1. Find a Real Estate Agent. There are lots of articles that give you information on picking a good agent. In the end, find someone who you feel you can trust, will offer you excellent customer service (which you deserve!), listens to what is important to you and is knowledgeable about the market.
2. Meet with a Local Lender and get Pre-Qualified. Pre-qualification is an analysis of your ability to afford the purchase of a home. It takes into consideration factors such as income, liabilities, and available funds along with the full cost of owning the home. Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved puts you into a stronger negotiating position because the seller will know that you are a serious buyer. Of course if you are a cash buyer, that works too!
3. Go House-Shopping! Your agent will have conducted a needs analysis in terms of what is most important to you in your new home, including location, price, features and more. From there, they will provide you a list of homes that most closely match your desires. Now its time to go through the list and decide on the homes you would like to see. Don't be surprised if your agent suggests a few homes not on your list...remember, you're relying on the agents knowledge of the market and sometimes pictures just don't tell the story! Your agent will next work to schedule appointments to view the homes, but please keep in mind that many homes on the Outer Banks are in rental programs, and can only be shown on "turnover days" (generally Saturdays and Sunday during the season). And finally, remember to keep notes as you view the various properties. Remembering the details at the end of the day can be more difficult than you think!
4. Make an Offer. You've found the ONE! While this is one of the biggest steps in the process, there is no need to be nervous because your agent is there to guide you through. Once the offer amount is decided upon and prepared, your agent will present the offer to the listing agent, or the agent who works for the seller. At this point, your offer will be accepted, countered or rejected. Assuming the parties come together and agree on terms and conditions after some negotiation, you will need to provide earnest money to "seal the deal". Earnest money is simply a showing of good faith and will be applied to your down payment at closing. We are now under contract!
5. Due Diligence Period. Rather than set various contingencies, North Carolina sets a due diligence period with which to conduct any inspections, investigate insurance rates and finalize financing for closing, generally about 30 to 45 days. During this period you may walk away for any or no reason with no penalty. However, once the due diligence period has elapsed your earnest money is at risk if you choose not to proceed with the purchase.
6. Get a Home Inspection. The home inspector will check all the major systems of the home as well as it's overall condition and provide you with a report of what was examined and what items and systems may need attention or repair. Your agent will then work with you to determine what items you would like the seller to address and try to negotiate those items with the selling side.
7. Finalize financing, insurance and your closing attorney. Whether you choose to use another lender or move forward with the lender with which you were pre-qualified, now is the time to finalize the process. Additionally, your agent will provide you with recommendations for closing attorneys to represent you at closing as well as insurance agents who ensure you have the coverage you need (and your lender requires) prior to closing.
8. Prepare to have utilities moved under your name. Your agent can provide you with a list of local resources that include phone, cable, internet providers, electric, gas and water. You should schedule these items to be transferred under your name effective on the day of closing.
9. Closing! The day you have been waiting for has finally arrived! Your attorney will walk you through signing all the documents and will answer any questions you may have. As an aside, not every buyer attends the actual closing, which often can be accomplished through the mail with enough notice to your closing attorney. Once this is complete, the attorney will have the documents recorded at the Register of Deeds Office. When the recording is complete you will become the new owner of your perfect beach house!
Enjoy your new home!