A Step by Step Guide to Buying Your First Home

Real Estate Agent with Luxury Property Agent, Home Sales, Relocation Lic. 01414989

Buying a home for the first time can be a confusing and daunting experience.


You may find yourself overwhelmed by the many things you have to do, and in the process make mistakes that may cost you more than you originally planned for.


It’s essential that you know what to do and who to turn to, so I’ve prepared a 10-step guide to help you buy your first home.


Check out the different topics included in this home buying guide.


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Step 1. Determine if you’re ready to be a homeowner


Owning a home is an all-American dream. It's also a major milestone towards the world of adulthood and financial responsibility.


Are you ready to be a homeowner?


Because it's a decision that takes months of planning and preparation, here are some signs that indicate your readiness.


Signs You're Ready to Be a Homeowner

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1. You are financially stable. One of the best indicators you're ready to own a home is your finances. You need a steady source of income that will help you save for your initial deposit, cover your monthly mortgage and still allow you to live a comfortable lifestyle. Experts recommend that your mortgage costs no more than 20 to 30% of your monthly income.


A home purchase is one of the biggest financial investments you'll make, and it can put you in a financially dire situation when you're not prepared.


2. You've saved enough down payment. Do you have enough money saved for a down payment? A home sale requires a down payment. Depending on the loan type, the down payment can range from 3.5% -20% of your home's purchase price. The larger your initial payment, the smaller your monthly mortgage payment.


3. You have strong credit. This three-number score is essential in securing a mortgage. If you're rocking a good score, you can secure a better interest, which can save you thousands of dollars in interest payment.


A strong score takes time to build. If you plan to buy a home in Pleasanton this year, you should have started building your credit score last year.


Making payments on all tradelines on time helps boost your credit score. The same goes for avoiding large purchases months before you have your credit score checked.


If you have no idea what your credit score is, now is the time to find out. The Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company.


4. You plan to stick around. Buying a Pleasanton residence means you’re planning to keep your home at least 2-years or more.  Longer is great, so give this some consideration.


You’ll not just be committing to the property, you’ll commit to the neighborhood and the larger geographic location as well. So love where you choose to live!


5. You're prepared for home maintenance. Homes require maintenance to continue functioning well. Repairs are inevitable, so you should at least have basic skills to handle minor fixes and flaws or be prepared to hire someone if you are not so skilled in these areas. If this is not your forte’, your Real Estate Agent can offer you names of tried and true professionals to assist in times of need.


Step 2. Get Pre-Approved


You've probably been looking at various homes online, thinking you can afford them.


Before you make the mistake of fixating over a certain type of home or on certain features you want in a home, you need to know what you can really afford.


Knowing your budget gives you realistic expectations, allowing you to choose a home that's right and within your financial range.


To get an idea of how much you can possibly qualify for, you can get a prequalification or preapproval from a reliable lender. Again, your chosen Real Estate agent can give you names of experienced, professional lenders that will take the best care of you.


It's a quick process where you provide the bank or the lender with your financial information, like your income, assets and debt. It can be done online or over the phone. After a simple evaluation, the lender can give you a great idea of how much home you qualify to purchase!


Getting a pre-qualification is helpful, but it's not the same as getting pre-approved.


Having an idea of how much you can afford is different from knowing exactly how much you can spend.


My advice is to get a pre-approval.


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A pre-approval is a more in depth evaluation of your finances by the lender.


With a pre-approval, the lender will do an extensive check on your financial situation and current credit rating. The lender will also tell you the specific mortgage amount for which you are pre-approved. It holds a heavier weight over a mere pre-qualification.


How do you get a pre-approval? Which lender will you choose? Again, your chosen Real Estate professional can help you choose the right Mortgage profession to assist you.


Here are the advantages of securing a pre-approval.


It tells you exactly how much mortgage you qualify for. Knowing how much you can afford helps streamline the properties you seek out. This way, you don't waste time looking at homes you'll just end up pining for because they are out of your budget range.


It increases your negotiating power. When sellers know that you've been pre-approved, they'll take your offer more seriously. It boosts your ranking in a pack of potential buyers because the seller thinks that your offer is much stronger than the others.


Let’s hear what HGTV has to say about budgeting for home buying.


Step 3. Hire the right real estate agent.


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Purchasing a home is a big investment, and you need the guidance of a full-time, in-the-trenches, so-to-speak, agent. You need someone who’s got your back, someone who'll look out for your interests, someone who'll prioritize your needs and someone who'll listen. In other words, you need more than a good real estate agent, you need an excellent real estate agent like me, Rhonda Fee.


How do you find the best real estate agent? It takes some effort and legwork, but the results are worth it.


Here are four steps you can do to ensure you'll pick the best one out of hundreds of Pleasanton real estate agents.


1. Search online. Everything is done online these days, and the same applies to looking for an agent. An excellent agent has a strong online presence, as well as a good track record. Online reviews left by former clients can give you an idea of how the agent works.


2. Ask for referrals. Don't be satisfied with what's available online. Ask for referrals from your family and friends. Ask people you know who have sold homes.


3. Set an appointment. You want an agent you can trust, and that can be difficult online or over the phone. The best way to find out if you can work well with the agent is to meet her. Make an appointment and sit down for an interview.


4. Have a prepared list of questions. You are not meeting with the agent just to establish friendship. You are meeting so you can see if he or she can give the answers you need. Having a prepared list of questions is helpful so you won't forget any important questions.


What are some things you should be asking? Since it’s quite easy for a consumer to find properties themselves, ask some tough questions: Take a look at some of the suggestions below:


> How long have you been in real estate?
> How long have you been working as an agent in Pleasanton?
> Do you work full-time or part-time?
> How do you set yourself apart from other agents in a difficult market?
> In a multiple offer situation, what strategies do you use to help me?
> Please explain your fiduciary duty to me? What does that entail?
> How might my earnest money deposit be protected if I change my mind during the process, once we are in escrow?
> Does the seller have a right to change their mind once we are in contract?
> Do you continually educate yourself on current obstacles in the real estate market? If so, how?
>Have you ever had a dispute that ended up in mediation?
>Do you have an attorney at your fingertips should we need legal advice?

Sitting down and asking these questions will help you gauge which agent you can work best with.

Check out what my previous clients have to say about me here : http://HomeValuesPleasanton.com/Testimonials/.


Step 4: Find a home


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You’ve secured a pre-approval and you now have an amazing REALTOR®. You’re ready for the most exciting step - Choosing a home.


There are so many decisions and considerations before you can pick out the right home.


How do you find the right home? Do you just base it on the price? How about the location? Should you also factor in the finishes?


All these questions boggling your mind can make it challenging to find the right home.


Take a look at these 3 factors you should consider in choosing a home


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Price. Your top consideration in looking for a home is price.


Pleasanton real estate market has homes at different price ranges, but you have to find a home that's within your budget range. You want a home that will keep your mortgage payments at a minimum.


Location, location, location! You've heard this before, you'll hear it again.

Your home's location is essential in living comfortably and conveniently. It is influenced by the kind of neighborhood it belongs to and by the amenities surrounding it. If you have kids, you may want to consider finding a property near schools. How far or how close is it to your workplace?  Having shops, dining options, and hospitals within driving distance are also good points to factor in your search for the right location.


Type of home. What home are you seeking? Are you looking for a single-detached home, a condo, a townhouse or maybe a patio home? Do you want a home near the city center or on the outskirts of the city? How large do you want it to be?


Consider your needs and wants. The home should have the type of floor plan you desire. It must also have the number of rooms needed to accommodate everyone in your family comfortably.


The right home will speak to you. When you step inside the front door, you’ll know right away that it is the home you’ve had in mind.


Here’s a great tip: Make a list of wants and needs. The “needs” column will have all the things you need to live comfortably, and the “wants” column will contain amenities and finishes that are good to have, but are negotiable.


Let’s watch HGTV’s house hunting tips for first-time buyers.



Step 5: Get a mortgage


You’ve found “the one”! It’s now time to secure a mortgage.


This part should be easy enough because you’ve already gone through the trouble of researching the lenders, learning about the various mortgage loans available for you and comparing loan terms and payment.


If you haven’t found the mortgage lender to work with, here are my top tips to find the best one:


Research on the different mortgage lenders. You want to find a lender that offers a good loan program with low-interest rates. Searching online and asking for references from family, friends, co-workers and your real estate agent can help you find the best lender.


Mortgage broker or mortgage banker. Do you need a mortgage broker or a mortgage banker?


A mortgage broker can help you easily find various lender programs and guidelines. They are convenient to use and they handle the requirements with expertise. You may encounter mortgage brokers who'll set you up with a lender just because they'll receive a higher commission, regardless of whether you'll be asked to pay a higher interest. This is why recommendations are very important.


A mortgage banker is like a loan officer. He or she works in the bank or lending institution and will guide you in choosing the most suitable loan option for your budget they personally offer.


Ask questions. When you've created a list of possible lenders, set up an interview with your top three. Prepare your questions to know if their services are what you want.


Don’t make up your mind just yet. Get a loan application from three different lenders. After two to three days, you’ll receive a breakdown of the loan terms for which you qualify. This can be known as a Good Faith Estimates.


Compare the different options available to you. Once you’ve found the lender which has the best loan terms and rates, secure a pre-approval.


Step 6: Make an offer - and get it accepted


Making an offer is not as easy as you stating an amount, the seller accepting the amount, and ending it with a handshake.


It's a little more complicated, and having my expert help will really make things easier for you.


The first thing you have to settle is the price. We'll be working together to decide on the offer based on similar properties in the area.


Your offer letter, will include terms & program you intend to use. If the seller likes your terms, it may be accepted. If he has multiple offers, a Seller Multiple Offer Counter may be sent to several buyers at one time.


When both parties have come to an agreement regarding the terms, the property will go into escrow and stay there until all the steps of the home buying process have been completed.


Step 7: Get a home inspection and a home appraisal


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Whether you’re buying an almost new home or one that’s been around for a long time, you’ll need a home inspection. The home inspection is your best protection. It will tell exactly what you’re buying.


If there are any repairs you’d like to ask the seller to complete, during the inspection contingency period is the right time to negotiate.

However, you should also be reasonable. Don’t expect the house to be perfect.


You just want the most important things taken cared of so you can move into the house with fewer worries.


In a seller’s market, such as we are currently experiencing, it may be best to accept the home in its current condition unless there is something of extreme expense that you cannot undertake.


A home appraisal will be required by your lender to ensure they are loaning based on a fair market value of the home you are buying.


In case you want to buy an old home, here’s a video from HGTV which will help you know some good tips to embrace and pitfalls to avoid.



Step 8: Get an insurance


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Another step the lenders will require you to take is to get home insurance.

This is one way they can protect themselves from accidents like fire and some other risks.


Aside from your home, you can also ensure any other structures in the property like the detached garage and storage shed, your personal property, your family, and more.


Step 9: Sign Closing Documents


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You’re almost there!


This step is where all the necessary documents related to the home purchase are collected and updated, signed and notarized.


All you’ll need to do is to review the mortgage documents. I can help you do that during the signing appointment.


Step 10: Closing


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This is it! This is the last part of the home buying process. This is where the final documents are signed, and the cashier’s check is transferred from your hand to the seller’s hand, via the escrow account. Once the new deed has been recorded with the county, you are truly a homeowner!


Congratulations! Your next step is to move in and enjoy your property.


Buying your first home can be a difficult experience, but when you have my help, you’ll know what to do and when to do it. This step by step guide already laid down the essentials of the home buying process, making things easier for you.


I am Rhonda Fee, your Realtor® here in Pleasanton CA. Call me at 925-200-0827 and let’s discuss how you can buy your first home.

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Rhonda Fee, Broker, ABR, CHS
Lic. 0414989
925-200-0827 Call or Text




Comments (3)

Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Platinum - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Wow!  Great "pillar post" !  :-)  I am sure you will see a lot of traffic from it!

Mar 09, 2018 07:38 AM
Jeff Masich-Scottsdale AZ Associate Broker,MBA,GRI
HomeSmart Real Estate - Scottsdale, AZ
Arizona Homes and Land Group/ Buy or Sell

Most excellent report on first time home buyer tips Rhonda Fee - REALTOR® . Buyers should use you in Pleasanton. Another thought for first time home buyers to consider, here in Arizona, we still have free Buyer down payment and/or closing costs grants through the County that do not have to be repaid. 

Mar 09, 2018 08:00 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
www.iCharlotteHomes.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

This is a "must-read" for all buyers that are new to the home buying market Rhonda. Your knowledge & expertise in this area should bode well for future business. Have a wonderful weekend!

Mar 09, 2018 11:55 AM