Your first consideration is whether a bank or other lender thinks your existing income and level of debt leave room for you to take on a home mortgage. (We're assuming you haven't saved up enough cash for the entire house purchase, but will need to take out a loan.)
Second consideration is whether, regardless of what the lender says, the expenses of a home loan -- not to mention other costs like buying furniture, dealing with home repairs and maintenance, and paying the property taxes and insurance, and utility bills -- will fit comfortably within your budget.
You really should have your own real estate agent by your side for the offer and negotiation phase of buying a home. It normally doesn't cost you anything -- by tradition, the seller pays the commission -- and it's far better to have your own agent than to ask the agent selling the home to represent you along with the sellers. Such "dual agency" relationships often lead to conflicts of interest. For example, the agent might feel duty-bound to clue the sellers into the fact that you're actually willing to go higher on price
Short sale is when the home sells before the foreclosure auction sale for less than the bank is owed and the bank agrees to take less for the payoff (short payoff). It is very hard to get to authority figures at the banks that can make decisions on the short payoff. REO bank owned is after the foreclosure auction sale and the bank has taken over the property. The bank then turns around and lists it with an agent; this is often much easier than the short sale.
To show that an offer is serious and made in good faith, it's traditional for the prospective home buyer to accompany it with a check for a modest amount -- often a small percentage of the purchase price -- known as an "earnest money deposit." The amount of the earnest money deposit varies by state, but is typically in the range of 1-2% of the purchase price.
The seller can't rush out and cash this check right away -- in fact, the check should be made out to the escrow company, not the seller. But the seller may get to keep the money if you pull out of the deal for a reason that wasn't allowed under the purchase contract -- for example, if you simply change your mind, or perhaps get lazy about taking steps to finalize your loan, as opposed to legitimately refusing to remove the inspection contingency after inspections revealed dry rot.
On the day your home purchase wraps up, as the buyer you'll be expected to pony up cash for various closing costs. These include transaction costs like loan setup fees, property inspections, the escrow or title company's fees, and more -- sometimes in the thousands of dollars.
Closing costs also include what you owe for homeowners' insurance, mortgage insurance (or PMI, typically charged if you're putting less than 20% down), your share of that year's property taxes, and more. The total is usually around 2-3% of the house price, depending on what state you live in, what kind of mortgage you get, and more
The first thing that's likely to happen after you put in an offer on a house is that the seller will counteroffer, perhaps asking for a higher price, or requesting other changes to the terms of your offer (maybe that you drop your contingency to sell your own house first, or that you add a contingency allowing the seller to close on another house before closing on and moving out of yours). You might counter the counteroffer, and so forth, and this may go on for a number of days.
After this part of the process is wrapped up and you've entered into a purchase contract, how long things will take depends on your contract, which should specify a closing date or number of days before closing. Within four to ten weeks is typical, although it varies from state to state.
You, the seller, the escrow agent, and pretty much everyone involved in the transaction will probably be working their hardest to make the closing happen on time. If it gets delayed, however, it's usually not the end of the deal -- you and the seller can simply agree to put it off by a few days. Unfortunately, extra demands by buyers' lenders are currently a common source of closing delays.
That depends. The seller is expected to leave behind all "fixtures" -- that is, all items that are permanently affixed and integral to the house and property. Classic examples of fixtures are ceiling lights, wall-to-wall carpeting, custom window shades and curtain rods (but not necessarily the curtains, depending on local tradition), built-in appliances, and any trees, plants, or shrubs with their roots in the ground as opposed to in pots. (Picture moving into the house and discovering that any of these had been ripped out before the seller left and you'll get the idea of why they're considered fixtures.)
Within the disclosure or other documents prepared by the sellers, however, they may indicate plans to leave certain items -- and not others. You can always negotiate over these, particularly in a slow market. If you can't imagine the house without the beautiful urns on either side of the front door, ask for them. The seller might throw them in, or at least agree to sell them to you separately.