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Common sense ain’t so common
Wednesday, February 6, 2008 • Posted February 5, 2008 10:00 PM

Let’s say you are given a document that, upon signing, meant you were handing over more than $100,000. You’d read it, wouldn’t you? Amazingly enough, many consumers fail to read, or even understand, the contracts they sign when purchasing property. Some homebuyers tend to rely solely on the expertise of professionals. While it’s a good idea to surround yourself with a Texas Realtor and other reputable service providers, arming yourself with a solid understanding of the homebuying transaction can prevent you from feeling confused or uncomfortable about the chain of events.

Get involved

Your Texas Realtor is here to help make the homebuying and selling process smooth and seamless. Your agent can help you determine how much home you can afford, what type of neighborhood best suits your needs, how to find a reputable lender and get approved for a mortgage, as well as guide you through the financial and legal obligations that come with homeownership. That said, just because you have a professional looking out for your best interests doesn’t mean you should mentally check out of the process. Get involved. Ask questions about the purpose of each step and learn how each is accomplished. The more you know, the more comfortable you will feel. If you pay attention to the details leading up to settlement, you’re less likely to feel uneasy at the closing table.

Don’t wait until closing

At closing, you typically sit down with your Realtor, the seller’s agent, possibly the seller and the closing agent. Also known as a settlement agent, this individual handles the closing and the legal transfer of title and ownership from the seller to the buyer. The closing agent will hand you and the seller a fairly large stack of papers. While you will likely be offered a brief explanation of each document, make sure you know exactly what you are signing. Buying a home is not cheap. It’s the biggest investment you will ever make. My advice: Read everything.

Read it

Have you ever seen the stack of papers necessary to complete a property transaction? There are a lot of dotted lines. And while these documents aren’t as thrilling as a Tom Clancy novel, it’s important that you take the time to read each one thoroughly. After all, you are responsible for anything that you sign. Some consumers report finding mathematical errors. This does not mean that your lender is incompetent. It may just be an oversight. But you are the last pair of eyes before the contract becomes legal and binding, so commit yourself to reading everything. Do the math, too. Make sure the numbers add up.

You can always request the documents in advance. In fact, I recommend that you do. Don’t wait until you get to the closing table and feel rushed to sign here…and here…and here. Give yourself ample time to peruse the information. That way, you’ll have the time to ask your Realtor or attorney or lender if you come across something you don’t understand.

Don’t be shy

Some buyers find it uncomfortable to confront the professionals who are running the show. As a homebuyer, that’s your right. Ask whatever questions are necessary to understanding the transaction. If you have a question about your property’s survey, the lender’s fees or the amount required for closing, get an explanation before it’s too late.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), your lender is required to give you a booklet explaining the closing costs, a good faith estimate of how much money you will need at the table and a list of documents you will be required to bring to settlement. If you don’t get these items in advance, ask your Realtor to call the lender. This will help alleviate disparities between what is expected and what may potentially turn up on the day of closing. If the figures change or the closing agent offers up additional documents for you to sign, stop and ask. The closing table is your last opportunity to speak up.

Keep pushing

Would you tolerate unanswered questions when someone is fixing your car? Of course, you wouldn’t. So don’t do let that happen when you are purchasing a home. Make sure you get answers to your questions. Do not allow anyone to brush you off or talk you into doing something you are not comfortable with. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and ask. Legitimate issues may arise at the closing table, but don’t let that change your commitment to due diligence.

Your Texas Realtor can help you sort through the often complex steps of a real estate transaction. Understanding the terms, as well as what will be required of you, is essential to a successful deal. For more tips on buying a home in Texas, I invite you to visit TexasRealEstate.com.

For services, contact RE/MAX Genesis at 830-833-2000 or lightfoot@moment.net.

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