Let me walk you through the home buying process. I am dealing with many first time home buyers and it is clear that many of you do not know what to expect when you are buying your first house.
Once you submit an offer...it is not a contract until both parties have agreed to the terms...the normal negotiations include the purchase price, the amount allowed for the cost of repair contingency, the closing date, personal property or fixtures and the amount of closing costs that the seller is willing to pay for the buyer. Of course there are other dates and stuff that could be negotiated but normally people are only concerned with what I listed.
Once you and the seller agree to all of the terms in the contract then you are expected to apply for your loan within a set amount of days set in the contract. This is often within 5 days. You are also expected to begin your inspections on the property. Again, the contract states the exact date that you must submit a repair request but it is normal to have around 2 weeks to complete all of your inspections.
Once you have completed all of the inspections you should talk with your agent about what you should ask the sellers to repair/replace. Remember, the sellers are suppose to fix all of the necessary repairs or the buyer can get out of the contract. If the amount of necessary repairs exceeds the amount in the cost of repair contingency then the buyer can get out of the contract even if the sellers decide to make all of the repairs. (There are time constraints that must be met for the buyer to execute this right...time being of the essence) Your agent should be able to tell you what is and isn't a necessary repair. If the object is functioning as it was intended and is not in need of immediate repair then it is not considered a necessary repair. Let me know if you have something come up and you want to know if that is a repair that the sellers should do.
Your agent should be able to give you some good recommendations for mortgage lenders that give good rates in your area and they should also keep up with the mortgage process to make sure that the lender is pushing the package through underwriting so that you can get loan approval. There is another date in the contract in which you must have received loan approval...usually 20-40. If you are not satisfied that you will be able to get loan approval within that set number of days then the buyer has the option of getting out of the contract for that reason.
Several weeks away from closing your agent should schedule the closing with a local real estate attorney. The attorney will usually send a buyer's information sheet that you will complete to give back to the attorney. The attorney will receive a copy of the contract and they will be responsible for doing the title search, having the settlement statements prepared, handling the money from the mortgage lender and the money that will be paid to the home warranty companies or other small businesses that are being paid at closing. The attorney will also record the deed once the property has closed. All you will have to do on the day of closing is come in and be ready to sign your signature more than you ever will again until you buy another house.