Once your offer is accepted, you have 3 BUSINESS days to put your good faith deposit into escrow. That's usually done via a wire transfer but you can mail or drop off a personal check if you prefer. The check does NOT need to be certified. Then you will have a specified amount of time in which to conduct your investigations of the property. This is typically anywhere from 10 to 17 days, depending on what we negotiated on your behalf during the contract negotiation.
During this time period you will be hiring your "physical inspectors" to kick the tires of the house. Unless the house circumstances suggest otherwise, I typically recommend a basic general inspection, then proceed to other more specific inspections, i.e., roof or plumbing, if the general inspector's report suggests it. On hillside properties, I always recommend a geological inspection. And in many cases I recommend a sewer inspection as well. I have a book of trusted service providers who you can hire to accomplish all these tasks.
At the end of the contractual 10-17 day period, we will either sign off on, or "waive" the inspections, or request a credit for work to be done by you after the close, or we request that the seller perform certain repairs. This is determined on a case-by-case basis. But you are not done yet!
We still need to sign off on appraisal and your loan, if you are getting a loan. The appraisal is ordered by the bank (on your nickel, of course) and typically the report is completed right around the time you have to waive your loan condition. The bank usually gives you an approval on the appraisal almost simultaneous with your loan approval. What happens if your appraisal comes in low? That's a more complicated question which is beyond the scope of this post, but there are ways we can get around that issue, so rest assured all is not over if that occurs!
Once you have loan approval and a proper appraisal, the inspections are done AND you are sure you want the house, blemishes and all, it's time to waive all contingencies. I call this the "I really, really, really want to buy the house" document and I will NOT let you sign it without your knowing approval. CAREFUL HERE: this is the point of no return. This step must be done correctly if you don't want to lose that 3% good faith deposit! Rest assured you will be in good hands with this Realtor when we get to that point in the transaction. My #1 GOAL is to get you over that finish line, or if you decide NOT to go over that finish line, to back you out LEGALLY AND PROPERLY.
After all this is done, it should be smooth sailing to a smooth close of escrow and you can then put the key in the front door and start your new life!