When you are pre-qualified for a mortgage, you receive an informal declaration by a lender or mortgage broker showing how much mortgage you can afford.  When you are pre-approved for a mortgage, you receive a guarantee by a lender to grant you a loan up to the specified amount.
Being pre-approved for a loan as early as possible in the home-buying process will give you an advantage over other potential buyers that may not have been pre-approved yet.  Sellers will find any offer you make more attractive if you received a guarantee from a lender to grant you a loan.

An inspector checks the safety of your potential new home. Home Inspectors focus especially on the structure, construction, and mechanical systems of the house and will usually make you aware of only repairs that are needed.

The Inspector does not evaluate whether or not you're getting good value for your money. Generally, an inspector checks (and gives prices for repairs on): the electrical system, plumbing and waste disposal, the water heater, insulation and ventilation, the HVAC system, water source and quality, the potential presence of pests, the foundation, doors, windows, ceilings, walls, floors and roof.

It's a good idea to have an inspection before you sign a written offer since, once the deal is closed, you've bought the house as is. Or, you may want to include an inspection clause in the offer when negotiating for a home. An inspection clause gives you an “out" on buying the house if serious problems are found or gives you the ability to renegotiate the purchase price if repairs are needed. An inspection clause can also specify that the seller must fix the problem(s) before you purchase the house.

A real estate salesperson is more than just a "salesperson." They can act on your behalf as your agent, providing you with advice and guidance and doing a job - helping you buy or sell a home.

The Internet has opened up a world of information that wasn't previously available to homebuyers and sellers. The data on listings available for sale is almost current - but not quite. There are times when you need the most current information about what has sold or is for sale, and the only way to get that is with an agent.

If you're selling a home, you gain access to the most buyers by being listed in the Multiple Listing Service. Only a licensed real estate agent who is a member of your local MLS can get you listed there - which then gets you automatically listed on some of the major real estate web sites. If you're buying or selling a home, the MLS is your agent's best tool.

When you are making the biggest purchase of your life, it helps to have a trusted professional on your side. A Realtor® is more than just a real estate agent; Realtors have training in ethics for both their dealings with the public and with the real estate community. The Realtor Code of Ethics is the cornerstone of the National Association of Realtors ethics training. It guides Realtors and also shows the public the level of commitment, education and dedication to their profession that each member of NAR possesses. In choosing a Realtor®, home buyers are selecting a professional who voluntarily holds to a high ethical standard.  

HOA stands for “Homeowner’s Association”. Many communities in southwest Florida have an HOA in place in order to regulate rules and maintain the community. HOA fees are the costs associated with maintenance and/or operating expenses and are typically billed to each home in a community. HOA fees can be collected on a schedule at the discretion of the HOA, but are most commonly billed monthly, quarterly or annually.

Keep in mind that every community is different and what is included in some HOA communities may not be in others. For example, some communities include basic cable, water irrigation or lawn care in their fees. Other communities may include golf or country club memberships. When looking for a new home it is important to not only look at the cost of HOA fees, but what those fees include.

Also, be sure to research any restrictions (such as architectural, landscaping, pet limits, etc.) before buying a home in a community. You don’t want any surprises after moving day!

Homestead Exemption is a constitutional benefit of up to a $50,000 exemption removed from the assessed value of your property. It is granted to those applicants who possess title to real property and are bona fide Florida residents living in the dwelling and making it their permanent home on January 1. Documentation that proves you were a resident at the homestead property is required. For more information, please visit https://leepa.org/Exemption/GeneralExemptionInfo.aspx

A closing is defined as "a meeting of all parties involved in a property transaction during which pertinent documents are signed and transferred, and funds are distributed." Typically, it is handled by a closing agent, either a title insurance company or an attorney, and will last approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

The closing agent will begin preparation for your closing shortly after you sign your contract. A request for payoff information is sent for existing mortgages, as well as a request for any information regarding homeowners or condominium association dues and/or transfer fees. If a new mortgage is being obtained, the closing agent will work closely with the new lender to make sure that all of the lender's closing requirements are met.

A title exam is ordered to verify the seller's right to transfer ownership, and to discover any outstanding mortgages, liens, restrictions, easements, etc., which may affect the property. A title commitment will then be issued to show any matters reflected in the title exam, as well as a determination of the documents needed to properly transfer the title of the property to the buyer. The closing agent will also work closely with the lender and Realtors to coordinate the ordering of the termite inspection, survey, homeowner's insurance and flood insurance, if applicable.

When the lender has received all required documents from the buyer and the loan has been approved, the closing agent will schedule the date and time for the closing with all parties. The lender will prepare a closing package consisting of the loan closing instructions, fees charged in connection with the new loan, and any loan documents to be delivered to the closing agent. The closing agent will then prepare all of the necessary closing documents, including a closing statement outlining all costs associated with the transfer of ownership as well as fees charged in connection with the new loan.

Copies of the closing statement are usually faxed to the lender and Realtors, if any. If the closing agent has been provided a fax number for buyer and/or seller, they may also receive a copy. The buyer's cash to close, if applicable, must be in the form of a wire transfer. The seller will also be advised of the proceeds of the sale of the property.

The closing typically takes place in the closing agent's office. The closing agent, buyer, seller and any Realtors sit around a table together while the closing agent explains the closing statement as well as other closing documents. When all of the documents have been signed, including the deed, and all funds have been collected by the closing agent, the seller receives his or her proceeds from the sale, if applicable.

After the closing, the closing agent sends the original deed and mortgage to the courthouse for recording. The completed loan package is sent to the lender. All remaining funds are disbursed according to the settlement statement, including mortgage payoffs. The owner's and lender's title policies are issued when the deed and mortgage are returned to the closing agent after recording.

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