Step-By-Step Guide to Finalizing a Home Purchase Agreement

When people talk about buying a house, they often discuss the steps leading up to making an offer. But that’s not where the process ends. Here’s a step-by-step guide for what happens between signing a home purchase agreement and officially becoming a homeowner.

  1. Open an escrow account: An escrow account is a third-party fund that protects both the buyer and the seller until the home sale is finalized. When you open the account, you make an earnest money deposit to tell the seller you’re truly committed to buying.
  2. Get approved for a mortgage: Even if you’ve already gotten preapproved for a home loan, you need to return to your lender to finalize that approval before the home buying process can continue.
  3. Obtain homeowner’s insurance: You’re not legally obligated to have homeowner’s insurance, but this coverage provides peace of mind. Plus, your mortgage lender may require it before agreeing to finance your home purchase.
  4. Conduct a title search: It’s important to hire a company to conduct a title search, which checks for any liens or other encumbrances that might jeopardize your homeownership in the future. You’ll also want to obtain title insurance to protect you in the rare case that a property ownership dispute comes up despite the title search.
  5. Schedule a home and pest inspection: Sellers are legally required to disclose any problems with the property, but an independent home inspection is highly recommended. You may also want to schedule a pest inspection to check for rodent or insect infestations. If anything comes up during these inspections, you have the right to renegotiate the offer—unless the purchase agreement states that the property is for sale “as is.”
  6. Pay your down payment and closing costs: If everything looks good, it’s time to deposit your down payment (minus the earnest money you already deposited) plus closing costs into the escrow account. Sometimes, the seller agrees to pay the buyer’s closing costs, in which case you only need to deposit the down payment.
  7. Conduct a final walkthrough: Your purchase agreement should give you the right to walk through the property 24 hours before closing. This ensures the home is vacant, move-in ready, and in the condition you and the seller agreed upon.
  8. Sign the paperwork: There’s a lot to sign on closing day, including the deed naming you as the new property owner. Once you’re done signing paperwork, you’ll receive the keys to the house. You are now free to move into your new home!

The best way to successfully finalize a home purchase agreement is to work with a knowledgeable real estate agent. The team at Vutech & Ruff has over 60 years of combined experience. We’ll help you navigate the home buying process while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. To get started, check out the homes for sale in Columbus, Ohio. Then, call us at 614-897-0618 or contact us online when you’re ready to get serious about buying a home!

7 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Buying a home is exhilarating, but it can also be overwhelming. After all, this is likely the largest investment you’ll ever make, and it greatly affects your quality of life and financial future. That’s a lot of pressure! Follow these seven tips to help you succeed as a first-time home buyer.

  1. Pay off your debt and create an emergency fund: Before you take on a mortgage, it’s wise to be debt-free and have an emergency fund to cover three to six months of expenses. This protects you from financial setbacks if any unexpected home repairs crop up.
  2. Know how much house you can afford: A good rule of thumb is never to spend more than 25 percent of your income on housing. This means if you earn $7,000 per month, your housing costs should be no higher than $1,750—including your mortgage payment, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, HOA fee, and premium mortgage insurance (PMI), if applicable.
  3. Save up for a down payment: The traditional amount to put down is 20 percent. If that seems out of reach, strive to save up a down payment of at least 10 percent. Your lender will most likely require you to get PMI, but you can refinance your mortgage once you have 20 percent equity in the house to eliminate this extra payment. Set aside another 2 to 5 percent to cover closing costs.
  4. Only hunt for homes in your price range: To avoid falling in love with a beautiful house you can’t afford, only browse properties that land within your budget. Remember, you can find a starter home now and move again in a few years, using the equity you’ve built to afford a more expensive home.
  5. Get preapproved for a mortgage: Show your preapproval letter to a home seller, and you’ll prove that you’re a serious buyer with a lender all lined up. This makes you more competitive, an important characteristic to have in a hot real estate market.
  6. Don’t underestimate the importance of location: A good strategy is to buy the most affordable home in the best neighborhood you can find. After all, the local crime rate and distance from amenities are more important than wood floors and granite countertops. You can always add these upgrades later, but you can’t change the home’s location!
  7. Work closely with your real estate agent: A good agent will help you with everything from finding a home you love to making a competitive offer to navigating the closing process. Carefully select who you work with to ensure a successful first-time home buying experience.

Vutech & Ruff is here to make buying a home as simple and stress-free as possible. We’ll assist you with every aspect of your house hunt while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. Get started now by checking out the homes for sale in Columbus, Ohio. Then, call us at 614-897-0618 or contact us online when you’re ready to get serious about buying a home!

How to Find Your Home’s Value

If you’re asking, “How much is my house worth?” do you know how to find the answer? You can easily find your home’s value with a little bit of research and some helpful online tools. Once you know, you’ll have a better idea of how much equity you have in your home, giving you a good idea of what to expect if you’re looking to sell, refinance, or buy a new home.

  • Online tools can help you find your home’s market value. Home value estimators are easy to find online. Look for these helpful tools, called automated valuation models (AVM), on the websites of lenders or real estate sites like Zillow and Redfin. However, you’ll find a more accurate number if you get a real estate agent to use a professional AVM to determine your home’s value.
  • Another way to calculate property value is with a comparative market analysis (CMA). A real estate agent may provide this at little to no cost, in hopes of being hired as your selling agent. The agent will search for homes in your area that are comparable to yours and have recently sold to estimate how much someone would pay for your home.
  • The Federal Housing Agency has a house price index (HPI) calculator. This tool tracks a home’s fluctuating value based on information on mortgage transactions going back to the 1970s. It then provides an estimate based on how values are changing in your market. However, it isn’t adjusted seasonally or for inflation.
  • A professional appraiser can give you an accurate estimate. Before you can get approved for a mortgage, your lender will require a home appraisal. However, property owners can hire a professional appraiser at any time to determine their homes’ value. About one quarter of U.S. homeowners do this to find out how much their homes are worth. To determine value, appraisers evaluate the market, the property, and comparable properties nearby. The appraiser will compile this information, determine the value, and give you a written report.
  • You can look at comparable properties on your own. Just as appraisals and AVMs use “comps”, the recent sale value of comparable properties, you can look at similar properties to estimate your home’s value. However, it takes some discernment to do this accurately. Make sure the homes you’re looking at are actually comparable to your house. To look at comps, browse MLS listings to find recent sales in your area. Get at least three comps for an accurate picture of the market. When estimating your home’s value based on these comps, pay attention to things like square footage and the number of bedrooms, adding or subtracting value as necessary.  

Selling your home doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, especially when you partner with a company like  Vutech & Ruff. We provide outstanding service, assisting with just about every aspect of real estate while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. Our award-winning agents have years of experience selling homes Columbus, Ohio area. Call 614-706-0122 or contact us through our website so we can get to work for you!

Questions to Ask at an Open House

If you’re headed to an open house, don’t go unprepared. Before you go, write down a list of questions to ask the selling agent, so that you don’t forget the things you really want to know. Being prepared can help you gather the information you need before you make an offer. Here, we offer an open house checklist for buyers to use during a house showing.

  • Have any offers been made on this house? This is helpful to know before you open negotiations.
  • Why are the sellers moving? If there’s something wrong with the neighborhood or the neighbors, the agent may not be very forthcoming with the details. Asking the question, though, gives you the opportunity to read between the lines.
  • How long has the house been on the market? This is one of those questions for an open house that you really could find out elsewhere. However, the selling agent may be able to put the information in context.
  • Are there any issues with the house? This is one of the most important open house questions for home buyers, because it’s important to know exactly what you’ll be dealing with if you purchase this house. Sellers are required to disclose structural problems or code violations, and you can always ask for a copy of the disclosure statement, but you may be able to get additional information through an informal chat with a talkative agent.
  • What updates have been done? Some updates will be easy to spot, but things like wiring aren’t as obvious. Ask when the roof was replaced, and the age of the major components like the HVAC, water heater, and electrical system. It’s also smart to ask if the plumbing is on a septic or sewer system, and whether the sellers have had mold, radon, lead, or asbestos testing done.
  • Have any DIY repairs been made? Renovations should be done by a licensed contractor. If the homeowner has done the work, it may not be up to code.
  • What’s the cost of utilities? It’s important to know your cost of living before you make an offer. When inquiring about utilities, it’s also good to ask whether the house uses gas or electric power.
  • What stays with the house? Don’t assume that light fixtures, window treatments, and appliances will stay. It’s always better to ask.
  • What is the sellers’ timeline? The sellers may want to move quickly because of a new job or kids changing schools. This is helpful to know when you’re preparing your offer.
  • Is there an HOA? If the home you’re considering falls within the jurisdiction of a homeowners’ association, get a copy of their regulations so you’ll know whether you are willing to live with those rules.

House hunting doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, especially when you partner with a company like  Vutech & Ruff. We provide outstanding service, assisting with just about every aspect of real estate while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. Our award-winning agents have years of experience helping clients buy and sell homes in the Columbus, Ohio area. Call 614-706-0122 or contact us through our website so we can get to work for you!

What is an Earnest Money Deposit?

What is an Earnest Money Deposit?

Are you getting ready to buy a house? Once you find a property you love, you need the seller to know you’re serious. There’s one way to prove your commitment—make an earnest money deposit into an escrow account. Take a closer look at what earnest money is and when it’s refundable.

What is Earnest Money?

When you make an offer on a house, the purchase agreement might require an earnest money deposit, also known as a good faith deposit. Earnest money is placed in an escrow account, where neither party can touch it until the deal is closed. This protects both the buyer and the seller during the transaction. The purpose of earnest money is to decrease the likelihood that a buyer will place offers on multiple homes, then leave all but one seller high and dry.

How Much Earnest Money Should You Offer?

Typically, earnest money deposits equal 1 to 3 percent of the home sale price. The exact amount depends on the local real estate market. In a hot market where cash offers and bidding wars are common, you may need to offer more earnest money than you would in a languishing market. A professional real estate agent can recommend the amount of earnest money you should offer.

How Does the Escrow Process Work?

As soon as you and the seller agree upon a price and sign a purchase agreement, your real estate agent helps you open an escrow account and make your earnest money deposit. A neutral third party, such as a bank or another financial institution, serves as the escrow agent.

Once the money is in escrow, several things must happen before the sale is finalized. For instance, you need to get approved for a mortgage, have the home appraised and inspected, obtain homeowner’s insurance, and conduct a title search.

After these steps are complete, it’s time to close on the property. This involves signing lots of paperwork, including a new deed naming you as the property’s owner. When everything goes as planned, the earnest money is applied toward the down payment or closing costs. Your mortgage lender will also wire loan funds to escrow so the seller and the seller’s lender, if applicable, can be paid.

Is Earnest Money Refundable?

If any contingency in the purchase agreement isn’t met, the buyer can get their earnest money back. The most common earnest money refund contingencies include:

  • Home inspection contingency: If an inspection report reveals that the home needs repair, the buyer can back out and have their earnest money refunded—or they can work with the seller to either make the repairs or lower the sale price.
  • Appraisal contingency: If a third-party appraiser values the home at less than the sale price, the buyer can choose not to move forward and get their earnest money back—or they can negotiate a new price with the seller.
  • Financing contingency: If you can’t get approved for a mortgage after offering earnest money, you have the right to walk away and get your deposit back.
  • Home sale contingency: Some earnest money contracts have a contingency that lets you back out with your earnest money in hand if you can’t sell your current home before closing on the new one.

Remember, if the buyer backs out of the deal simply because they change their mind, the seller gets to keep the earnest money. That’s why you should only make an earnest money deposit if you’re serious about buying the house.

Are you ready to start house-hunting? Vutech & Ruff makes the process as easy and stress-free as possible. We’ll help you find your next home, overseeing the entire escrow process and ensuring you understand what needs to be done every step of the way. Get help shopping homes for sale in Columbus, Ohio—call us at 614-897-0618 or contact us online today!

Common Mistakes Made When Buying a Home

Buying or selling a home can be a confusing process. It’s easy for consumers to make mistakes, especially if they’re trying to do it all on their own. Let’s look at some common blunders people make when buying a home.

  • Assuming everything is negotiable. Some homes are priced with some wiggle room, but others are priced to sell. Don’t miss out by trying to negotiate when the listing price is fair, especially in today’s market, in which homes often go for more than the asking price.
  • Letting flashy extras distract from the true value of a home. Don’t be seduced by upgraded appliances or fancy fixtures. Instead, look at the quality of the home’s construction and finish. Thoroughly inspect the property, both the building and the lot.
  • Making a down payment that’s too small. Make the largest down payment possible, even if your mortgage agreement doesn’t require it. You may dramatically reduce your monthly costs.
  • Lowballing the seller. Offending the seller is not going to help you buy a home. Even if your offer is all cash, that doesn’t necessarily mean the deal will go through.
  • Having tunnel vision about home styles. A home’s outside appearance doesn’t necessarily indicate how well it will work for you. Rather than focusing on one style, keep an open mind.
  • Not looking towards the future. Remember that at some point you’ll have to sell the house. Prioritize location because that’s the one thing you can’t change.
  • Trying to buy directly. Buyers who don’t use a broker often make mistakes and typically overpay.
  • Ignoring important details. Is the electric up to code? Is the roof in good shape? How old is the water heater? Things like these are more important than the way the house feels to you.
  • Missing something great by holding out for something better. If you really love the first home you see, don’t feel an obligation to continue looking. You could miss your chance to buy a home that’s perfect for you.
  • Not seeing a home’s true potential. Look at a home’s “bones” rather than getting distracted by superficial things like paint color or appliances.
  • Fixating on online listings. Trust your agent to find good listings, rather than insisting on focusing on one particular place you saw online. Sometimes, online listings don’t show the full picture, but your agent can help you find the right home for you.
  • Buying without full confidence. When you’re hesitant, that’s not the right time to buy.

When you need the right agent to partner with you, Vutech & Ruff can help you buy your new home. We provide outstanding service to both buyers and sellers, assisting with just about every aspect of real estate while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. Our award-winning agents have years of experience, and our featured properties are located in some of the best neighborhoods in the Columbus, Ohio area. Call 614-706-0122 or contact us through our website so we can get to work for you!

Common Mistakes Made When Selling a Home

Selling your home can be exciting, but it can also be stressful. There’s a lot riding on it because it’s probably the most expensive thing you’ll ever sell! Let’s look at some common home-selling mistakes so we can help you can avoid them.

  • Failing to anticipate home selling costs. Remember, you need to factor in staging costs, agent commissions, closing costs, and inspection repairs before you can sell your house. You’ll also have to negotiate with the buyer, which may cost you. Another consideration is the cost of getting into a new home.
  • Selling with an upside-down mortgage. If you owe more than your home is worth, try to wait until the market improves.
  • Trying to go it alone. Selling your house without an agent can cost you: the typical FSBO (for sale by owner) home sells for about $24,000 less than a home sold by an agent.
  • Setting the wrong price. Listing your home at a price that’s too low can cost you money, while pricing it too high can run off potential buyers. Real estate agents know how to run a comparative market analysis and find the right price for your home.
  • Trying to hide problems. Ignoring major home repairs won’t make them go away. Trying to hide them from potential buyers could end up costing you the sale.
  • Neglecting to stage. Staging a home can help you sell a home more quickly and for a higher dollar amount. If the house is empty, rent furniture and décor so buyers can picture how the house would look furnished.
  • Failing to declutter. A house isn’t going to show well if it’s full of clutter. Clear every surface and relocate your pets while you’re showing the home.
  • Using bad photos. More than half of all people who bought a home last year found it online, so it’s more important than ever to have good photos. Your camera phone isn’t going to cut it; you need a real estate photographer.
  • Failing to light up your home. The brighter the room, the bigger it looks, so open all the curtains and turn on every light before a showing.
  • Staying for showings. Leave these to the agent- having the owner hanging around while people are looking at the house is awkward for everyone.
  • Taking things personally. If a buyer makes a low offer, it doesn’t reflect on your home. Look at is as an opportunity to negotiate.
  • Keeping the wrong agent. You’ll pay thousands of dollars to your agent for selling your home, so if your agent isn’t working out, look for someone better.

Selling your home doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, especially when you partner with a company like  Vutech & Ruff. We provide outstanding service, assisting with just about every aspect of real estate while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. Our award-winning agents have years of experience selling homes Columbus, Ohio area. Call 614-706-0122 or contact us through our website so we can get to work for you!

Advice for First-Time Home Buyers

Buying a home for the first time can be overwhelming. The home buying process is complex, and it’s easy to make mistakes. Need some help? We’ve got first-time buyer tips to assist you as you navigate this unfamiliar territory.

  • Know how to save for a home. When you’re preparing to buy your home, save enough money for a down payment, closing costs, and move-in expenses. One of the biggest first time home buyer mistakes is not putting enough money down, so save as much as you can, even if your mortgage lender doesn’t require it. Closing costs will be 2-5% of your purchase price, but you can ask the seller to pay part of that.
  • Determine how much home you can afford. This may not be the same amount that a lender is willing to loan you. You’ll want to get preapproved by a mortgage lender before you place an offer on a home, but only borrow as much as you’re able to comfortably afford. When determining your budget, consider factors like taxes, HOA fees, and home insurance.
  • Explore the real estate market. Consider what type of home you need and which specific features you’d like to find. Browsing real estate websites will give you an idea of housing prices and the availability of properties in the area where you’d like to live.
  • Build up your credit. Check your credit score before you apply for a mortgage. Take steps to strengthen your credit, like paying down debt to lower your debt to income ratio.
  • Know your mortgage options and selection. There is a wide range of mortgages available, and they all have different payment and eligibility requirements.
    • Conventional mortgages: not backed by the government, sometimes require as little as 3% down for first time buyers.
    • FHA loans: down payments as low as 3.5%, insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
    • USDA loans: for rural home buyers, no down payment, guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
    • VA loans: for active duty military and veterans, no down payment, guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Take advantage of first-time buyer programs. There are many programs designed to incentivize first time buyers. You may be able to get a low-interest-rate mortgage, help with your down payment and closing costs, and tax credits.
  • Hire the right agent. A good real estate agent can be a true partner in the home buying process, helping you locate and view homes, negotiating with the seller, and protecting you from pitfalls.

Now that you’re armed with home shopping tips, call Vutech & Ruff to find the right agent to guide you through the home buying process. We provide outstanding service, assisting with just about every aspect of real estate while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. Our award-winning agents have years of experience, and our featured properties are located in some of the best neighborhoods in the Columbus, Ohio area. Call 614-706-0122 or contact us so we can get to work for you!

What Do I Need to Qualify for a Home Loan?

Are you ready to become a homeowner? Before the house-hunting begins, it’s good to know how much house you can afford. In other words, how much money is the bank willing to lend you? To find out, look into getting preapproved for a mortgage from multiple lenders. Here are the requirements to qualify for a home loan.

Healthy Debt-to-Income Ratio

You may think your finances are ready for homeownership, but the bank must agree with you before they will lend you money. When assessing your financial situation, lenders look at more than just how much money you make—they also account for your housing expenses and other debts. This is known as your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

Be aware that most lenders will hesitate to approve your loan application if your mortgage payments (including principal, interest, property taxes, HOA fees, and insurance) exceed 28 percent of your income. Lenders also consider any car loans, student loans, credit card debt, medical expenses, child support, alimony, and other financial obligations. You are more likely to qualify for a home loan if your combined debts, including your mortgage, don’t exceed 36 percent of your income.

Good Credit

The most important part of your credit report is your credit score. This number determines your eligibility for a home loan and affects your interest rate. Pulling your credit report gives lenders a glimpse into your bill payment history and reveals any outstanding debts. If you routinely pay bills late or have defaulted on loans in the past, consider taking a year to improve your credit score before buying a house. This way, you may qualify for a loan with a lower interest rate and more favorable terms.

The Right Documents

Here are the documents you should prepare to present to a lender when applying for a home loan:

  • W-2s and tax returns from the past two years
  • Pay stubs from the past 30 days
  • Names and addresses of employers from the past two years
  • Bank statements and asset account statements from the past 60 to 90 days
  • Information on car loans, student loans, credit cards, and other debts
  • Proof of pension income, alimony, child support, Social Security or disability benefits, divided earnings, and bonuses, if applicable
  • Profit and loss statement (if self-employed)
  • Gift letters (if funding your down payment with a financial gift)
  • Rental history
  • Photo ID

Once you have been preapproved for a mortgage, it’s time to start house-hunting! Vutech & Ruff can make finding your next home as easy and stress-free as possible. We make sure you understand what’s happening and what needs to be done each step of the way. Meeting your unique needs and desires is our top priority. We know that buying a house is a long-term investment, and we want you to be happy with your decision! For help shopping homes for sale in Columbus, Ohio, please call us at 614-897-0618 or contact us online.

Tips for Moving with Pets

Moving can be stressful for people, so imagine how anxious your pet must feel! A flurry of activity around the house, changes to the living space, and being introduced to a new environment are all stress-inducing for animals. Follow these tips for moving with pets to get your dog or cat to your new home as safely, efficiently, and easily as possible.

  • Pack a “pet essentials” kit that includes pet food, treats, toys, grooming supplies, and the litter box. Keeping these supplies all in one place allows you to unpack them the moment you enter your new home.
  • Crate train your pet in the weeks leading up to the move. Place treats inside an open carrier and eventually serve meals there. Carry your pet around the house or take them for a short drive in their crate. Helping your pet acclimate to the carrier will make it easier to confine them on moving day.
  • Remove your pet from the action. Ideally, this means leaving them with a friend or boarding them at a kennel on moving day. This may not be possible for long-distance moves, so the next best thing is to put them in their carrier in a quiet room with the door closed. Check on your pet regularly, offering food, water, and walks at all the usual times to create some semblance of routine amidst the chaos.
  • Help your pet adjust to their new home one room at a time to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. Give your pet lots of love and attention, and present them with familiar toys and blankets to help them feel more at ease. Eliminate any hazards around the house before allowing your pet to explore, such as dangling electrical cords, open windows without screens, poisonous houseplants, and pest-control traps.
  • Contact your pet’s veterinarian if you’re moving out of the area. Request your pet’s medical records and an extra refill of prescription medications. Ask if your vet recommends any practices in your new neighborhood. If not, select one yourself as soon as possible so you have somewhere to take your pet at a moment’s notice in an emergency.
  • Update your pet’s information—including their tags and microchip registration—with your new address and phone number. You’ll be glad you did if your dog or cat goes missing during the move. After all, the unfamiliar house and neighborhood make it difficult for lost pets to make it home without help.

Before you can plan your upcoming move, you need help from an experienced real estate agent to find the right house to call home. Vutech & Ruff provides outstanding services to both buyers and sellers. Our award-winning agents have decades of combined experience and are pleased to provide the highest level of professionalism and expertise. Let us help you find your next home in one of the best neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio! Call 614-897-0618 or contact us online, and we’ll get to work for you.