Greenwich Real Estate - Kaye Lewis, Greenwich Realtor
Kaye Lewis
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Buying a Home in Greenwich

Buying a Home in Greenwich:  2017

CUSTOMARY TIMELINE FOR BUYING A GREENWICH HOME

While the basics of purchasing a home are the same everywhere, each state is slightly different. In Connecticut, it varies even further by county and even from town to town.

In Greenwich, we have a slightly different home buying procedure than the rest of Connecticut, so it is important to know what to expect.  Here’s a brief summary of what you can expect when buying a Greenwich home. If you need more detailed information, please read further or contact me (since every situation is unique).

  1. Make a verbal offer
  2. Agents negotiate the price and terms
    1. Price
    2. Closing date
    3. Inclusions and exclusions
    4. Contingencies (typically mortgage, etc.)
  3. Accepted Offer
    1. Agents prepare Confirmation of Accepted Offer, a document which memorializes the agreed upon terms and condition of the sale, which the attorneys will use to draft sales contracts
    2. Buyer selects a CT real estate attorney for legal representation
  4. Building Inspections
    1. Basic inspection review the inerior and exteriors, working systems of the home (heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical), roof, foundation, pests and can also include well, septic, environmental (asbestos, lead paint, buried oil tanks, pool, radon in the air, etc.)
    2. Any problems discovered during inspections are resolved through further negotiations, estimates and details are included in the sales contract
  5. Financing arranged
  6. Contract signing
    1. Buyer signs the sales contract (prepared and reviewed by both attorneys in advance) and returns with a deposit (typically 10%)
    2. Receive fully executed contract and provide a copy to your lender to trigger the lender to order the appraisal
  7. Obtain insurance
  8. Utilities transfer
    1. After Seller notifies all utility companies of upcoming closing date, buyer calls to setup account (attorneys handle the water company, if applicable)
    2. Request a list of service providers from Sellers

Changes have occurred in this process over the years, so whether you’re a first time buyer or an experienced one, this info can be useful.  Here is what you need to know:

Part I

  1. Before you get started: Buyer Agency in Connecticut…Connecticut requires that all buyers have an opportunity to be represented by an agent working solely on their behalf in their pursuit of a home purchase. Unless a home is for sale by owner, Sellers are represented by a listing agent who has fiduciary responsibilities to them – in other words, holds their best interests as the top priority, owes the seller confidentiality and must follow their lawful instruction.
    1. Buyer Agency offers the same representation to Buyers, and insures that their agent is “on their side,” acting as their advocate throughout the process from finding the right home, determining the right price to offer, as well as through all the many steps until the closing occurs and the keys are in their hands.
    2. Before an agent can show you homes, he or she is required by law to have an Exclusive Right to Represent form signed with you, stating the area you are looking in and the length of time the contract is valid.
    3. State of Connecticut, Regulation 20-328-6a. (a) (2):
      1. Before a licensee attempts to negotiate a purchase, exchange or lease of real estate, other than a commercial real estate transaction, on behalf of a prospective buyer or lessee of real estate, the licensee shall enter into an agency agreement with the party or parties for whom the licensee will act. All agency agreements shall be in writing, containing all of the terms and conditions of the agency agreement, including the compensation to be paid, the date on which the agency agreement is entered into and its expiration date. The agency agreement shall be signed by the prospective buyer or lessee or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the prospective buyer or lessee only by a written document executed in the manner provided for conveyances in Connecticut General Statutes, section 47-5, and by the broker or the broker’s authorized agent. The licensee shall deliver immediately a copy of any agency agreement to any party or parties executing the same, where such agency agreement has been prepared by such licensee or under the licensee’s supervision and where such buyer agency agreement relates to a real estate transaction with which the licensee is associated as a broker or salesman
      2. Finding a Realtor:
        1. Now that you understand the importance of Buyer Agency, it is time to find a Realtor who will work the hardest and smartest to help you find your home and negotiate your purchase. With a wealth of information available through Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com, you have literally hundreds (or even thousands!) of agents to choose from, so how do you choose the agent that is best for you? Here are some tips:
          1. Ask your family and friends in the area – often, the best way to find a Realtor is through recommendations from their past clients. In fact, that is personally one of my primary sources of ongoing business.
          2. Search for agents online at Zillow.com and Trulia.com, and view their profiles and recommendations from past clients. View my profiles and recommendations at:
            1. http://www.trulia.com/profile/kaye-lewis-broker-greenwich-ct-899837/reviews
            2. http://www.zillow.com/profile/kayelewis/
            3. http://www.livelovegreenwich.com/what-clients-are-saying-about-kaye-lewis/
          3. Interview more than one agent – Remember that you are not obligated to work with the first agent you contact. Meeting with more than one agent prior to signing a Buyer Representation Agreement will insure that you choose an agent who will work the best for you and who you will enjoy working with. Here are some important questions to ask when interviewing:
            1. Are you a Full-Time Realtor?
            2. Do you have an Assistant?
  • Can I see your References?
  1. What kind of experience do you have/How long have you been in the business?
  2. How many clients are you currently representing?
  3. How do your Realtor fees work? In Connecticut, all homes listed on an MLS offer a buyer broker commission paid by the seller at closing, which means the buyer pays no additional commission fees.
  • How will you keep me informed?
  • What steps will you take if I do not like any of the homes listed on the MLS?
  • Determining How Much House You Can Afford – knowing how much you can afford for a monthly payment and what mortgage rate you will qualify for is essential before you start searching for a home. You don’t want to fall in love with a home only to find out it’s out of your price range, or settle for something else when you could have afforded your dream home.
    1. Step 1: Get Pre-Approved. Getting pre-approved by your lender is not the same as getting pre-qualified, and is much more in-depth. This will let you know the amount of  mortgage you can qualify for, the interest rate you qualify for, and what your mortgage payments will be.
      1. Remember – buy based on the mortgage payment you are comfortable with, not based on the amount you qualified for.
      2. Get a Pre-Approval letter from your lender. This letter should accompany the offer to purchase when you have found a home you want to purchase. This letter may need to be revised when the offer is actually made, but have your lender prepare it so they just have to fill in the numbers when the time comes.
    2. Step 2: Do some research online for the price range you have qualified for so you know exactly what kind of home (condition, location, size, etc.) that you can expect to afford. Greenwich is obviously a very unique area. What $1 Million can buy an hour away is very different than what it can buy here.  This will help keep your expectations in check and help you prioritize in the next step…
  1. Setting Your Timeline – This is a very important step to lessen the stress of buying a home. If you are currently renting or if you need to sell your current home first, determining your timeline will help make the buying process more seamless.
    1. How long do things take:
      1. Finding a home can take anywhere from 1 to 180 days depending on inventory level and your personal preferences
      2. After finding a home, the closing occurs typically 60 to 90 days after an offer has been accepted and price has been agreed on.
    2. If you are renting now:
      1. Start looking approximately 6 months before the end of your lease.
      2. Determine what to do:
        1. If you find a home right away – Can you terminate your lease early, sublet, or can you afford to carry the lease through to its end date?
        2. If you don’t find a home in time for your lease end date – Can you extend your lease on a month-to-month basis (this is often at a higher rate, depending on your landlord/property management company), stay in alternative housing such as with family, or sign a short-term lease?
      3. If you need to sell your home in order to buy:
        1. Given the varying market times throughout Greenwich, if you need to sell before you can buy a new home and can’t carry both homes or qualify for a new mortgage, it is usually best to put your home on the market before or when you start looking for a new home.
          1. If you find a home right away, determine the interest seen on your current home and area to be sure the home is priced to sell.
          2. If your current home sells before you find a home, look into other options, including a short-term rental or alternative housing with family, etc. Asking the buyers to extend the closing date is generally not recommended as it may result in the sale of your house falling apart altogether.
        2. Finding the Right Home – Now that you’ve determined how much you can afford, what types of homes you can expect to buy for this amount, and when you plan to purchase, it’s time to start looking for homes. This part can be much more time consuming and difficult than many people expect, so there are many things to keep in mind.
          1. There is no such thing as a “perfect” house. Make a list of the features that are most important to you, and categorize them as Must Haves, Would Like to Haves, Would Prefer Not to Have, and Must Not Have. These items may include:
            1. Location/Neighborhood
            2. School District
  • Number of Bedrooms and Bathrooms
  1. Newly Updated Kitchen – type of appliances, granite counters, etc.
  2. Garage –attached/detached/# of spaces
  3. Family room
  • Finished basement
  • Yard/Amount of Land
  1. Pool
  1. To help prioritize on these items, you should also consider the following:
    1. Are you willing to renovate?
    2. How long are you planning to live there? While people get 30-year mortgages, most people don’t live in their house for nearly that long. However, make sure you will be happy in this house for at least the next five years. Keep in mind, there are different homes for different times in your life, and things change!
  • Decide what is most important to you personally: Condition or Location? While some people are happier in the nicest house in the neighborhood, others would prefer the ideal location with a house that needs some updating. Know where you fit on this scale.
  1. Create a wishlist of homes that meet your “Must Haves” within your budget. Find these homes:
    1. In your own online searches
    2. From listings that I send you from the MLS that meet your criteria – I like to keep my search criteria broad so you can see all of your options
  • Drive around the neighborhood and find particular streets and homes that you are interested in. While these homes may not be on the market now, there is a chance that someone could be interested in selling if they knew there was a well qualified buyer interested in their home specifically.
  1. Visiting Homes – Now that we’ve both done our preliminary research, it’s time to go out and actually view the homes you’re interested in.
    1. Make a list of homes you want to see, from the listings I’ve sent you and from your own searches.
      1. From this list, I will arrange showings on the chosen day, depending on your schedule and your time line.
      2. I don’t recommend that you see too many homes in any particular day because it often becomes overwhelming.
  • Keep an open mind. Again, no home is perfect. Just because the photos and description of a home look perfect online does not mean it will seem that way on your first visit. On the other hand, some homes that you may have overlooked online may appear much better when you see them in person.
  1. If you don’t find a home you like, I will help find you a home by doing the following:
    1. Keep an eye out for new listings on the MLS and FSBO homes listed online
    2. Reach out to expired and cancelled listings that meet your criteria
  • Reach out to certain neighborhoods and/or specific homes that you are interested in

Part II.

When You’ve Found a Home – This is where things in Greenwich get a bit different than the rest of Connecticut. Here is a brief overview of the process once you are ready to make an offer:

  1. Make an Offer & Negotiate Price
  2. Accepted Offer
  • Inspections
  1. Address concerns found in inspection reports, renegotiate as needed
  2. Sign Contracts – ONLY then are deposit funds given to attorney
  3. Meet all final contingencies – mortgage, appraisal, etc.
  • Closing
  1. Making an Offer – there are many different elements to consider when making an offer on a property. Please review all property disclosures before making your offer.  I can provide you with a comparative market analysis for the home of your choice.  You want to make your offer as appealing as possible to the seller, especially if there are other people presenting offers. This is done by offering a fair price based on current market data, reasonable contingencies, and closing in 45-60-90 days.
  2. Accepted Offer – Once your offer has been accepted, it is important to move quickly to show the seller that you are committed, so they do not entertain any other offers that may come in. A Confirmation of Accepted Offer document will be drafted by the agents and provided to both the seller and buyer attorneys.  The seller’s attorney will draft a sales contract to be reviewed by the buyer’s attorney. It is important to note that until contracts are signed, neither you nor the seller are under any obligation to follow through on the purchase/sale, so this can be a very vulnerable and tenuous time for all parties during the transaction and now’s when your agent’s expertise can make a difference.
  • Inspections – Typically, building, radon, pest, and septic and well, if applicable, inspections are conducted within 7 business days of an accepted offer. Buyers should attend these inspections because this is a great opportunity to learn about the home from an expert.
  1. Once all inspection test results and written reports are available (usually within 48 hrs), we will review these and any needed repairs will be negotiated as to when these will occur and at whose expense. Most issues can be satisfactorily resolved. On rare occassions, some property deficiency is revealed that will cause the buyer to withdraw their offer entirely and the deal is cancelled.
  2. When the inspection phase is completed, it’s time for contracts to be signed. As the buyer, your attorney will have reviewed the contract prepared by the seller’s attorney.  Your attorney may revise aspects of it or create an addendum to cover additional points.  The buyer will sign and return the contracts to the seller’s attorney accompanied by a check for 10% of the purchase price.  These funds are held in escrow by one of the attorneys.  In recent years, these escrow funds were frequently released to the seller when the contingencies of the sales contract had been met, PRIOR to the actual close date. The seller will counter sign the contract and return a copy to your attorney.  Please ask your attorney to send me a copy so I can monitor any contingency deadlines for you.
  3. Now that contracts are fully executed and exchanged, it’s vital that you provide your lender with any and all documents needed to finalize your mortgage. Give your lender my contact info so I can meet the appraiser on your behalf.  It typically takes 30-45 days for a final mortgage commitment and any delays could require extensions of stated contract mortgage contingency deadlines.  Please notify me and your attorney asap if you do not have a “clean letter of commitment” from your lender prior to this deadline.
  • On the day of closing, we will do a walk through at the property immediately prior to meeting the attorneys. The purpose of this walk through is to confirm that the property is in the same working condition as on the day of the inspection, that there are no “surprises”, all agreed upon repairs (per the contracts) have been made and the property is emptied and broom clean.  At the attorney’s office, you will sign all the loan documents and receive the keys to your new home.  Let the fun begin!

Of course, this is a cursory overview of the process. Please let me know if you have any questions about what to expect and don’t hesitate to call/text me at 203-249-9603 or email me at Kaye@KayeLewis.com.

 

 

 

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