8 Steps to Buying a House in Virginia

Clever Real Estate

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Clever Real Estate

June 1st, 2022
Updated June 1st, 2022

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8 Steps to Buying a House in Virginia

Buying a house in Virginia is an exciting milestone, but the process can take some time. Several factors, like your financial situation, market conditions, and the local economy can affect both how long it takes you to find a home and how much it costs you.

For example, homes in Virginia Beach are hitting the market at $359,000 and selling within 19 days — 20 days faster than the state average! — so you'll need to move quickly if you want to beat out the competition.

However, homes typically stay on the market longer in Big Stone Gap, so you'll be able to take your time and potentially find a better deal.

The more you know about the steps to buying a house and Virginia's current real estate trends, the more prepared you'll be to navigate this complicated process as quickly and smoothly as possible.

No matter where you are in your home buying journey, Clever's concierge team can connect you with local real estate pros who will help you purchase your Virginia dream home!

The best part? When you buy with a Clever real estate agent, you could earn a cash-back refund worth up to 0.5% of the home price. On a qualifying $300,000 purchase, you'd get $1,500. That's real money back in your pocket!

» START: Buy with a top local agent, save thousands with Clever Cash Back

Step 1: Save for a down payment

🔑 Key Takeaway:

Your down payment can be less than 20% of the purchase price — $74,030 for the typical home in Virginia — but you'll have to purchase mortgage insurance and pay more interest over the life of your loan.

Your down payment is the initial portion of your home's purchase price that you pay at closing. Your mortgage lender will pay the remaining balance.

Typically, mortgage lenders in Virginia want you to contribute 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. That would be $74,030 for a $370,151 home — the typical home value in Virginia.

However, you have options to lower your down payment amount.

Government backed loans, like VA and FHA loans, allow you to contribute 0% and 3.5% of your home's purchase price respectively. Even conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3-5% (though the minimum varies by lender).

Mortgage Type
Minimum Down Payment (%)
Down Payment ($)
VA Loan
0%
$0
FHA Loan
3.5%
$12,955
Conventional
3%
$11,105
Based on typical home values from Zillow (May 2022)

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about low-income home loans

But making a down payment of less than 20% comes with some risks.

First, because you're borrowing more money, you'll have a higher monthly payment and pay more in interest over the life of your loan.

Down Payment
Monthly Payment
Total Interest
Total Cost
5%
$18,508
$368,719
$738,870
20%
$74,030
$310,500
$680,651
Based on a $370,151 home, the typical home value in Virginia (Zillow, May 2022) with a 5.52% interest rate for a 30-year loan.

Second, you may have to purchase mortgage insurance.

Conventional loans require private mortgage insurance (PMI) until your loan balance reaches 80% of the purchase price. FHA loans, on the other hand, require a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for the life of your loans.

Mortgage insurance costs around 1% of your mortgage balance annually. However, rates vary based on your down payment and credit score. Typically, your mortgage insurance payment is added to your mortgage payment each month.

VA loans don't charge mortgage insurance. Instead, you'll pay a VA loan funding fee at closing, which can range from 1.4% to 3.6% of the purchase price.

Virginia down payment assistance programs

Do you need some help affording a down payment on a Virginia home?

The state of Virginia offers several down payment assistance (DPA) programs to eligible first-time and low-income homebuyers. If you qualify for one of these programs, you could receive a grant or second mortgage to pay for a down payment or closing costs.

Here are a few DPA resources for you to consider:

Virginia Housing DPA Grant

Virginia Housing offers first-time homebuyers a grant of up to 2.5% of the home's purchase price. The grant can only be used along with a Virginia Housing loan, and home purchase price and household income limits apply. You can review all the eligibility requirements here.

Virginia Housing Plus Second Mortgage

Virginia Housing offers its Virginia Housing Plus Second Mortgage program to buyers who meet credit score requirements and don't exceed household income limits. Participants can receive a loan of up to 5% of their home's purchase price, although this may vary based on a borrower's first mortgage.

DHCD DPA Program

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) can offer financial assistance for first-time homebuyers of up to 15% of the home's sales price. Additionally, up to $2,500 may be awarded to assist with closing costs for qualified buyers.

Eligible participants are required to complete a homebuyer education course, attend housing counseling, and contribute a minimum of 1% towards the home purchase. Maximum household income and property purchase limits also apply.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD’s list of alternative DPA programs in Virginia can be found here.

Step 2: Get pre-approved for a mortgage

🔑 Key Takeaway

Mortgage lenders consider your full financial situation, including total income, personal debt, and cash reserves, to determine how much you can borrow for a home. Most lenders will require your debt-to-income ratio to be less than 36% including your future mortgage.

A mortgage pre-approval letter is an offer to lend you up to a certain amount of money to purchase a home. It shows sellers that you are a serious buyer who is financially qualified to make an offer on a home.

Most sellers in Virginia will require pre-approval before showing you their home.

You don't have to decide on one lender right now. In fact, you should compare interest rates and pre-approval amounts from several lenders to make sure you're getting the absolute best terms when you buy your Virginia home.

Get Pre-approved Today!

Get matched with a lender who can tell you how much house you can afford. To get started, where do you plan on buying?

To get a pre-approved for a mortgage, you'll fill out a mortgage application and provide details about your financial situation. They'll look at the following information to determine your mortgage pre-approval amount:

Total income

Lenders need to know that you earn enough to make your mortgage payments each month. Most lenders want your monthly housing costs to be less than 28% of your monthly income.

Personal debt

Lenders also consider your other debts, including credit cards, student loans, auto loans, and personal loans. They use this information to calculate your debt to income ratio (DTI) — or your total debt (including future mortgage) divided by your total income.

While some lenders will approve mortgages for buyers with DTI as high as 43%, it's best to keep your DTI under 36%.

Because of this, you might consider paying off some of your other debts before applying for a mortgage in Virginia.

Cash reserves

Mortgage lenders in Virginia want to see that you have enough cash in the bank to cover your down payment and closing costs without completely draining your cash reserves.

While this requirement varies by lender, most want you to keep at least enough to cover two mortgage payments including insurance and taxes.

⚠️ Don't Jeopardize Your Mortgage Approval!

Once you're pre-approved for a mortgage, it's imperative that your financial situation doesn't change. If your credit drops, it can derail the process and keep you from closing on your house.

Here are some easy ways to ensure your credit doesn't change after you receive your pre-approval letter:

  • Avoid opening new credit accounts
  • Don't close any accounts that have been open for a long time
  • Make all of your credit card payments on time

Step 3: Choose the right location

🔑 Key Takeaway

Search for neighborhoods where:

  • Home prices are within your price range
  • Home values are on the rise
  • The local amenities support your lifestyle

A house's neighborhood can be just as important as its layout and features. In general, you should consider the following factors when deciding which neighborhood is best for you:

What's your home buying budget?

Once you know your budget (a pre-approval letter will tell you the most you can expect to borrow), you can narrow your search to neighborhoods where homes are selling within your price range.

Currently, the typical home value in Virginia is $370,151, but don't worry if that doesn't perfectly match your budget. Home prices vary dramatically from city to city and even from neighborhood to neighborhood!

Also, look at past home value trends. This will give you an idea of how much your home's value could go up over the next few years. You want to choose a neighborhood that's in your budget, but could also lead to a big return when you decide to sell.

To give you an idea of how appreciation could impact what your house is worth in the future, consider these examples from three neighborhoods in Virginia Beach:

Home value appreciation in Virginia Beach

Neighborhood
2015
Current
Appreciation %
Princess Anne
$312,421
$456,910
31.6%
Kempsville
$216,555
$311,081
30.4%
Salem
$246,386
$371,611
33.7%

Local lifestyle

Once you have a list of neighborhoods with homes in your budget, you should evaluate how well each one meets your personal needs and preferences. To finalize your list of target areas, consider factors like:

  • School districts
  • Your daily commute
  • Crime rates
  • Restaurants and amenities
  • Transportation options

Step 4: Find a great real estate agent in Virginia

🔑 Key Takeaway

Interview multiple agents to find one who knows your target neighborhoods, has experience in your price range, and communicates well.

Your real estate agent will be your main ally during the home buying process. Besides finding and showing you properties, your agent should be an expert on buying a home in Virginia.

They'll help you make offers, negotiate contracts, and navigate the closing process. Plus, they can recommend other service providers like title companies and inspectors to help you buy your home in Virginia.

Don't rush into choosing an agent. Instead, take the time to research and interview multiple real estate agents who have experience in the neighborhoods you're interested in. you should pay attention to a realtor's:

  • Years of experience
  • Number of transactions in the last year (the more the better!)
  • Experience in your price range
  • Overall review score
  • Individual reviews and complaints

Ask each of them questions about your target neighborhoods, how they prefer to communicate, and their strategy for helping you find and close on your new home. You should feel comfortable with the agent's knowledge, experience, and process before committing to an agent.

Top Local Agents Hand-Picked for You!

Clever matches you with multiple agents in your area so you can interview, compare, and choose the best one to help you buy your next home.

Hiring a real estate attorney

In Virginia it's required for a real estate attorney to be part of every home sale. While your agent can make recommendations, remember you get to make the final decision. Interview lawyers before hiring them to make sure they have the experience you need.

finding a buyers agent

Step 5: Start house hunting in Virginia

🔑 Key Takeaway

To help you narrow your choices and find your new home faster, keep in mind these important factors:

  • "Must-haves" vs. "Nice-to-haves": No home is perfect. As you view homes in Virginia, you'll have to decide which of your priorities are non-negotiable and which are just nice bonuses.
  • Housing inventory: Depending on the time of year and trends in the Virginia cities you're searching in, you may have fewer options to choose from.

Searching for homes in Virginia is the fun part of the home buying process! You'll get to look at a variety of homes and discover what you really want in a home.

Prioritize your needs vs. wants when buying a home in Virginia

Make a list of everything you want in a home and prioritize them. At the top of the list should be the items that are most important to you. This will help you separate your "must-haves" from your "nice-to-haves."

Your agent can help you understand if your wants are realistic for your budget and favorite neighborhoods or if you need to rethink what you're looking for.

Look at current housing inventory

The timing of your house hunt in Virginia can have a big impact on your number of options. For example, in Virginia, May has historically seen the most homes for sale. Searching in this season could give you more options and a greater likelihood of finding your dream home.

On the other hand, January gives you the fewest choices in Virginia. Historically, there are 40.0%) fewer homes for sale than during Virginia's peak season.

Housing inventory in Virginia by season

Season
New Listings per Month
Spring
15,231
Summer
14,277
Fall
11,884
Winter
10,863
Based on May 2022 data from Realtor.com

Step 6: Make an offer

🔑 Key Takeaway

Rely on their expertise, keeping in mind these tips for getting your offers accepted:

  • Move fast: In Virginia, homes typically stay on the market for 64 day before going under contract — more desirable homes could sell for much faster! If you find a home you love, you shouldn't hesitate to submit an offer.
  • Know how to sweeten the deal: Price is only one factor you can use to convince a seller to accept your offer. You can also sweeten the deal with other compromises — like no contingencies — to create a deal that works for you and the seller.

Once you find a Virginia house you love, it's time to make an offer. Your real estate agent will help you write a compelling offer that gives you the best shot of convincing the homeowner to sell to you.

Currently, in Virginia, homes stay on the market for 64 days before going under contract. However, every market goes through seasonal changes. During busier months, homes get snatched up more quickly than others.

Historically, Virginia homes sell fastest in April, where the average property is only on the market for 49. If your home search falls around this time, you should be prepared to move quickly and potentially make offers on several homes before yours is accepted.

On the other hand, if you buy in January, you have a bit more time to search. Homes typically stay on the market 20 days longer than Virginia's annual average.

Average time homes spend on market in Virginia

Annual average
64 days

January
79 days
February
69 days
March
48 days
April
43 days
May
44 days
June
52 days
July
54 days
August
57 days
September
59 days
October
60 days
November
64 days
December
75 days
Based on May 2022 data from Realtor.com

What should your offer include?

Your real estate agent can help you decide which of these common options you should include in your offer:

  • Seller concessions: You'll have to pay for most of your closing costs out of pocket when you buy a home, but you may be able to ask the seller to cover some of those costs for you. This option may allow you to offer a higher purchase price and essentially include your closing costs in your mortgage.
  • Repair credits: If the home is in need of repair, you could ask for credits instead of having the seller make and pay for the repairs. The seller avoids the hassle of waiting for contractors to complete the job, and you get to oversee the repairs in the future to make sure they meet your expectations.
  • Inspection contingencies: Most purchase agreements have inspection contingencies that allow you to change your offer (or back out all together) if the inspection turns up major problems. If you have a high degree of certainty about the house's condition (like if the seller can show you a recent inspection report), you can forgo this contingency to give the seller a higher sense of confidence.
  • Letter to the seller: Many sellers have a personal attachment to the home. They've lived there for years and want to know the next owner will take care of the property. Writing a letter to the seller can show them how you picture your life in the house and appeal to their sentimental side.

👋 Next Steps: Talk to an expert!

If you're weighing your options for buying or selling a house, Clever can help!

Our fully-licensed concierge team is standing by to answer questions and provide free, objective advice on getting the best outcome with your sale or purchase.

Ready to get started?

Give us a call at 1-833-2-CLEVER or enter your info below. Our concierge team will be in touch shortly to help.

Remember, this service is 100% free and there’s never any obligation.

Step 7: Inspections and appraisals

Inspections and appraisals are an opportunity for you to better evaluate the home's condition and value before officially purchasing it. You may have an opportunity after this step to renegotiate the terms of your contract with the seller if something unexpected pops up.

  • Inspections: A licensed professional checks the house for any unseen, unexpected, or potential issues.
  • Appraisals: An appraiser hired by your lender examines the house to determine how much it's worth.

Home inspections in Virginia

Having your Virginia home inspected by a licensed inspector gives you peace of mind about the condition of the property before you commit thousands of dollars to purchase it.

Your inspector should check out the following parts of the property:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Electrical system
  • HVAC system
  • Plumbing

If the home has a septic system, you should also pay for a septic inspection to make sure it doesn't have any problems that wouldn't be covered in a typical home inspection.

Virginia-specific inspections

Virginia is a “buyer beware” state, so homebuyers are strongly advised to take extra precautions before closing on a property. In addition to a general home inspection, consider having these important tests conducted as well:

  • Radon testing: Several areas in Virginia are prone to high radon levels, which can pose health risks to inhabitants. If the seller hasn't had a radon test done within the past year, you can order an inexpensive radon test kitfrom the Virginia Department of Health.

  • Pest inspection: Although not all lenders require buyers to have a pest inspection done, it's wise to get one completed anyway. Termites and other pests can cause serious property damage if infestations aren't treated promptly.

Appraisals

Appraisals determine the value of the property. If you're using a mortgage to buy your new home, your lender will order an appraisal to make sure the home is worth the money that it's loaning you.

inspections and appraisals

» LEARN: 3 options for buyers after a low appraisal

Step 8: Close on your new home!

Once you finish your inspections and your lender approves your financing, you'll be ready for closing! Closing is the process of finalizing your mortgage and transferring ownership of the property.

Before you close on your new home, you and your agent will do a final walkthrough of the property to ensure that it's still in the expected condition.

» READ: The final walkthrough checklist every buyer needs

Before you can become the official owner of your Virginia home, you'll need to meet at the title company on closing day. Here, you'll spend a few hours completing paperwork and settling your closing costs.

Plan to spend about an hour reviewing and signing legal documents to finalize the title transfer. Some important forms you'll need to complete will include:

  • Your final loan application
  • The deed
  • The mortgage promissory note
  • The disclosure statements

Once you finish the paperwork, you'll need to pay your closing costs. The title company will collect the total amount you owe and then handle the distribution of funds. For homebuyers, these expenses can be broken down into four distinct categories:

  • Lender fees: Fees your lender charges for originating and underwriting your loan. Other expenses associated with your loan might apply as well, such as appraisal fees and survey fees.
  • Title and escrow charges: Fees the title company charges for conducting the title search and facilitating the closing. Buyers and sellers often agree to split this cost.
  • Prepaid costs: Ongoing costs of owning a home, like homeowners insurance and property taxes. Mortgage lenders frequently require borrowers to pay for these expenses in advance.
  • Other closing costs: Miscellaneous expenses that vary for each homebuyer. A few common expenses include real estate attorney fees, pest inspection fees, and natural disaster certification fees.

Buyers in Virginia typically pay 3-5% of the purchase price in closing costs. For a $370,200 home — the typical home value in Virginia — that's between $11,106 and $18,510!

» MORE: Closing costs for buyers in Virginia

Frequently asked questions

  1. Save for down payment
  2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage
  3. Choose your preferred Virginia neighborhoods
  4. Partner with the right real estate agent in Virginia
  5. Go house hunting
  6. Make a strong offer
  7. Inspections and appraisals
  8. Do a final walkthrough and close

Yes! The VHDA (Virginia Housing Development Authority) offers eligible buyers up to 2.5% of their home purchase price through a Down Payment Assistance Grant.

To qualify, the borrower's credit score must be at least 620 with an FHA loan, 640 for a VHDA Conventional loan, or 660 for the VHDA Conventional No MI loan. Household income limits also apply and vary by county.

» READ: What are the top first-time homebuyer programs?

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