Real Estate FAQ: Top 10 Questions Home Sellers and Buyers Ask

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At HomeLight, we understand the complexities of the real estate market. Drawing from surveys and research conducted over more than a decade, we’ve compiled this “real estate FAQ” feature to provide answers to the 10 most often-asked questions about buying and selling a home.

From determining the right asking price to navigating the closing process, we’ve got you covered. Throughout this post, watch for the »Learn more links to see additional free resources from HomeLight.

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Top 10 Real Estate FAQs for home sellers

1. How do I determine the right asking price for my home?

This Catch-22 question tops our seller FAQ list. Price too high, and you risk your home sitting on the market; too low, and you might not get the full value of your investment. Here’s how to strike the perfect balance:

Analyze comparable sales in your area: Look at recent sales of homes that are similar to yours in terms of size, age, condition, and location. These comparables, or “comps,” are a strong indicator of what buyers are willing to pay in your market.

Consider market conditions: The current state of the real estate market can significantly influence how you price your home. In a seller’s market, where demand exceeds supply, you might price your home slightly higher. In a buyer’s market, you may need to adjust your expectations and price more competitively.

Evaluate your home’s condition and features: Unique attributes or upgrades can increase your home’s value. Conversely, if your home requires significant repairs or updates, this could lower its market value. Be honest about your home’s condition and how it compares to others in the neighborhood.

Get a professional appraisal: Hiring a professional appraiser can provide an objective assessment of your home’s worth. This can be particularly helpful if you have made significant improvements to your property or if there are few comparable sales in your area.

Consult with a real estate agent: A top-rated real estate agent can offer invaluable advice on pricing your home. They have access to up-to-date local market data and can provide a comparative market analysis (CMA) to set the most competitive price. Moreover, their experience with buyer behavior and negotiation strategies can guide you in setting a price that attracts offers while maximizing your profit.

»Learn more: How to Price Your Home Right by Using House Comps

2. What repairs or improvements should I make before selling my home?

Before listing your home, making strategic repairs and improvements can greatly enhance its appeal and potentially increase its sale price. Here’s how to prioritize your pre-sale home makeover:

Focus on curb appeal: First impressions matter in a transaction that typically involves hundreds of thousands of dollars. You won’t get a second chance. Simple updates like painting the front door, refreshing landscaping, and ensuring the exterior is clean and tidy can make your home more inviting to potential buyers.

Tackle necessary repairs: Address any known issues that could deter buyers or be flagged during a home inspection. This includes fixing leaky faucets, repairing damaged flooring, and ensuring all electrical and plumbing systems are in good working order.

Update key rooms: Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. In fact, in a recent HomeLight survey, 67% of top agents said the kitchen can make or break the sale. Consider minor updates that can make a big impact, such as painting cabinets, updating hardware, or replacing outdated fixtures. These spaces don’t need to be gut-renovated; even small upgrades can significantly enhance their appeal.

Paint with neutral colors: A fresh coat of paint in neutral tones can brighten your home and make it feel larger and more welcoming. Neutral colors also help buyers envision themselves in the space, increasing its appeal.

Invest in deep cleaning: A clean home is more attractive to buyers. Consider professional cleaning services, especially for carpets and windows, to ensure your home looks its best.

Declutter and depersonalize: Removing personal items and clutter can help buyers imagine their own lives in the home. Renting a storage unit for excess belongings can be a worthwhile investment to present a more spacious and neutral environment.

Evaluate the return on investment: Not all improvements will offer a return on investment. Consult with a real estate agent to determine which updates are most likely to increase your home’s value in your specific market.

»Learn more: Don’t Fix These 7 Things When Selling Your House

3. How do I choose the right real estate agent for selling my home?

Selecting the right real estate agent that fits your needs — and your personality — is a pivotal decision when selling a home. The right agent can provide a smoother, faster sale and potentially increase your home’s final sale price. Here’s how to choose:

Look for experience and local market knowledge: An agent with extensive experience in your local market will understand the pricing strategies, buyer preferences, and marketing tactics that work best in your area. They should have a proven track record of successful sales in your neighborhood.

Check for credentials and reviews: Verify the agent’s licensing and any additional certifications they may hold. Online reviews and testimonials can also provide insight into their professionalism, reliability, and effectiveness.

Evaluate their marketing plan: A good agent will have a clear, comprehensive marketing plan for your home. This should include professional photos, online listings across multiple platforms, open houses, and possibly staging services. Ask how they plan to make your home stand out in a competitive market.

Assess their communication skills: Choose an agent you feel comfortable communicating with regularly. They should be responsive, listen to your concerns, and keep you informed throughout the selling process.

Discuss their negotiation skills: Your agent should be a skilled negotiator who can advocate for your interests, manage offers, and navigate the closing process efficiently.

Understand their fee structure: Be clear on how the agent is compensated. Most real estate commissions are negotiable, and understanding this upfront can help you manage your selling costs.

Interview multiple agents: Don’t be afraid to meet with several agents before making your decision. This will give you a better sense of your options and help you find the best fit for your selling goals.

Ask for references: A reputable agent will be happy to provide references from past clients. Take the time to contact these references to ask about their experiences working with the agent. HomeLight’s Agent Match platform can connect you with the highest-rated agents in your community.

»Learn more: How to Choose a Real Estate Agent for Selling Your Home

4. What are the costs involved in selling my home?

Selling a home involves various expenses, many of which can affect your final proceeds from the sale. Considering these costs upfront can help you budget effectively and set realistic expectations for your net profit. Here are the primary costs you should anticipate:

Real estate agent commissions: This is typically the largest expense when selling a home. Commissions are usually a percentage of the sale price, ranging from 5% to 6%, split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents. Some agents may negotiate their rates, especially in competitive markets or for higher-priced homes. You can check average Realtor fees in your area with our commission calculator.

Home repairs and improvements: Before listing your home, you may need to invest in repairs or updates to make your property more appealing to buyers. Because these costs can vary widely, prioritizing them based on return on investment can feel like a financial high-wire balancing act.

Staging costs: Staging your home to look its best can attract more buyers and higher offers. Professional staging services may include furniture rental and decor, which can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on your home’s size and the staging duration. According to top agents throughout the country, a professionally staged home can sell for up to 13% more.

Home inspection fees: While typically paid by the buyer, some sellers opt for a pre-sale home inspection to identify any issues that could impede a sale. This proactive approach can cost several hundred dollars but helps in setting the right price and avoiding surprises during the negotiation phase.

Closing costs: Sellers are responsible for various closing costs, which can include title insurance, attorney fees, and transfer taxes. These costs can amount to 1% to 3% of the sale price.

Mortgage payoff: While not typically viewed as a “seller cost,” if you have a remaining balance on your mortgage, this will need to be paid off at closing. The payoff amount might be higher than your mortgage statement’s balance due to interest accrued between your last payment and the closing date.

Moving expenses: Don’t forget to factor in the cost of moving to your new home, which can vary significantly based on distance, the volume of belongings, and whether you hire professional movers.

Capital gains tax: If your home has significantly appreciated in value, and you’ve lived in it for less than two of the last five years, you might be subject to capital gains tax on the profit.

»Learn more: Fees and Costs Associated With Selling a House in 2024

5. How long will it take to sell my home?

The time it takes to sell a home can vary widely based on a number of factors, including market conditions, the price point of your home, its location, condition, and how well it’s marketed. The current nationwide average “days on market” (DOM from listing to signed contract) ranges from 43 to 61 days. Here’s what you should consider to understand the potential timeline for your home:

Market conditions: The state of the local real estate market plays a significant role in how quickly homes sell. In a seller’s market, where demand exceeds supply, homes may sell in a matter of days. In contrast, in a buyer’s market, where the supply of homes exceeds demand, it may take months.

Pricing: Setting the right price is a key factor when trying to sell your house fast. Homes priced competitively based on market analysis tend to sell faster than those priced too high. Overpriced homes may linger on the market, requiring price reductions to attract buyers.

Home condition and appeal: Homes that are well-maintained, updated, and staged appealingly typically sell faster. High-quality photos and virtual tours also help attract online buyers.

Effective marketing: The broader the exposure your home receives, the faster it may sell. This includes listing on multiple online platforms, social media marketing, and hosting open houses. A seasoned real estate agent can move your sale along at a healthy pace with proven marketing strategies that may include video tours and drone footage.

Seasonality: Real estate markets tend to be more active in spring and summer, making these seasons favorable for selling. However, this can vary by location. Check HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator to see the best months to sell for the highest proceeds or fastest sale.

Transaction process: Once an offer is accepted, the closing process, which includes inspections, appraisals, and securing financing, can take an additional 45 days or longer, depending on the complexity of the transaction. If you have an all-cash offer, the sale can close much faster.

»Learn more: How Long Does It Take to Sell a House?

6. Should I buy a new home before selling my old one?

The idea of buying a home before you sell is appealing to most homeowners. But deciding if you should (or can) buy first depends on your financial situation, the housing market, and your personal circumstances. Let’s take a look at some of the key considerations to help you make an informed choice — and a solution that might surprise you.

The benefits of buying first: Buying a new home before selling your current one offers several advantages. Most notably, it allows you to move only once, saving you the hassle and cost of temporary housing or storage. It also gives you the time to find the perfect home without feeling rushed by the timeline of selling your old home. You can also stage your home for a better or faster sale.

Unoccupied, staged homes sell for more money

A recent HomeLight survey of more than 1,000 of the country’s top-rated real estate agents found that unoccupied, well-staged houses can sell for up to 13% more. To illustrate: an unstaged home might sell for $500,000, but if you moved out and more effectively prepared and staged the home, it could sell for an additional $65,000.

Financial considerations: Buying before selling requires financial flexibility. You’ll need to be able to afford two mortgages simultaneously, along with the costs of maintaining both homes until your old one sells. Assess your savings, income, and access to credit to determine if this is feasible for you.

Understanding the market: In a seller’s market, where homes sell quickly, you might feel more confident buying first, knowing your current home is likely to sell promptly. However, in a buyer’s market, where homes may sit longer, the risk of carrying two mortgages for an extended period increases.

Modern solutions: Thanks to innovative real estate programs, there are now new options for homeowners who want to buy first. For example, HomeLight’s “Buy Before You Sell” program, with its near-instant Equity Unlock Calculator, provides the money you need to buy your new home while your current home is being sold. This means you can submit a competitive offer on your new home with no home sale contingency. To learn more, watch this short video.

Consider your personal situation: Ultimately, your decision should align with your personal circumstances, including your financial stability, risk tolerance, and the urgency of your move. Consulting with a financial advisor and a real estate professional can provide personalized guidance tailored to your unique situation.

»Learn more: Should You Buy a House Before Selling Yours?

Yes, You Can Buy Before You Sell. Why Move Twice?

Through our Buy Before You Sell program, HomeLight can help you unlock a portion of your equity upfront to put toward your next home. You can then make a strong offer on your next home with no home sale contingency.

7. What legal paperwork do I need to sell my home?

Selling a home involves a considerable amount of legal documentation to ensure the transaction is valid and binding. The required paperwork can vary by location and specific circumstances, but generally, here are the essential documents you’ll need to sell your home:

Original sales contract: This document includes details of your home’s purchase, providing a baseline for the current sale.

Professional appraisals: Typically, the appraisal for the current sale is ordered by the buyer’s lender, hired through an Appraisal Management Company. However, If you’ve had your home appraised in the past (such as for a refinance), these documents can help justify your asking price.

Mortgage statement: A current mortgage statement will show the outstanding balance on your mortgage, which needs to be paid off during the sale process.

Homeowners insurance records: Buyers often request to see the property’s insurance history to assess risks and potential insurance costs.

Property tax records: These documents demonstrate your history of property tax payments and the current tax status of your home.

Home inspection reports: If you’ve had a home inspection done before listing, this report can provide buyers with an unbiased assessment of your home’s condition.

Receipts for repairs and improvements: Documentation of any repairs or improvements can validate your home’s condition and value, and potentially justify the asking price.

Title and deed: The deed proves your legal ownership of the property, and you’ll transfer the title to the buyer upon selling.

Homeowners association (HOA) documents: If applicable, provide any HOA agreements, fees, and regulations that the new owner will need to comply with.

Disclosure documents: Most states require sellers to disclose known issues with the property, including structural problems, pest infestations, or history of flood damage.

Closing documents: Prepared by a real estate attorney or title company, these documents include the final settlement statement and any paperwork required to transfer ownership to the buyer. While not required, sellers also appreciate copies of home-related manuals, warranties, or past utility bills.

»Learn more: Which Documents Do You Need to Sell a House?

8. How do I handle multiple offers on my home?

Receiving multiple offers on your home is a favorable situation that indicates high interest from buyers. It can also lead to a better sale price and terms. However, making the most of this situation requires strategic thinking to maximize your benefits while maintaining fairness and professionalism. Here’s how to handle multiple offers effectively:

Understand all terms: A good offer price is always appealing, but it’s important to consider the entire package. Terms such as closing date, contingencies (inspection, financing, appraisal), and buyer’s financial qualifications all play a role in an attractive offer. Sometimes, a lower offer with fewer contingencies or a more flexible closing date might be more advantageous.

Communicate clearly and promptly: Inform all interested parties that you have received multiple offers. Setting a deadline for final offers encourages buyers to put their best foot forward.

Evaluate each offer carefully: Alongside your real estate agent, review each proposal to determine which offer best meets your needs. Consider factors like the likelihood of the sale closing, the timeline, and any additional requests from the buyers.

Consider a counteroffer strategy: You might counteroffer one buyer while keeping others in backup positions. This strategy can help you negotiate the best possible terms. Be transparent with all parties about your process to maintain goodwill.

Stay objective and fair: It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of a bidding war, but it’s important to remain fair and objective. Evaluate each offer on its merits, and avoid letting emotions dictate your decisions.

Keep your goals in mind: Remember your priorities, whether it’s a quick sale, achieving a certain sale price, or minimizing hassle. Choose the offer that aligns best with your goals.

Consult with your real estate agent: A seasoned agent can provide invaluable advice on which offer to accept. They can help you understand the nuances of each offer and what they mean for your sale.

»Learn more: Expert Advice for How to Handle a Bidding War on Your House

9. What happens during the closing process?

The closing process is the final step in selling your home, where ownership officially transfers from the seller to the buyer. This process, which typically takes a few hours, involves several key steps and parties, including the buyer, seller, real estate agents, and often a closing agent or attorney. Here’s an overview of what you can expect:

Final walkthrough: Usually, a day or two before closing, the buyer and their agent will do a final walkthrough of the property. This is to ensure that the home is in the agreed-upon condition and that all repairs, if any were requested, have been completed.

Reviewing closing documents: Prior to the closing date, you’ll receive a settlement statement (also known as a HUD-1 or a closing disclosure). This document itemizes all the financial transactions and costs associated with the sale, including real estate commissions, loan payoffs, and transfer taxes. Review these documents carefully for accuracy.

Signing legal documents: During the closing meeting, you’ll sign various legal documents. This includes the deed, which transfers ownership to the buyer, and the bill of sale. Depending on your state, a notary public or attorney may be present to officiate the signing.

Handling remaining payments: The buyer will complete their payments, typically through a wire transfer or a cashier’s check. This includes the down payment and closing costs. As the seller, you’ll pay any outstanding mortgage balance, real estate agent commissions, and other agreed-upon expenses.

Transferring utilities and keys: After closing, ensure that all utility accounts are transferred out of your name. The final step is handing over the keys to the new owner, signaling the official change in ownership.

Recording the sale: The closing agent or attorney will record the sale with the local government, finalizing the legal transfer of the property.

»Learn more: What to Bring at Closing: For Sellers, the List Is Short and Sweet

10. How can I sell my home quickly?

Selling your home quickly requires a mix of preparation, presentation, pricing strategy, and effective marketing. Here are some of the most effective ways to accelerate the selling process:

Price it right from the start: Setting a competitive asking price is where it all begins. If your home is priced too high, it may deter potential buyers, leading to a longer time on the market. Your real estate agent can help you determine the right price based on a comparative market analysis (CMA).

Enhance curb appeal: To help your home sell fast, create curb appeal that dazzles potential buyers. Even simple improvements like landscaping, painting the front door, or replacing outdated exterior fixtures can make your home more inviting to buyers.

Declutter and depersonalize: Buyers need to envision themselves living in your home. Removing personal items, excessive furniture, and clutter can make spaces appear larger and more appealing.

Stage your home: Professional staging can highlight your home’s best features and help buyers imagine its potential. Even if you don’t opt for full staging, arranging rooms attractively and ensuring the home is impeccably clean can make a significant difference.

Make necessary repairs: Addressing minor repairs before listing can prevent them from becoming sticking points during negotiations. Fix leaky faucets, squeaky doors, and replace burnt-out light bulbs to improve the overall impression.

Invest in professional photography: A high-quality photo portfolio created by a professional photographer is one of the best investments you or your agent can make for capturing the interest of online buyers and speeding up your home sale. Including video tours and drone footage can also spike interest.

Market aggressively: Utilize online listings, social media, and real estate platforms to reach a wide audience. A good real estate agent will have a robust marketing plan to promote your home effectively.

Be flexible with showings: The more accessible your home is to potential buyers, the faster you’ll find a buyer. Be flexible with showing times to accommodate as many viewers as possible.

Consider incentives: Offering incentives, such as covering closing costs, providing home warranties, or including appliances, can make your home more attractive compared to others on the market.

Explore cash offers or special programs: House-buying companies offer programs to buy homes directly or facilitate quick sales. HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform, for instance, can provide a cash offer in 24 hours, allowing you to sell your home in as few as 10 days.

»Learn more: Sell Your Home Fast: 9 Expert Tips for All Sellers

»Bonus resource: Should I Sell My House Now or Wait? Here’s how to decide

Top 10 Real Estate FAQs for homebuyers

1. How do I know how much house I can afford?

Determining how much house you can afford is typically the key first step in the home buying process. It ensures you’re looking at properties within your financial reach, avoiding the disappointment of falling in love with a home that’s beyond your budget. Here’s how to calculate your affordability:

Assess your income: Start by evaluating your gross monthly income, including salary, bonuses, dividends, and any other sources. Lenders typically recommend that your monthly mortgage payment should not exceed 28% of your gross monthly income.

Calculate your debt-to-income ratio (DTI): Lenders use DTI to assess your ability to manage monthly payments and repay debts. Your DTI is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes toward paying debts, including your future mortgage payment. Most lenders prefer a DTI ratio of 36% or lower, including your mortgage. Some lenders might go as high as 50%, but this can depend on other factors including what type of loan you apply for.

Consider down payment: The size of your down payment affects the total amount of home you can afford. A larger down payment reduces your loan amount and, consequently, your monthly mortgage payments. While 20% is often recommended to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), many loan programs allow for much lower down payments.

Account for additional expenses: Beyond the mortgage payment, owning a home comes with additional costs, such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance, and possibly HOA fees. Ensure these expenses are factored into your budget.

Use a mortgage affordability calculator: Many online tools can help estimate how much home you can afford based on your income, debts, down payment, and the current interest rates. These calculators provide a good starting point by incorporating various financial factors into your affordability estimate.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage: For a more precise figure, consider getting pre-approved by a lender. This process involves reviewing your financial documents and credit history to provide a specific mortgage amount you’re qualified for, giving you a clear picture of your affordability range.

»Learn more: How Much House Can I Afford? 10 Rules of Thumb

2. What is the first step in the home-buying process?

The first step in the home-buying process is directly related to the homebuyer question above — getting pre-approved for a mortgage. This crucial phase sets the foundation for your home search by determining how much you can afford to borrow. Here’s why starting with a mortgage pre-approval is important:

Clarifies your budget: Pre-approval provides a clear picture of the loan amount you’re eligible for, helping you narrow down your home search to properties within your financial reach.

Strengthens your offer: In competitive markets, being pre-approved can make your offer more attractive to sellers, showing them you’re serious and financially capable of purchasing their home.

Speeds up the buying process: With a pre-approval in hand, you can move faster once you find a home you want to buy. Since lenders have already evaluated your financial information, the loan approval process can proceed more quickly.

Identifies potential issues early: The pre-approval process involves a thorough check of your credit history and financial background. If there are any issues, you’ll have an opportunity to address them before you’re deep into the home-buying process.

Helps in negotiating: Knowing exactly how much you can afford gives you leverage in negotiations. You’ll be able to make informed decisions on offer amounts and negotiation tactics.

»Learn more: 17 Steps to Buying a House: Everything Buyers Need to Do

Step one: Talk to a few buyer's agents!

Tell us a little bit about your plans (where you’re looking to buy and when you want to make a purchase) and we’ll connect you with top-rated buyer’s agents in your area. It takes only a few minutes, and it’s free.

To get pre-approved, you’ll need to provide your lender with various financial documents, including proof of income, tax returns, employment verification, and details on your debts and assets. This information helps lenders assess your creditworthiness and determine how much they’re willing to lend you. For more information about how to get a prequalification or preapproval letter, visit the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

3. How do I choose the right neighborhood for my new home?

Choosing the right neighborhood is just as important as finding the perfect house. Your neighborhood significantly impacts your lifestyle, including your commute, social interactions, and access to amenities. Here are key factors to consider when selecting a neighborhood for your new home:

Safety and crime rates: Research the safety of the area. Online crime maps and local police reports can provide insights into the neighborhood’s safety levels. You can use the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer to find statistics about different types of crime nationally or in your state, county, or town.

Schools and education: For families with children, the quality of local schools is often a top priority. Look into the schools’ ratings, test scores, and programs offered. Even if you don’t have children, good schools can positively affect property values. The U.S. National Center for Education Statistics maintains a website where you can search for local schools. Other sites like U.S. News, Niche, and Great Schools provide reviews and comparisons of schools throughout the country.

Commute times and transportation: Consider your daily commute to work or other activities. Check the availability of public transportation, highway access, and traffic patterns during your typical commute times. Use sites like Commute Time Map and Travel Time Map to learn about commute times in cities across the country.

Local amenities: Think about what amenities are important to you. This could include parks, recreational facilities, shopping centers, restaurants, and hospitals. Visit the neighborhood to see what’s within walking distance.

Community and lifestyle: Each neighborhood has its own vibe and community culture. Some may offer a bustling urban feel, while others provide a quiet, suburban atmosphere. Think about which environment suits your lifestyle best. Attend a few community meetings.

Future development: Research any planned developments or changes in the neighborhood that could affect property values and your quality of life. This might include new schools, commercial projects, or infrastructure improvements.

Property values and taxes: Look into the area’s property values, trends, and tax rates. These can impact your budget and the long-term investment potential of your home.

Noise and environment: Consider environmental factors such as noise levels from traffic, airports, or businesses. Also, check for any potential environmental hazards in the area.

Neighborhood associations and regulations: If the neighborhood has a homeowners association (HOA), review the rules, fees, and regulations to ensure they align with your preferences and lifestyle.

Visit at different times: Finally, visit the neighborhood at various times of the day and week to get a real feel for the area’s activity levels, noise, and overall ambiance.

You can research helpful stats about all U.S. cities and their neighborhoods on sites like,, and ATTOM Data Solutions. AARP also maintains a Livability Index of top communities in the U.S.

»Find more ideas: I am Looking for a New Life. Where Should I Move to Start Over?

4. What should I look for during a home viewing

A home viewing is your initial opportunity to assess the condition and features of a property to decide if it meets your needs and preferences. It’s also a chance to take notes, shoot photos, and ask questions. While personal taste in style and layout is important, there are several key aspects you should pay close attention to during a home viewing:

Watch for cracks, sags, or dips: Check for signs of structural issues, such as large cracks in the walls or ceilings, and doors or windows that don’t close properly. Also, be on the lookout for floors that sag or dig. These could indicate foundation problems.

Look at the roof: To the best of your ability, check the condition of the roof. Inquire about its age and condition. Replacing a roof can be expensive, so knowing its lifespan can help you anticipate future costs.

Test drive plumbing and electrical systems: Test the faucets, showers, and toilets to ensure good water pressure and drainage. Check the electrical outlets and light switches to ensure they’re functional. Look for modern electrical panels and well-organized wiring.

Consider the home’s ventilation: Ask about the age and condition of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. An outdated or poorly functioning system can lead to high utility bills and costly replacements.

Windows and insulation: Check the windows to ensure they are well-sealed and in good condition. Feel for drafts, which could indicate poor insulation. Good insulation and windows are essential for energy efficiency and comfort.

Check for signs of water damage or mold: Look for any signs of dampness or mold, especially in basements, bathrooms, and around windows. These can indicate water intrusion or poor ventilation.

Observe property maintenance: Assess the overall condition of the property. Well-maintained homes are less likely to have hidden problems. Pay attention to the condition of the floors, walls, and fixtures.

Pay attention to the trees and yard: Evaluate the condition of any outdoor areas, including the trees, garden, decking, and fences. Consider the size, privacy, and maintenance required.

Eyeball storage space: Consider the amount and usability of storage space, including closets, attics, and garages. Adequate storage can significantly impact your living experience.

Use all your senses: As you walk the home, be aware of suspicious smells. Visually weigh cosmetic enhancements. Look past furniture and decor to see the actual home. Examine appliances, and ask about the home’s history. Of course, if you think you’ve found a keeper, you will likely have a professional home inspector conduct a thorough evaluation before making an offer.

Neighborhood and surroundings: While not part of the home itself, take note of the neighborhood, traffic noise, parking availability, and proximity to amenities. These factors can influence your daily life and property value.

»Learn more: What to Ask During an Open House? 60 Questions for Homebuyers

5. How does the offer process work?

When purchasing a home, the offer process is a big step that must be taken with care. Having a knowledgeable real estate agent can help you navigate this phase efficiently and with confidence. Here is typically what the process looks like:

Preparation: Before making an offer, ensure you have mortgage pre-approval to demonstrate your financial readiness. Also, research the property and local market to inform your offer.

Making the offer: Your real estate agent will draft an offer letter, which includes the purchase price, deposit amount, closing date, and any contingencies (such as financing, home inspection, or sale of your current home). Your agent can advise on a competitive offer based on market analysis and the home’s condition.

Submission: Once you’re satisfied with the offer, your agent will submit it to the seller’s agent. The offer should be accompanied by an earnest money deposit, showing your commitment to the purchase.

Negotiation: The seller can accept, reject, or counter your offer. Be prepared for negotiation, which may involve several rounds of back-and-forth on price, terms, and contingencies. Your agent will guide you through this process, advocating on your behalf.

Acceptance: If the seller accepts your offer — or you agree to their counteroffer — the offer becomes a binding contract. Both parties will sign the agreement, formalizing the terms of the sale.

Contingency fulfillment: Before the sale can close, all contingencies outlined in the offer must be met. This may include completing a home inspection, securing final mortgage approval, and any other conditions agreed upon.

Closing: Once all contingencies are satisfied, the transaction proceeds to closing, where ownership is officially transferred to you.

»Learn more: From Offer to Signing, And Everything in Between

6. What are closing costs, and how much will I need to pay?

Closing costs are the fees and expenses you pay to finalize the mortgage process and transfer ownership of the property. These costs vary by location, property type, and loan type but typically range from 2% to 5% of the purchase price. You can roughly estimate your closing costs using HomeLight’s Closing Costs Calculator. Here’s a breakdown of common closing costs:

Loan origination fees: Charged by the lender for processing the new loan.

Appraisal and survey fees: Costs for assessing the home’s value and property boundaries.

Title insurance and search fees: For verifying the title of the home is clear and insuring against future claims.

Home inspection fee: Paid to a professional for a thorough inspection of the property’s condition.

Escrow and closing fees: Charged by the third party handling the closing process.

Prepaid expenses: Includes homeowners insurance, property taxes, and possibly private mortgage insurance (PMI) that are paid in advance.

Recording fees: Paid to the local government for recording the new deed and mortgage.

Attorney fees: If an attorney is involved in the closing process, their fees for legal services.

»Learn more: How Much You Might Pay in Buyer Closing Costs and Ways to Save

7. Can I back out of buying a house after I make an offer?

Yes, you can back out of buying a house after making an offer, but the consequences depend on the timing and the conditions specified in your offer. Here are key considerations:

Offer without acceptance: If the seller has not yet accepted your offer, you can withdraw it without penalty. Communication through your real estate agent is essential to ensure the withdrawal is timely and documented.

Contingencies: Most offers include contingencies that allow you to cancel the contract under specific conditions without losing your earnest money deposit. Common contingencies include:

  • A Home inspection contingency allows you to renegotiate or withdraw if significant issues are discovered during the inspection.
  • A financing contingency is a safeguard if you are unable to secure a mortgage approval within a specified period, you can back out.
  • An appraisal contingency protects you if the home’s appraised value is lower than the offer price.

Breach of contract: If you back out of a deal for reasons not covered by contingencies, you may be considered in breach of contract. This could result in losing your earnest money deposit or facing legal action from the seller.

Negotiated withdrawal: In some cases, buyers and sellers negotiate a withdrawal from the contract that may involve compensating the seller or forfeiting part of the earnest money.

»Learn more: What Does It Mean to Back Out of a Home Purchase?

8. How long does the home-buying process take?

The timeline for the home-buying process can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the housing market, the type of mortgage, and whether there are any complications. Here’s a general overview:

Pre-approval: Obtaining mortgage pre-approval can take a few days to a week, depending on the lender and your readiness with the necessary documents.

Home search: The time spent searching for a home can vary widely from a few weeks to several months, based on market conditions and your specific needs.

Making an offer and negotiation: Once you find a home you like, making an offer and negotiating terms can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Under contract to closing: After your offer is accepted, the time to close on a home typically ranges from 30 to 60 days. This period allows for the completion of the home inspection, appraisal, and final mortgage approval. However, this timeline can be shorter or longer based on individual circumstances and the efficiency of the parties involved. For example, if you are making an all-cash offer, you may close the sale in a matter of days or weeks.

»Learn more: How Long Does Closing Take on a House?

9. When is the best time to buy a home?

The best time to buy a home depends on a number of factors, including market conditions, personal circumstances, and financial readiness. However, there are general trends that can influence the decision:

Spring and summer: These seasons typically see more listings, giving buyers a wider selection of homes. The competition can be fiercer, potentially driving up prices, but the increased inventory offers more options to find the right home.

Fall and winter: Listings decrease, but sellers in the market during these months may be more motivated, possibly leading to better deals. Buyers might face less competition, allowing for more negotiating power.

Market conditions: Local real estate market conditions play a significant role. In a buyer’s market, where supply exceeds demand, you might find better deals. In a seller’s market, competitive prices and quick sales are common.

Interest rates: Mortgage interest rates fluctuate and can impact your buying power. Lower rates can make homebuying more affordable, regardless of the season.

Personal readiness: Ultimately, the best time to buy a home is when you’re financially and emotionally ready. Having a stable income, a good credit score, and a down payment saved up are key indicators of readiness.

»Learn more: Should I Buy a House Now or Wait? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

10. What happens at a home closing?

Home closing, also known as settlement, is the final step in the home-buying process when the property’s ownership officially transfers from the seller to the buyer. Here’s what typically happens:

Review and sign documents: Both parties sign numerous legal documents. For the buyer, this includes the mortgage agreement, if applicable, and the closing disclosure, which outlines loan terms, monthly payments, and closing costs. The seller signs the deed and the bill of sale.

Final walkthrough: Buyers typically do a final walkthrough of the property before closing to ensure all agreed-upon repairs are made, and the home is in the expected condition.

Payment of closing costs: The buyer pays the closing costs, which can include loan origination fees, title insurance, taxes, and other charges outlined in the closing disclosure.

Transfer of funds: The buyer’s lender will wire the loan amount to the closing agent, who then distributes funds to the seller, real estate agents, and other parties owed.

Recording of the deed: The closing agent records the deed with the county, officially transferring ownership to the buyer. This record is public and confirms the buyer as the new homeowner.

Handover of keys: Once all paperwork is signed and funds are distributed, the seller hands over the keys to the buyer.

»Learn more: Steps to Closing On a House (And What to Do to Speed Things Up)

Whether buying or selling, partner with a professional

We hope these real estate FAQs are helpful in your real estate life events. Considering these factors alongside your personal needs and market research can help you determine the best path and timing for you to buy or sell a home.

Get started today: HomeLight can connect you with the best listing and buying agents in the country. Our free Agent Match Platform analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs.

If you’re pondering the question, “Should I Sell My Current House Before I Buy a New One?” HomeLight can assist you with our innovative Buy Before You Sell program, which uses the equity from your current home to let you move into your new home now — and sell your current house with peace of mind.

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