Christine  Chadwick

Christine Chadwick


Realty World - First Coast Realty

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The Home Buying Process in 7 Easy Steps - With Timeframe

The Home Buying Process in 7 Easy Steps - With TimeframeWhether you’re a first-time homebuyer, or a seasoned homeowner looking for an investment property, the home buying process is known for being both intense and exciting. The key to having a positive experience is to be as prepared as possible before you Being prepared and educated before you engage in your home buying journey. Every situation provides its own unique circumstances, so take your time to prepare correctly so that you set yourself up for success. Being a prepared buyer shows sellers that you’re serious in your offer(s) and you’re ready to get the ball rolling.

I’ve put together the steps that it takes to get into a home, or vacation home, of your own, along with the estimated timeframe to complete each step.

Step 1: Home Buying Prep

Estimated Timeframe: 1–3 days

No major experience occurs without quite a bit of quality prep work. The real estate process is no different. You’ll want to check on your financial history and status to ensure that you’re on the right track for homeownership. 

  1. Check your credit score (you can use any of the major credit companies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion)
  2. Make a list of all of your current monthly bills
  3. Make sure you’re financial stable (ie, good job, money in savings, no outstanding debts)

Step 2: Paperwork

Estimated Timeframe: 1–3 days

There truly isn’t a shortage of paperwork in any real estate transaction. Begin your home buying process by ensuring that you have all the correct paperwork you need to get the ball rolling.

  1. Previous 2 years’ W-2 Forms
  2. Previous 2 years’ Tax Returns
  3. Previous 2 Pay stubs
  4. Home address for past 2 years
  5. Social Security Card
  6. Paper trail of all major purchases from previous year - don’t forget to not make any major purchases before looking to buy a home!
  7. Determine Your Budget - how much can you afford each month?
  8. Create your “really-would-like-to-have” list 

Step 3: Building Your Team

Finding the Perfect Realtor (I’m talking about me here)

Estimated Timeframe: 1 day – till (depends on your hiring process)


The Lender & Pre-Approval Letter

Estimated Timeframe: 1 day

Going on a home search without a pre-approval letter is like going to the beach without your bathing suit. Knowing ahead of time what you will be able to afford (or not afford) is crucial in the home buying process. It allow your Realtor to perform a better search for potential properties that fit within your budget and provides a clearer picture of the opportunities available to you. It’s extremely important to use a LOCAL lender as they will be more familiar with the little quirks of an area. When it comes to dealing with coastal home sales and the unique requirements we have here, our local lenders know what it takes to get you the loan you need, and a pre-approval letter. The pre-approval letter provides you with a price that you’ll be able to afford. This process should take less than an hour compared to the full approval, which can take up to a month. 

Check out my list of local area mortgage lender here >


Step 4: Let the Search Begin!

Estimated Timeframe: 1 month (but can heavily depend on what you’re looking for)

This is where all of your prep work will come into play. Your “really-would-like-to-have” list is a blueprint for where you want to look and at what homes you’d like to look at. Be sure to have an open and honest discussion with your realtor about your list so that you can be on the same page. Depending on what you’re looking for and the current market, you may have many options. Finding the “right one” early on does happen, but be prepared to take a look at numerous available properties. On the other hand, if there are fewer properties in the market, it may take a bit longer to find the perfect home. This is where attending Open Houses could be beneficial. If you’re interested in attending any area Open houses, simply ask your Realtor and they’ll be able to pull a list together. 

Work with your Realtor® to setup showings for homes that interest you and be sure to keep notes of the likes and dislikes of each home toured.

Step 5: Offers & Negotiations - The Give and Take

Write The Offer

Estimated Timeframe: 1 day

When you’re ready to make your move, you’ll want to make an offer. Sit down with your Realtor and review all area comparable sales, or “comps”, to ensure that you are making a competitive offer. The offer will then be submitted to the listing agent who in will in present it to the sellers, unless you’re dealing with a For Sale By Owner (FSBO), at which time the offer will be directly presented to the seller.


Negotiations & The Seller’s Acceptance

Estimated Timeframe: 3 days to 1 week

Once the initial offer has been presented, it’s typical to have counteroffers during the negotiation process. Both parties typically come to terms within a few days. The negotiation process can be one of the most intense times during the real estate transaction. Be mindful that during times where it’s a seller’s market, there may be more than one offer on the table. The seller may choose another offer so be ready to have to move onto the next property.


Under Contract, Earnest Money & Due Diligence Fees

Once the buyer and seller have come to the price & terms, you’re officially under contract! Congratulations!

*Note: Most real estate purchase contracts include earnest money1 and an increasing number of them include a due diligence fee2.


1. Earnest money: Money held in escrow (separate bank account for fees such as these) until closing and applied to the purchase price. It is also refunded to the buyer if the buyer decides to terminate the contract prior to the due diligence date negotiated as a part of the contract. 
2. Due Diligence Fee: A due diligence fee is paid directly to the seller also applied the purchase price. It is refundable to the buyer only in certain instances when a seller breaches the contract. Those instances are set forth in the contract itself.


Step 6: The Due Diligence Period

Estimated Timeframe: 4–6 weeks

You’ve submitted your Offer To Purchase and the seller has accepted your offer, you’re now entering the timeframe called The Due Diligence Period.  This is by far one of the most crucial and time sensitive steps within the the home buying process. During the due diligence period, you’ll handle all your inspections and appraisals and make any final requests or decisions.

It’s important to note not to break open that bottle of champagne just yet. It’s easy to think that since the contract has been signed and accepted that everything will run smooth. Oftentimes, the items listed below are cause for renegotiations. Be aware that the seller doesn’t have to agree to any of the new requests and could cause the sale to cancel.

Below are a list of important steps to ensure are completed during this time period:

  1. Mortgage Loan Application/Pre-Approval 
  2. Hire A Home Inspector & Review Inspection Report
  3. Home Inspection Repair Request
  4. Hire Contractors
  5. Perform Home Appraisal
  6. Title Search & Survey Request
  7. Apply For Home Owners Insurance
  8. Title Search & Survey Request
  9. Apply For Home Owners’ Insurance
  10. Enlisting the Help of a Closing Attorney

View my full list of area service providers here > 

Step 7: Pre-Closing & Closing

You’re well on your way to your new home!

Estimated Timeframe: 1 hr

Before the final day of closing, you’ll have one final opportunity to walk-through the home to make sure this is the exact condition you agreed to buy upon, that all previously discussed repair requests have been completed in full, and that the home is in the same state as it was when you had originally  looked at it. 

Important items to bring to closing:

  • Government issued ID
  • Cashier’s or certified check for any closing costs
  • Proof of insurance
  • Final purchase and sales contract

New HomeownersLike any major decision, the real estate process provides many steps and moving parts that all have to work together to give you your best shot at buying the home you want. That’s why hiring a professional Crystal Coast real estate agent, like myself, is so important. Having someone who can help guide you through the in’s and outs of the transaction gives you the biggest advantage. 

If you’re looking for Carteret County homes for sale, please consider giving my a call today at 252-205-5026, or feel free to email me any questions you may have at and I’ll be happy to help.