Explaining the Home Purchase Process in Five Minutes (or Less)

One of the most important parts of my job is to guide buyers through the purchase process. And like anyone who has done a job many times over several years, I need to remind myself that it's important to explain each step in the journey - and to set expectations clearly on the front end of the process.

With this in mind, I try to send my buyers an email that details the major milestones and dates and outlines the purchase process from start to finish. I find that it's helpful to offer a roadmap, even if it's a few bullet points and a list of what to expect. Here's a redacted example of an email I sent this week after we negotiated an offer, got it accepted and finished attorney review.

Dear Jim and Jan,

Congratulations on concluding attorney review! It's a big milestone in the home purchase process and it means that you now have a binding contract. Here are several key dates to be mindful of:

Major Milestone 1: Initial deposit due (contract states 10 days following the close of AR)

Major Milestone 2: Inspections and due diligence should be completed within 14 days of close of AR unless otherwise specified in the contract (however, best to do these as soon as possible)

Major Milestone 3: Mortgage Commitment due

Major Milestone 4: Clear to Close Issued by mortgage lender

Major Milestone 5: Closing and final deposit due

As soon as attorney review is completed, you should schedule your home inspection, which will also include radon test and wood-destroying insect inspections. You will also want to schedule a tank inspection and may need to contact a separate company to conduct it, though more and more inspectors are doing that now. If you need a list of reputable, reliable and thorough inspectors, I can provide this to you.

You should also be in the process of shopping for and applying for your mortgage. Once you've selected a mortgage provider, please make sure to let me know so that I can reach out and introduce myself. This is helpful because they often need documents or information I have on file. Shortly after you select a mortgage bank, they'll reach out to me to schedule an appraisal.

Once you have received your mortgage commitment and we have resolved any issues and questions from the home inspection, it should be pretty clear sailing until close. Your attorney will order a survey, title search and title insurance, and will coordinate with the lender, title company and attorney to get the closing documents ready for your signature. State law requires the final closing document to be signed three days before closing.

About a week before closing, the lender will require you to have your homeowner’s insurance in place. I can send recommendations for insurance brokers, if you need them. At that point, you will be able to get your utilities accounts set up and plan your move.

On the day before or day of closing, we'll do a walk-through, basically to make sure the house is still intact and that it is being delivered as expected.

If you have any questions about the process from start to finish, ALWAYS, always, ALWAYS reach out to your realtor. That’s what we’re here for, and we’re almost always thrilled to answer your questions.

Meghan Mullin is a Madison mom, realtor and writer. She loves writing long, long emails and creating useless infographics. You can reach her at 973-845-8375 or meghanmullin@gmail.com.