Buying A Home in St. Louis
If you’re thinking of buying a home in St. Louis, there’s probably one question that’s at the forefront of your mind: “Is now the right time to buy?”
Well, there’s bad news and good news. The bad news first: there’s no one answer to that question. But the good news is that there is an answer for you. It requires some deep thought and some real honesty about your wants, needs, and financial realities. But ultimately, no matter how overwhelming the real estate market feels, it’s possible to find a home that you’ll love.
The even better news is that you don’t have to go it alone. When you find a realtor you can trust, not only can they give you insight into the current state of the St. Louis real estate market, and details about the houses you’re interested in – they can also offer their perspective on when it’s a good time to wait, or steps you can take to improve your chances of getting an offer accepted.
This simple guide will give you a good overview of the home-buying process. But before you begin, here are some questions to ask yourself about where you stand as a prospective buyer:
What to consider before buying a home:
- What kind of property do you have in mind – single family, townhouse, home with land?
- Do you have a price range in mind?
- What kind of credit score and liquid resources (for down payment, inspections, closing costs, etc) do you have?
- Are there particular neighborhoods or school districts you want to focus on?
- What features or amenities are most important to you? (e.g. garage, kitchen, basement, lot size, etc.)
- Is a fixer-upper ok with you, or do you want move-in ready?
- Do you need to sell your current home before you can buy a new one?
The Home-Buying Process
Ready to make your move? Here’s a simple overview of what the process of buying a home in St. Louis usually looks like:
Don’t go it alone
Whether it’s your first home purchase or your fifth, there’s no denying that buying a home is a significant undertaking. It’s always good to get some additional perspective.
Friends and family who have been in the market recently are a good starting place for insight, but when you’re ready to get serious, it’s best to have a dedicated buyer’s agent at your side. They can advocate for your best interests throughout the process, give you first-hand experience of what they see in the market day in and day out, and offer you expert guidance as you make your home-buying decisions.
Know your needs
It’s easy to get caught up in the market once you start looking at homes, especially when you find your “dream home” at the top of your budget (or even beyond). The more you can focus on what you actually need in terms of bedrooms, square footage, location, price, etc., the better off you’ll be when faced with the options that are actually available in the market.
One of the most important things you can do to improve your home-buying experience is to get pre-qualified before you ever step foot into a showing or an open house. Not only will getting pre-qualified help you to get a concrete idea of what you can actually afford, it will also make it clear that you’re a serious buyer once you’re ready to put in an offer.
The mortgage department at your current bank can likely help you get started, but if you have a realtor you can trust, it’s worth it to check with them for recommendations as well. They can often help you find a local St. Louis lender who may be able to get you better terms.
Make a List
Once you know what you need, what you want, and what you can afford, it’s time to start making a list of homes to view. It’s easy to start with looking at the big online sites for St. Louis homes for sale, but don’t forget to give your realtor all of your criteria as well. They can often use specialty searches and their connections with other local brokers to find you homes you might not have spotted for yourself.
Take a look
When it comes to real estate, there’s really no substitute for walking the property yourself. Pictures and even floor plans can only do so much; seeing the home for yourself helps you get familiar with the neighborhood and learn the intangibles of “flow” and how the home feels to you.
Try to see as many homes as you can early in the process, and make sure your realtor understands what you like and don’t like about each house you see. You may need to be flexible with your availability to make the showings happen, especially if the market is hot, but it’s the best way to be sure once you’re ready to make an offer on a home.
Make an offer
Once you’ve found a home you know you’d like to live in, it’s time to make an official written offer. The process can vary a bit from here based on the realities of the market and the specifics of your offer.
The seller should have a set amount of time to respond, ranging from a couple of hours to a couple of days. They may accept, reject, or counteroffer, and (with guidance from your real estate agent), you can walk away, negotiate further, or go under contract.
Do your due diligence
When your offer has been accepted and you’re actively under contract, it’s time to start getting all of the pieces in motion. You’ll generally have a specific time frame in which you can do inspections (including whole home inspections, termite inspections, sewer inspections, radon inspections, and possibly more). Try to schedule them as early as possible so you’ll have time to negotiate and for the sellers to complete any necessary repairs before closing.
Finalize the mortgage
Ideally, you started the home-buying process with a pre-qualification from a well-regarded local lender or larger lender you trust. If you did, you should be able to give them the details of your contract and get the mortgage application process underway. If you haven’t been pre-qualified by the time your offer is accepted, you’ll want to get the ball rolling as soon as possible – most real estate contracts have finance deadlines you’ll need to hit in order to close on the house.
Walk through once more
Finally, you’re down to the wire. Once you’ve gone through all the negotiation periods and gotten all of the financing settled, the last step before closing is to do a final walk-though of the property. This usually occurs 24-48 hours before close, and is your last chance to verify that all repairs have been completed and the house is fully empty.
Close the deal
Closing day has arrived! Although it’s a big day, the process itself is pretty simple: show up to the title company’s office, hand over your check or wire transfer for down payment and any other costs, sign a bunch of paperwork, and get the keys to your new home. Congratulations!
Finally, don’t forget the 11th step in the process:
Share the love
If you’ve had a great experience working with your real estate agent, don’t be afraid to let the world know! Because honesty and trust are such an important part of buying a home, you’ll find that the best real estate agents do most of their business through referrals from satisfied clients.