Once you decide that the time is right for you to buy a home, lots of questions probably come to mind. Getting the answers before you embark on the journey to home ownership helps keep your experience as stress-free as possible. Whether you are purchasing your first home or a subsequent home, you can probably benefit from checking out some answers to frequently asked questions about buying a home.

Q: Should I hire a realtor? 
A:
Whether to use a realtor or not is a matter of personal preference; however, a realtor can be a good source of information about the market in your area. Realtors have a keen eye for detail and are paid to research information about properties. Using a licensed realtor can save you time since the realtor will be the one to suggest properties for you to look at once she knows the specifics of your needs and wants. As a buyer, all the Real Estate services are free for you, but it’s a good practice to ask about it upfront.

Q: What should I look for in a future home? 
A:
This is a personal preference. Prior to start looking at the houses, there should be two listings made, make one list of the features you think are necessary, and the other list of things you would like to have. While a house may not have all the items on your list, but it should have all of the items on your need list. Also, make a list of deal-breakers, meaning things that you don’t want in the home. Make sure the home is zoned for residential use and that any permits that were issued for additions or upgrades have been inspected and approved.

Q: What expenses should be expect besides the mortgage? 
A:
You will likely have to pay for homeowner’s insurance on your property. Some mortgages include the cost of a basic policy, but having your own policy ensures that your belongings as well as the cost of paying off the mortgage are covered. You have to plan for annual property taxes on the home, and you have to pay for your own utilities. If you are working with a realtor, she can find out the estimated cost of the taxes and utilities for the home.

Q: What happens when I make an offer? 
A: When you make an offer on a home, the seller decides if she wants to accept the offer. If the offer is accepted, you move on to the closing. If the offer is rejected, you will likely receive a counteroffer from the seller. You and the seller can go back and forth like this until you reach a mutually agreeable deal.

Q: What is a home inspection? 
A:
When you find the house that you want to make an offer on, get it inspected. In some cases, this happens before you make an offer, but it can also happen once a seller has accepted your offer. Have the inspection done immediately because there is likely only a small time frame in which you can alter the accepted offer due to the inspection report. The inspector goes through the home with a fine-tooth comb and notes any issues that have to be fixed. Some examples include a roof that needs to be replaced, cracks in the foundation or substandard plumbing or electrical work.

Q: What is a closing? 
A:
Closing occurs when you and the seller sign the final paperwork that transfers the home to you. Generally, this is when you pay the closing costs for the home. When you are going through the paperwork, be sure to read it all, and ask questions if there is anything you don’t understand. Once the paperwork is taken care of, you get the keys to the home. You, your realtor, the seller, the seller’s realtor and a closing agent usually are present at this meeting.