A Guide to the Home-Buying Process in Philadelphia

The home-buying process in Philly means more than just looking at a few places and making an offer. You’ll want to get pre-approved for a mortgage, find out about programs you’re eligible for, and pick your new neighborhood with care.

When you’re in the market for your first home, the home-buying process can look daunting. You may need to qualify for a mortgage, negotiate with a seller, and then pay not only the down payment, but also a range of closing costs and other fees. Once you’ve purchased the home, you’ll most likely want to stay put for a few years to get the most out of your investment. Doing as much research as possible before you purchase a home in Philadelphia will help you buy the right home, as well as allow you to take advantage of any programs for which you qualify.

Before You Start Looking

The home-buying process starts long before you step foot into a home. One of the first things to do is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Doing so will give you an idea of the size of mortgage you qualify for and the amount of house you can afford to purchase. You may want to shop around a few mortgage lenders or banks, as the interest rate you are offered might vary from lender to lender.

You might also want to find out if you qualify for special programs offered by the city before you buy a home. Usually, these programs are designed to help people buying their first home. For example, settlement assistance grants provide up to $500 toward closing costs, if you’re a first-time buyer and your income doesn’t exceed their specified limit. Another program, Philadelphia Home-Buy-Now, offers up to $4,000 to employees of participating employers.

Looking at Homes

Once you have the financial details in order, start making a list of where in Philadelphia you want to live. Your list of neighborhoods can be influenced by a number of factors: average sale price of the homes, distance to your job, and the features of the area. For example, if you have a car, you’ll want a neighborhood with ample parking. If you rely on SEPTA, you’ll want a home near transit options.

A real estate agent can be a useful guide at this stage of the home-buying process, as an agent will give you an idea of what similar homes in the area sold for recently and can set up tours of each home for you. Before you work together, the agent will give you a copy of Pennsylvania’s consumer notice.

Get a Home Inspection

You’ve found a house that works for you and is in your budget. You’ve made an offer on the house, and the seller accepted it or negotiated with you. The next step isn’t to finalize the purchase, but to have the home inspected by a professional third-party home inspector. Even if you’re buying a new home, the inspection is critical. Whatever you do, don’t skip this step.

Seal the Deal

Closing is the final step in the process of buying a home in Philly. At closing, ownership of the property is transferred to you. Before that happens, you’ll do a final walkthrough to make sure everything’s in order. Usually, you’ll need to bring a cashier’s check to closing that covers the fees, as well as your down payment. Once all the paperwork is signed, you and the seller shake hands, and the house is yours.

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