Home Buying in San Mateo>Question Details

Martin Crosk…, Home Buyer in Belmont, CA

First time home buyers

Asked by Martin Croskery, Belmont, CA Thu Dec 6, 2012

My wife and I are potential first time home buyers after our complex decided to raise rents by $200 pm, everyone is moving out which is probably what they wanted. We would love to stay in the Belmont, San Mateo and surrounding area, mostly for work reasons. We would consider as far south as sunnyvale and north as South San francisco. Neither of us have owned before and to be honest had not planned to until I retired. It's daunting, mostly due to the prices of property. I would love to stay away from condo's due to the excessive HOA fees.

We need advice on what mortgages are available for first time homebuyers, and good sites for advice about realtors and lenders in the area. hope someone can help

Help the community by answering this question:


Well, after having a good look around the area, we simply could not find anything in our price range of below $500K

We ended up getting approved in WA state for a $525K loan and purchased a home there and will be renting it out until i retire and then move there

It's sad as we both love this area but I was just not possible to find anything decent in this area.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 28, 2013
Glad to hear you succeeded in a home purchase somewhere. California prices are high but the percentage of equity to gain comes faster to but I am not familiar with WA state. Seattle would gain equity faster but not so much the rest of the state. I wish you a happy retirement :)
Flag Mon Jan 28, 2013
Hi Martin,

Buying a home for the first time can be an overwhelming experience...if you haven't prepared well for it. The most important first step for first-time homebuyers is to equip yourself with information about the local market (e.g. areas you are interested in) and gain a good understanding of your personal finances and budgets BEFORE jumping into the "buying" process. It sounds like you are on the right track by seeking advice on the home-buying process and mortgage information.

There are many generic websites with information on how to buy a home and what you need to do to apply for mortgage. HOWEVER, please keep in mind that this is a very personal experience for you and your family and there's no "one-size fits all" type of advice as each individual homebuyer's situation is different. Looks like the lenders have provided some good information below, here are my suggestions with respect to "real estate" portion:

Contact 2-3 reputable Realtors in the areas you are interested in. A good start would be websites like Trulia, Yelp, and Zillow which provide agent reviews/ratings. Conduct a short phone interview and get a feel of who you feel can trust and comfortable to work with. Then Schedule a in-personal consultation with the Realtor(s). An experienced Realtor will spend 1-2 hours with you to explain the homebuying process in detail, the local market trend, assess your needs, identify and provide solutions to obstacles that may impede your goal, and be able to work with your timeline. Bring your own questions to the meeting and be upfront to provide information that will help the Realtor to help you. Remember, there's no obligation if you don't feel the right vibe from the Realtor.

If you are interested in learning about the general homebuying process, please email me at annie@annierealestate.com for a Homebuyer's Handbook. I have been a Realtor for over 8 years, servicing areas in San Francisco, the Peninsula, and Santa Clara. Feel free to let me know if you have further questions or talk briefly over the phone. Good luck!


Annie Chang, REALTOR
Sequoia Real Estate
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 6, 2012
I feel for you and we were sort of in the postion.

We moved here a couple of years ago. I have my own software business and my wife is a personal trainer. We moved from Portland as my wife had been offered a position as she trained potential trainers. I work a lot from home so can sort of work anywhere.

We liked the San Mateo area so rented for a while. We then tried to buy. We were approved for a $900K loan and started searching. To be honest it was a big disapointment, homes we saw were old and needed a lot of upgrades, certainly nothing that was worth the asking price and the ensuing bidding wars that followed.

I've never liked condos or townhomes and those in the surrounding area were no different. Some had horrendous HOA fees, others like Arbor and Bay meadows were just way overpriced with horrendous views and will encounter terrible traffic problems in years to come. $900K for a 2br home with no view or garden did not make any sense.

After both our apt rent and my wifes studio rent was increased above market rates for no other reason than pure greed we too decided to move back to Portland at the end of the year.

If you are still looking and can move, have a look at Vancouver in WA state, just across the border from Portland it offers great value for homes

Good luck
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 26, 2013
Hello Martin,

My first suggestion to you would be to talk to a lender to find out what you can qualify for in regards to a price of a home. The bigger lenders are Bank of America and Wells Fargo. You can also contact a mortgage broker who would have access to more lending options. I would suggest you try to put at least 10% down and go with a fixed rate mortgage as opposed to an interest only mortgage, if that is an option for you and your wife.

Once the lender preapproves you and your wife for a loan, then you can go shopping for a home. If your finances allow you to purchase in the Belmont/San Mateo areas then you're good to go. The less expensive cities in your search area if you want to stay away from condos would be South San Francisco, San Bruno, and Redwood City.

I am an agent, but I am a homeowner first. I have purchased homes in California, Hawaii, and Portugal. Let's talk Real Estate. Let me know if I can be of any help.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Dec 8, 2012
Hello Martin, You may qualify for any program you would like fico score wise so it all depends on how much money you have or want to invest into the down payment and closing costs. Since you did not share how much you want to invest towards down payment and closing costs I am going to use $400,000 just as an example because I already have that figured and it is all hypothetical anyways.

You will notice the down payments are going to be the deciding factor for you to start with of which loan program will benefit you the best financially. Take note that there is approx. $8,000 in closing costs on a $340,000 purchase with all the loan programs. In this market of low inventory and multiple offers on most all homes for sale, this does not allow a buyer to ask the seller for closing cost concessions.
You will need to either pay your own closing costs for your offer to be considered or I can go over premium financing which can cover a substantial portion of your closing costs. You can buy with CHF Access with minimum out of pocket expenses.

You can buy at $340k for an sfr with CHF Access half percent down $1,700 and $2,489PITI total. This will vary with a condo as the HOA will vary. There is a shortage of choices so the home prices are on the rise. There may be more that come up in your price range for 1-2bd condo's in some of the cities of your choice and if you decide you want to buy instead of rent which is the best choice. You will be gaining equity every year which will basically be like a big discount off your rent. You will be gaining atleast $10-20k a year if not more, nobody knows, and paying 30k a year mortgage or rent which ever you decide so if you buy it is like putting money in the bank to use as you wish in the future. The key is not to use equity like an ATM and pay an additonal mortgage payment a year maybe with income tax returns and it will only take 17-20 years to pay off a 30 yr mortgage.
If you rent again you are throwing away already at $1,600 a month is $19,200 annually. Rent or Buy
and although your only going to have condo as choices in the $2,500 maximum total payment range.

The single family residence homes in your choices of cities are just another $1,100 a month more as Juliana is quoting except she is only telling you principal and interest and not the other $1,100 in taxes and insurance. If you want FHA financing, you will be required to include taxes and insurance in your monthly payment and at $550k the payment is $3626PITI, 3.5% $19,250 down and 3.25% 30 yr fixed rate and near $10k closing costs. Now with the same scenario at $550k with CHF Access the down is only $2,750 and a rate approx. 3.5% 30 yr FHA fixed rate with your fico. Your going to need 8k for closing costs and a loan program below show examples of down paymetn and PITI payment of 400k.

Here is an example of loan programs with minimum 700 fico:
Loan 400k with CHF ACCESS $2,000 down 3.75% 30 yr FHA fixed rate $2,814.08 PITI
Loan 400k FHA 3.5% down $14,000 down 3.25% 30 yr FHA fixed rate $2,648.04 PITI
Loan 400k Conv 3% down $12,000 down 4% 30yr Conv fixed rate $2,744.71 PITI
Loan 400k Conv 5% down $20,000 down 3.75% 30 yr Conv fixed rate $2,632.18 PITI
Loan 400k Conv 20% down $80,000 down 3.75% 30 yr Conv fixed rate $2,018.64 PITI

San Mateo only has 1-2 bd 1-2ba condo's IN your price range and no sfr's as they start at $424k in San Mateo. Nothing in Belmont in your price range as they start at $624k. Nothing in Sunnyvale either they start at $429 for condo's, Only 1bd 1ba condo at $239k with $349 HOA. Millbrae starts at $488k , Redwood city starts at $389k, South San Francisco 2bd 2ba condo start at $321k IN your price range, San Bruno has some IN your price range starting at $289k and $400 HOA, San Bruno's Low inventory starts at $472k but are 3bd , San Carlos condo start at $439k for 2bd and $440HOA.

How many bedrooms are you in now and square footage? You are only going to have similar choices in a condo purchase. Rentals are scarse also so your choices are limited in the cities of your choice. Here is a link to a flyer, maximum income limits and a needs list to gather if you want to pursue a purchase loan approval.


Sheryl Arndt, Real Estate Broker – Sr. Loan Officer CA only
REO & Short Sale Specialist
20+ Years Experience
DRE# 01140252
NMLS# 297251
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Dec 7, 2012
Every homebuyer has different goals and different ways to accomplish them. It sounds to me that you are just starting to think about purchasing a home. I would recommend that you talk to a real estate agent first. That way you can get a very quick overview and get a chance to ask questions as ideas and concerns pop up.

Your real estate agent can recommend who to talk to about getting pre-approved and ultimately who to get a loan from. Who you choose to get a loan from affects your ability to complete a purchase and thus how a seller views your purchase offer.

You can get an idea of the price of a home by looking at real estate statistics for each city you would consider. For example Belmont real estate statistics are at

A $2500 month payment would support a $550,000 loan at 3.5%. You can play with the numbers yourself at http://julianalee.com/reinfo/mortgage.htm

With interest rates at very low levels, you build equity quicker. Notice how the graph on my mortgage calculator page shows equity building quicker with low interest rates even though the payment is lower!

I work with many first time homebuyers. I would be glad to help you.

Juliana Lee, MBA LLB
Cell: 650-857-1000
Top 3 agent nationwide at Keller Williams Realty

Over 20 years experience
Over 1000 home sales completed in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties
Web Reference: http://julianalee.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 6, 2012
Hi Martin,
Your first step is to contact and mortgage broker to see how much you could qualify for. Good news is that interest rates are still low so you qualify for more. The next step is to find an agent that works in the area and sit down with them to discuss your wants and needs. I work along the peninsula in your desired area and would be happy to work with you. I also have some suggestions for mortgage brokers. Feel free to call me to discuss. Look forward to talking with you soon.

Brandon Denman - Realtor
DRE # 01378663
Pacific Coast Real Estate
650-303-0880 cell
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 6, 2012
Thanks for all the answers so far, very helpful

We both have credit scores over 790

We currently pay $1600 PM rent

We could go as high as $2500 for a monthly payment. I don't want to pay more

An e-mail address is m_c94402@yahoo.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 6, 2012
Hello Martin, Yes in this market, Rents as well as home prices are on the rise. Welcome to considering buying and you have chosen the perfect time as we are at the bottom of the market and on an upswing so it is not to late. This all depends on how much you want to invest into the down payment and closing costs to purchase and your fico scores. If you have a minimum 700 fico and 20% down, you best option is conventional financing with no mortgage insurance and there is also closing costs. If you have a minimum 700 fico, you may qualify for 3% down conventional or minimum 660 fico, you may qualify for 5% down conventional. If you have a minimum 580 fico score, you may qualify for FHA 3.5% down or .5% (half percent down payment CHF Access) up to $417k and up to Jumbo $729,750 requires a minimum 600 fico score.

These days with low inventory and record low interest rates, home prices are on the rise and there are multiple offers on most all homes for sale which is leaving no room for concessions towards closing costs from the sellers to the buyers. You have to offer to pay your own closing costs to have your offer considered. If you want to purchase with minimum out of pocket expenses, you may consider CHF Access half percent down payment program which can contribute towards your closing costs as well. It only takes a few dozen questions to qualify you for the loan program that will benefit you the best financially.

It all depends on how much your paying in rent now, maximum payment you want, debt to income ratio's, down payment and closing costs to invest, credit profile and fico scores to qualify. I can email you properties to study and consider as well with an email?

Here are some links to study and consider.



Sheryl Arndt, Real Estate Broker – Sr. Loan Officer CA only
REO & Short Sale Specialist
20+ Years Experience
DRE# 01140252
NMLS# 297251
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 6, 2012
An important first step before you start shopping for a property is to get a pre-approval letter from your lender. In today's mortgage market, getting bank financing can be a real trip. Pre-approval will (1) tell you how much you can buy and (2) it will make it more likely a seller will accept your offer and (3) the closing is much quicker.

Once you have that, now find a property that is in good condition in a good neighborhood. The foreclosure market is an excellent way to find cheap property. You can check out active foreclosure, REO, short sale and auction listings at this website: http://www.bankforeclosuressale.com.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 6, 2012
As a lender, the first recommendation I make to First Time Homebuyers is to visit the MGIC.com website and take the 'First Time Homebuyer's' course.

This will give you a valuable overview of the whole experience from loan application to the final step of signing your loan documents.
The class describes how, not only, will you need a down payment but to budget for closing costs, etc.

Once you take this class, you should set out to find a lender who can help you with the preapproval process. You may want to research and interview lenders, choosing the one who you feel most comfortable with sharing, in essence, your whole life! And who will have the patience to walk you through the uncharted waters with you.

Your mortgage choices will depend upon your amount of down payment available, your credit quality and your future financial plans (i.e.; how long you intend on remaining in the home, etc).

Your question will yield many, many recommendations and many, many solicitations to help you out!
Read some blogs on Trulia. This will give you a feel for experience level and communication skill sets that meet your requirements.

In the end, it is your choice. With whom to you feel comfortable? Who really has YOUR best interests (and there are many of us who do!).

Whatever you do, ENJOY the experience. As stressful as any home purchase is, first or fifth, you should feel safe and most of all have it be an enjoyable and happy occasion!

Happy House hunting!

...and of course ...any questions cgravelle@diversifiedmg.com :)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 6, 2012
Well with selecting a real estate agent you need to understand there are 2 types of Buyer Agents:

1) Exclusive Buyer Agents - work in a firm that never represents sellers, they only work for and represent buyers on ANY home they want to purchase.

2) Non-exclusive Buyer Agents - work in a firm that ALSO represents sellers. They may only be your buyers agent on homes NOT listed by their brokerage. Any home listed by their brokerage, they become a Dual Agent. When acting as a Dual Agent, they have a limited ability to represent you, they are prohibited from acting exclusively for either party and may not advocate for either party to the detriment f the other.

Your best bet is an Exclusive Buyers Agent, typically there is No additional charge for their service. Contact John Rygiol 949-525-7344.

Tell John, I told you to call him. He's a friend of mine. Send me an email, and I can put you in contact with a lender that will save you a lot of money on your financing.

Ron Jensrud
100% for Home Buyers - 100% of the Time!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 6, 2012
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