Many of your questions should focus on potential problems and maintenance issues. Does anything need to be replaced? What things require ongoing maintenance (e.g., paint, roof, HVAC, appliances, carpet)? Also ask about the house and neighborhood, focusing on quality of life issues. Be sure the seller's or real estate agent's answers are clear and complete. Ask questions until you understand all of the information they've given. Making a list of questions ahead of time will help you organize your thoughts and arrange all of the information you receive.
Generally speaking, a mortgage is a loan obtained to purchase real estate. The "mortgage" itself is a lien (a legal claim) on the home or property that secures the promise to pay the debt. All mortgages have two features in common: principal and interest.
Choose your lender carefully. Look for financial stability and a reputation for customer satisfaction. Be sure to choose a company that gives helpful advice and that makes you feel comfortable. A lender that has the authority to approve and process your loan locally is preferable, since it will be easier for you to monitor the status of your application and ask questions. Plus, it's beneficial when the lender knows home values and conditions in the local area. Do research and ask family, friends, and your real estate agent for recommendations.
You'll present your paid homeowner's insurance policy or a binder and receipt showing that the premium has been paid. The closing agent will then list the money you owe the seller (remainder of down payment, prepaid taxes, etc.) and then the money the seller owes you (unpaid taxes and prepaid rent, if applicable). The seller will provide proofs of any inspection, warranties, etc. Once you're sure you understand all the documentation, you'll sign the mortgage, agreeing that if you don't make payments the lender is entitled to sell your property and apply the sale price against the amount you owe plus expenses. You'll also sign a mortgage note, promising to repay the loan. The seller will give you the title to the house in the form of a signed deed. You'll pay the lender's agent all closing costs and, in turn, he or she will provide you with a settlement statement of all the items for which you have paid. The deed and mortgage will then be recorded in the state Registry of Deeds, and you will be a homeowner.
A seller disclosure form can give you an idea of potential problems, but it should never be considered a substitute for a professional home inspection. Sellers may overlook problems, and often not be aware of them. It's smart to use the disclosure as starting point, but hire a pro to get the whole story.
If you're refinancing an FHA loan, try to schedule the closing for as close to the end of the month as possible. Unlike conventional loans, on which lenders typically charge interest only up until the date the loan is repaid, the FHA charges interest through the end of the month, regardless of the payoff date. That means for the period between the time you close and the end of the month, you will be paying interest on your old loan and your new one.
If you lock in a mortgage rate, make sure the expiration date leaves enough time to complete the real estate closing. The flood of home purchases and refinancings has created major processing delays, so if there is any question about the processing time, or if you seem to be cutting it close, you may want to pay a little more for a longer lock-in period rather than risk losing your rate.
When reading a preliminary title report, it is important to check the extent of your ownership rights or interest. The most common form of interest is "fee simple" or "fee," which is the highest type of interest an owner can have in land. Liens, restrictions and interests of others excluded from title coverage will be listed numerically as exceptions in the report.
You can find out if you're ready to buy a house by asking yourself some questions: Do I have a steady source of income? Have I been employed on a regular basis for the last 2-3 years? Is my current income reliable? Do I have a good record of paying my bills? Do I have few outstanding long-term debts, like car payments? Do I have money saved for a down payment? Do I have the ability to pay a mortgage every month, plus additional costs? If you can answer "yes" to these questions, you are probably ready to buy your own home.
If possible, take photographs of each house: the outside, the major rooms, the yard, and extra features that you like or ones you see as potential problems. And don't hesitate to return for a second look.