Buying your first home can be both exciting and daunting, especially in a competitive market such as the Bay Area. However, with a bit of prep work and research, the process can go smoothly. Here’s an overview of recommended steps to get you on your way to homeownership:
Step 1: Find an experienced real estate agent that specialized in your area or neighborhood of interest.
Step 2: Get some mortgage broker referrals and start considering loan product options. Apply for a mortgage pre-approval, which can be critical when facing a multiple bid situation.
Step 3: Start gathering important documents. Assemble paperwork including tax returns, W-2 forms for the past two years, current pay stubs, bank statements from the past several months, current asset statements, along with other financial documents. Request your credit report from all three credit rating agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Step 4: Create a budget. Learn about what down payment and closing costs are required. Set aside cash to cover maintenance costs and mortgage payments for one to two years after purchase. Budget for renovations, moving costs, taxes and everyday expenses.
Step 5: Review mortgage options: Weigh the pros and cons of different mortgage products. A 30-year fixed mortgage may not be ideal if you are only planning on staying in a home for 5 years.
Step 6: Start house hunting (the fun part!): Make a list of must-haves. Research neighborhoods and schools. Check out online sites like Zillow and Redfin for new listings and video tours of homes. Get a copy of your local paper’s real estate section and review it weekly to stay up with the latest inventory. Visit open houses.
Step 7: Go over the closing process with your real estate agent. Keep track of inspection and loan contingencies deadlines.
Like any major financial decision, preparation is key. Having the right team and strategy will help lead you to your goal, one step at a time.