • Ask if There are Problems With the Real Estate Title. When you find a house you are interested in, ask whether there are problems with:
    • zoning
    • non conforming uses of buildings on the property
    • wetlands
    • land use
    • easements
    • shared wells or driveways
    • disputes with neighbors about boundary lines.
  • Take a Close Look at the Structure of the House. When you look at a house, start with structure.
    Are there defects in the foundation or the framing of the house?
    • What is the condition of the roof and chimney?
    • Take a close look at the walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors.
    • If there are problems, save yourself time and and money, and move on to other potential houses, unless you are in the business of renovating properties, or you have the time, talent and resources to make major repairs.
  • Guard Your Expectations and Manage Your Precious Time. You can never recover the time you've spent considering a house that will not measure to your needs. During this time you spend considering an unsuitable house, you might miss a house that does fit the requirements you wrote down when you started your search!
  • Study the Mechanical Systems of the House. Look at the age and condition of the mechanical systems, like plumbing and heating.
    Is the heating system Oil? Electric? Gas?
    Were there ever underground fuel tanks on the premises?
    How is domestic hot water heated? Electric? Gas?
    Are the appliances such as the water heater, refrigerator and stove included in the sale?
    Does the house you are looking at have city water and sewer . . . or is there a septic system?
  • Septic System - Title V. If there is a septic system, it must comply with strict regulations. Whenever a home is transferred, the buyer and seller must comply with these regulations. Tax credits and loans are available for Title V Septic System compliance.
  • Environmental Hazards. If the house is older, it might have:
    > urea formaldehyde insulation. A law requiring disclosure of UFFI has been repealed.
    > radon
    > asbestos
    > lead paint. There are notification and transfer requirements for these materials. The Seller must provide you with a Massachusetts Department of Public Health Lead Paint Notification Form.
  • Offer to Purchase. If you find that the house is suitable for you and your family, it's time to look at your answers to questions at the top of the page, and make an offer to purchase. In addition to the price you are willing to pay, an OTP discloses to the prospective home seller how much you need to borrow and what type of mortgage you intend to obtain.
  • Purchase and Sale Agreement. If your offer to purchase is accepted, you must now prepare to sign a legal contract that commits you to purchase the property. Before signing anything, review a draft of the Purchase and Sale Agreement with your Attorney. Important dates in the P&S contract are the deadlines for:
    > obtaining your mortgage commitment from your lender,
    > completing your mechanical inspection of the property
    > the date for the closing.
  • Conduct a Home Inspection. The Purchase and Sale Agreement includes the right to inspect the house you plan to buy. You should already have taken a good look at the structure and mechanical systems in the house. The home inspection can open your eyes to the condition of the home. You may decide that more specific information is needed on certain systems or features in the house. For specific inspections and estimates for repair of the chimney, call a masonry specialist; for the oil burner, call a heating specialist; and so forth. Get professional review of the condition of the property and any defects, including lead paint, termite damage, etc. Check Home Inspector Licenses. Home Inspector FAQs. Locate Home Inspectors by Town. Rules Governing Home Inspectors.
  • Request Repairs. Make a list of any defects in the property to be corrected by the seller.
  • Review Encroachment Survey. Obtain from Attorney's Office, and Review Surveyor's Plot Plan.
  • Smoke Detector - Carbon Monoxide Certificate. The home must be inspected for smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms by the local fire department before the closing. Arranging this is usually handled by your real estate professional. Massachusetts Board of Fire Prevention Regulations. Smoke Alarm Regulations. Smoke Detector Statutes: Chapter 148 §26E, 26F, 26F 1/2
  • Homeowner Insurance. Call your insurance agency, and let them know about your plans to purchase a new home. We can talk to them and let them know about the binder document your Lender will need at the closing. A copy of this is usually faxed to our office in advance of the closing.
  • Water/Sewer Meter Reading. The real estate professional helps arrange for the final reading by the seller.
  • Get the Closing Figures in Advance of the Closing. I will gather all the information involving your home purchase, and prepare your figures as your closing day approaches. My office will gather the information and documents regarding your city or town property taxes, water and sewer charges, and other costs that the seller is responsible to pay. All of these figures will be collected in advance of the closing. Several days before your closing, we can provide you with a draft settlement statement for you to review. You may also decide whether to obtain Owner's Title Insurance coverage on your new home. With proper preparation, the day of your house closing should be anti-climactic, as you enjoy the day the house becomes your new home!
  • Final Walk Through. On the morning of the closing, walk through the house with the seller and real estate professional to make sure everything is in order.
  • Closing Day! If funds are needed in addition to your down payment and mortgage proceeds, obtain a certified check from your bank, to bring to the closing. By now, all the details of your transaction should be completed, and you are ready to move in and enjoy your new home. Please bring your drivers licenses or other picture identification to the closing.

You can find a good deal in the marketplace, if you are well organized and prepared with information and knowledge about the home you are looking for. We can help you make the process run smoothly and efficiently. Call us at 567-5600.