Steps to Buying a Home

When I represent you as a buyer, I have your best interest at heart.

Whether you are buying a condominium, a single family home, a multifamily home, a duplex, an investment property, you will get:

  • get my full attention (yes, me, not teammates, not an admin, not anyone else but me),

  • my experience transacting different types of homes across Hudson and Bergen County,

  • my system instantly informing clients inventory updates in a seller's market,

  • my knowledge about the hyperlocal market,

  • my network of tested/used top-notch local mortgage lenders, home inspectors, attorneys, title agencies, contractors,

  • my honest advice about offering price and negotiation,

  • and my skills in navigating hurdles in transactions.

I believe in knowledge and experience. Real estate is not just a home. It is a life style, an investment, and a means to build wealth. As you are making one of the most important decision in your life, you deserve to have a full-service, local realtor be on your side. If you are using a sales person to purchase a five-figure wedding ring, a car, a life insurance, then you should consider using a realtor to purchase a six-figure home. I go above and beyond for every client. To read reviews about us from past clients visit Google, Yelp, and Zillow.

  1. Assess Affordability

There are many tools online now that can help you understand how much of a home you can afford, taking into consideration of your credit score, current debt level, income, savings, down payment, and mortgage rate. Check out this affordability calculator provided by Freddie Mac to estimate your purchase power.

2. Find a Realtor

Most people start their home buying search with, Zillow, or Trulia. That's totally understandable, but when you are ready to take actions such as touring a home or making an offer, the first step is to hire a Realtor to represent you.

What a Realtor does is to leverage his/her local knowledge to narrow down areas you look at, to streamline the showing process instead of you spending time calling 10 different agents for the entire day to try to set up appointments, to set up automatic search via the MLS (Multiple Listing System) so you have the first-hand, accurate information. This is a HUGE time saver. Realtors tour many many homes so they will know what are good options in the current market, and how to customize a standard offer to protect buyers.

So, how do you find a pick a Realtor? Hopefully you have found out about Buy Sell Love NJ and contact me at 814-321-3957 or sharleen(at)BuySellLoveNJ(dot)com so we can have a conversation to see if we would be a good fit together. Remember, not all Realtors are right for all people. Not only you want to find someone who is great at his/her job, but someone you like going to be spending time with! If you determine that person has the experience, service, and understanding of the market that you are looking for, you should choose the Realtor to represent you.

Legally before you disclose confidential information to your Realtor, you should have a signed buyer representation agreement. That helps to insure that your Realtor will keep private information confidential.

Feel free to reach out if there's any questions!

3. Get Approved for a Mortgage

If you are a serious buyer, after speaking with your realtor, you should probably start the process of obtaining a pre-approval letter. As soon as you see your dream home, which can happen any point of time when you start touring houses, you will need to submit an offer along with a pre-approval letter. At this point, you do not need to worry about rate shopping yet. All you need to do is to show the sellers you can afford the home.

Be aware that some large banks take weeks to generate a pre-approval letter, and the one they actually generate quickly is a pre-qualified letter, which will not be accepted by most sellers because a pre-qualified letter is only based on self-reported income. Also be aware that not all banks approve certain types of loans, such as duplex, which is a common home type in Cliffside Park, Palisades Park, and Tenafly. Lastly, loan approval time matters. Lenders unfamiliar with certain condominiums i.e. Jersey City may take extra long time to approve the loan, postponing closing time making both parties unhappy.

My suggestion is to consult with the Realtor you work with and let him/her recommend some options. Those lenders will be the ones that have closed deals in certain areas/buildings, familiar with the process, responsive, and close on time. These lenders' rates can sometimes be the same, or even the best vs. other lenders. So why not choose someone who can deliver on results and provide a satisfying experience?

4. Showings

At this point, you probably have browsed enough homes and have an idea of what you want. Now it is time to have an actual tour. Pick 8-10 homes and arrange around 4-5 hours in that day to tour all properties at one time with your Realtor. Discuss pros and cons of homes on your top list. You may not find any homes to you like and decide to wait it out, or you may fall in love with the home of your dreams. Either way, your Realtor is your best advisor along the search process.

5. Pick an Attorney

Pick a local attorney who is knowledgeable about the area, responsive and detail oriented. You, the attorney, and the realtor will work closely together on title search, title insurance, home inspection, credit request, document request etc. The purpose of the attorney is to review and make edits to the contract to protect your interests.

Your Realtor should be able to provide a list of good attorneys in the area.

6. Make an Offer

Discuss with your Realtor about the initial offer price, walk-away price, and closing date. Strategies can be vastly different depending on 1) whether you like the house enough, 2) the current market, 3) specifics of the property itself, 4) property type, 5) area in which you are buying. This is when the Realtor's expertise comes in handy.

Important elements in the Contract of Sale of real estate transactions in New Jersey:

  • Offer Price

  • Down payment - due at closing

  • Initial Deposit - usually within 10 days after being under contract

  • Closing Date - usually 45 days after being under contract

  • Inspection Contingency - usually within 10 days after being under contract

  • Mortgage Contingency - usually 30-45 days after being under contract

  • Any other addenda that apply such as condominium addendum, coronavirus addendum, or other terms you wish to specify in the contract

Update your pre-approval letter to the offer price and submit it along with the contract. Now do you see how important it is to choose a responsive mortgage lender?

7. Attorney Review and Rate Lock

Once your offer is accepted, you are going to the attorney review phase, where attorneys from both sides will provide riders to the contract. Attorneys will explain and make recommendations when reviewing these documents with clients. If there are no thorny issues, the process should take about 3-5 business days in New Jersey.

After attorney review, you are officially under contract! It is time to lock your rate with your mortgage lender. Rate lock period is typically 60 days.

8. Schedule a Home Inspection

A general inspection should be scheduled as soon as possible after the Seller accepts an offer. Depending on the home condition, you may want to schedule extra inspections for plumbing, mold, radon, oil tank etc. Speak with your Realtor to see what kind of inspections are necessary. Usually, a general inspection should be done within 10 days after attorney review is completed.

The purpose of the inspection is not to nitpick on cosmetic imperfections of the home such as a scratched wall, fainted paint, or a busted light bulb. Rather, an inspection is meant to discover any potential mechanical/appliance issues, dysfunctionalities of air conditioning and heating, plumbing, electrical, roof, stove range, oven, dishwasher, fridge, washer and dryer issues. It is also informational for you to understand when and how to maintain the home after you move in.

After the inspection report is completed, buyers can ask sellers to repair, or issue closing cost credits to address any issues. Sellers can agree to repair all or some of the issues, can choose to issue closing credit, or can cancel the entire contract. If buyers are not satisfied with the sellers' response, buyers have the right to cancel the contract too. Initial deposits will be returned.

Most of the time, with the facilitation of both sides of realtors, buyers and sellers can usually reach an agreement.

9. Drop off Your Initial Deposit

Normally, the initial deposit is around 5%-10%, due 10 days after attorney review and will be deposited to seller's attorney's escrow account. It will be counted towards to your total closing costs. Personal check is acceptable. I would recommend to mail the check with a tracking number.

10. Focus on Getting Your Mortgage Approved


  • Make a big purchase such as buying a car

  • Take out new loans

  • Switch jobs

  • Open credit cards


  • Shop for your homeowners insurance

  • Have attorney order title search and insurance

  • Constantly follow up with lenders to see what other documents they need

11. Get Ready to Close

Once all parties are cleared to close, the closing agent will send out a Final Closing Disclosure, specifying the amount due at closing. A defined closing date will be communicated to all parties.

On the closing day, buyers are to bring their IDs and a certified check of the amount specified in the Final CD to the closing table. Closing typically happens at buyer's attorney's office.

12. Attend the Final Walkthrough

Final walkthrough normally happens within 24 hours of closing. Many times buyers perform the final walkthrough right before they head to the closing table.

The purpose of the final walkthrough is to verify the home is in the same condition as it was on the date of inspection. It usually takes about 30 minutes.

13. Closing Day

On your closing day, you will meet with your attorney and your closing agent. Make sure to bring your ID and certified check and be available for at least 2 hours. You will be signing a stack of documents. After everything clears, you are officially a home owner! Keys are typically delivered to buyers by this time.

14. Wrapping Things Up

We made it! You’re a new homeowner and, hopefully, you’re getting settled into your new place.

Don't think our relationship ends here. I can provide more valuable resources to you as a home owner!

  • Market Reports

  • Home Valuation Periodically

  • Contractor/designer resources

  • Introduce you to local Facebook/Wechat Groups

Lastly, I hope you'd be willing to write a review. Any kind words you could share with others would be much appreciated! Thanks again for trusting us with your home purchase and please don't hesitate to reach out to me if I can provide you with referrals for painters, cleaners, contractors, handymen, appliance repairs, etc.

Remember, Buy Sell Love NJ!

15. Review Me and Keep In Touch

I appreciate your trust in me to help buying your home. Please take a few minutes to review me on Google, Zillow, and Yelp to share your experience, as I rely on referrals so let the community know how I did!

Welcome to the NJ Gold Coast. I'm sure you will love your home and I hope our relationship will not just end here. Hopefully, we'll become neighbors and friends and experience this amazing community together.