Home Buying in San Francisco>Question Details

Eric Wu, Home Buyer in Russian Hill, San Fr...

What are some tips for first-time home buyers?

Asked by Eric Wu, Russian Hill, San Francisco, CA Tue Feb 7, 2012

What are some obvious things one should be aware of when buying a house for the first time?

Help the community by answering this question:


Hi Eric,

You already received a lot of good answers and advise, but I would like to chime in. I specialize in buyers representations and majority of my clients are first time home buyers. Buying a home in San Francisco is a very complex process and it could be overwhelming. But it is also very exciting!

In my experience, these are the important things to consider:

-determine an approximate area of interest
-determine your price point; keep in mind not only your mortgage payment, but also consider your property taxes, home insurance, HOA dues, etc.....you will ultimately do this by talking with a lender
-pre-approve and try to do so with a LOCAL Lender; of course, you should shop around and talk with few lenders, but when it comes to buying a specific San Francisco property, a local lender knows the market conditions, different forms of ownership and they can tell you upfront if they can lend on certain projects or not, therefore saving you time and money. Your Realtor can be a good lender referral source. No Realtor would like to be stuck in a transaction with an underperforming lender; you can be sure that if it happens, the lender will not be recommended again.
-find a good Realtor: you may be able to do your own research and I am sure you are very well informed about the market, but a good Realtor can guide you, help you choose an alternative neighborhood that you didn't think about before, advise on buying or not in a certain building and taking care of all the necessary documentation and disclosures.

Good luck!

Alina Aeby
Broker Associate, Realtor
Short Sale and Foreclosures Specialist (SFR)
ZipRealty, Inc.
Licensed in CA, #01729889
Cell: 415.744.4844
Fax: 866.363.5298
My Profile: http://www.ziprealty.com/agent/aaeby
Like us at http://www.facebook.com/sfhomezone
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Great answers, here's (hopefully) another :

(1) Identify your needs, wants, budget and dependencies

(2) Survey the marketplace, neighborhoods and financing options

(3) If financing, secure lending Pre-Approval (see below) Pay off credit cards, Pull copies of leases, etc., pdf all of them.

(3)(a) If paying in cash, or stock futures from Facebook for example, start pulling together proof of funds, gift letters, etc. Keep track of any time you move or transfer funds.

(4) Attend open houses and see what’s out there

(5) Enlist an agent you trust & like to help find the right home for you as it's our job to preview & i.d. suitable homes for you once you have a good idea of what/where and when you want to make a move.

(6) Return visits - do them

(7) Have your agent obtain & review disclosures for your desired home together

(8) Make a competitive offer they can’t refuse!

And, key to this process is also going through the loan application process before signing a purchase contract. This can eliminate delays and any obstacles to borrowing without jeopardizing the actual purchase when escrow gets under way.

Presenting a pre-approval letter with an offer package (opposed to a pre-qualification letter) shows that you’ve been vetted by a lender and are indeed serious. Here are some of the types of documents lenders will ask you for. So, you should get them ready - and be sure to check if Lisa from HR is going out of town any time soon!

Last 2 years of W-2s &1040s for self-employed and/or tax returns
Last 2 pay stubs & employer verification
Last 2 month’s bank statements (checking, savings, IRA, Money Market, etc)
Credit report fee (banks pull their own)
Photo I.D. (Driver’s License, Passport, Green Card, etc.)
Landlord contact information
12 months proof of rent payments; i.e., cancelled checks, statements, etc
Gift Letter from relatives/investors
Offer letter from new employer
Current mortgage statement/sales contract
Current property tax bill
Current Home Owner’s Insurance statement
Homeowner’s Association certificate
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
1. Don't take on too much payment than you can handle

2. Don't be afraid to back out of a purchase if you have a change of mind even after getting into contract. Once you close on a house *you and only you have to live with it*, the Realtor does not have to live with that purchase, do not try to please the Realtor.

3. Try to get into the best neighborhood you can (but only if you can handle the payment on a rainy day)

4. Remember their are other hidden costs on top of your PITI payment to owning a house you don't have when you rent (repairs, maintenance, water bill, etc...)
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Hello Eric,

!. If you need financing for your purchase, know your numbers: find out what the lenders will be willing to lend to you based on your credit/financials and what it's going to cost you a month to pay for your total home expenses: mortgage, property taxes, insurance. Is it something you are comfortable paying a month without loosing sleep over it. If not, figure out what is it that you are comfortable paying a month and have the lender figure out for you how it translates into the purchase price.

2. If you paying cash, make sure you don't overpay for the property. Have your realtor show you not only what the similar homes were sold in the neighborhood, but also how much the property are listed for, which are not selling (active listings which have been on the market for a while, expired listings).

3. Find the realtor you can trust (check the references), who can negotiate a good deal for you will be able to show you not only "obvious", but also not so obvious thing you would need to know, when buying a home. Find out if the Realtor will go extra mile for you by not only showing you the properties, which are currently on the market, but is able and willing to explore other options to find you the house you can call your HOME.

If above is of any interest to you and/or you have other questions, you can call me directly at 415-819-7380 or email rimma@rimmarealty.com.

With Appreciation,

Rimma Ludovico
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Talk to a few agents to find a good fit for you. Same thing goes for lenders. Good luck to you!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012

Two major first steps:

1. Find the right lender - knowing how much you can spend will frame your search, and help avoid disappointment in looking in the wrong price range. And there are a lot of unscrupulous lenders out there who will promise you anything to get your business and then fail to deliver, equally disappointing is going through the whole process only to not be able to get a loan. We have three lenders we work with all the time who have never failed to deliver, not once. They are also consummate pros and I would be happy to send you referrals as you will get the VIP treatment if you use our name.

2. Find the right agent/broker- this is just as big a decision. The right agent/broker will guide you through the process of buying for the first time, help you avoid problem properties, and skillfully negotiate prices/terms to your benefit. Too often buyers don't pay enough attention to this because the sellers pay the commission. Trust me, when you hire an agent you can pay big time if it's the wrong one.

Over the last couple of years a substantial portion of our business has been first time buyers. This is a different process because you need to take the time to explain the process, get up to speed on the market, understand what the buyer's goals are and more importantly if it even makes sense for you to buy. Do not make this decision lightly, and definitely hire a San Francisco expert - this market has a lot of things going on that only happen here.

We are always available for a no strings consultation if you like.

Best Regards,

Lance King/Owner-Managing Broker
DRE# 01384425
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Please have a look at the page on my website:
or simply contact me directly. I'm here to help!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 23, 2012
*Get Pre-Approved.
*Review/Set YOUR Budget.
*Make sure your happy with Location.
*Make sure your happy with your Job and it's Security.
*Make sure you don't become House Poor [You will want to do things other than pay your mortgage.]
*Research and Review your 'Needs' in regards to the new property. Prioritize these 'Needs'.
*Consult with an agent that will take care of YOU and provide YOU with solid & smart advice.

Kind Regards,

0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 15, 2012
Hello Eric,

First-time buyers should get their ducks in a row with regard to financing. It's a lot of work if you've had a few setbacks, but you can put your best foot forward. Take a look at these tips from ActiveRain:

0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 12, 2012
I am hosting a free seminar for first-time home buyers in San Francisco on February 16th at 6:30pm. Bring your questions and I'll have answers! Details: http://ow.ly/90jZe

Topics include:
● Preparing for homeownership
● Strategies for shopping and uncovering the best deal
● Overview of current market conditions
● Affordable mortgage programs
● Review of contracts / the home buying process
● Questions and answers with mortgage specialists


0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 10, 2012

There's some good advice here, so I'll reiterate what's been said - finding a good agent to work with is key. Someone who understands you and your budget and who can explain to you the home buying process and what it entails.

The best advice I can give in a short paragraph is to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you start looking at properties - get your financing in order, have the cash ready for an earnest money deposit and be prepared when you go out and begin looking at properties. The worst thing you can do is start looking, fall in love with a property, and then watch as someone else buys it because you weren't ready to write an offer. You'll spend the rest of your search comparing the properties you look at to "the one that got away".



Toby Jackson
Better Homes & Gardens/Mason-McDuffie Real Estate
2200 Union Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
Mobile: 415-627-8200
Office: 415-921-0113
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 8, 2012
Hi Eric-

I see some good advice below so I'll keep it simple:

Getting pre-approved by a relaiable lender or mortgage broker is the first step. Once you know what you can afford (or what you feel comfortable spending) then you realistically go out and see property that will fit your budget. That's where your realtor will come into play. Personal referrals are great. Ultimately find an agent who meets your neeeds. Some one local who understands the complexities and nuances of the SF market as well as someone who stays in touch with you and listens to your needs.

I'm always happy to help!


Rich Bennett, Realtor in SF since 2002

http://www.76-78Prosper.com http://www.115-117States.com

Zephyr Real Estate
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012

Are you a Realtor? Some of the responses below think not and your profile makes me think you are.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Hi Jim, I am not. Thanks!
Flag Tue Feb 7, 2012

Working with professionals who understand what you are after and who then have the ability to guide you are excellent first steps. That means an experienced mortgage professional and real estate agent. For more in-depth tips as wells as referrals, please call me at 415-200-7202.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Finding the right lender is key. We all can give you names and numbers of excellent mortgage brokers so you can get pre-approved for a loan. Second, finding the right realtor is very important. Most of us would be happy to talk to you before you make a final decision.

As for learning about purchasing, many of us have very useful (and free) First Time Buyer Booklets which explain the process from start to finish. I would be happy to send you one with a Realtor's map if you would like to contact me. I would be happy to include names of lenders. You can also go to the website of David Gellman and Boyd McSparran, real estate attorneys, for some excellent articles on Tenants-in-Common, Condominium Conversion, etc. Their website is http://www.g3mh.com.

The Mayor's website http://www.sfgov.org has information on rentals if you decide to rent in the future.

Good luck,

0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Get pre-approved with a good mortgage broker, develop a strategy with a skilled realtor, understand closing costs and market metrics and talk to a financial planner and accountant to make sure the investment makes sense in your overall plan.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Getting pre approved is the frist step. Buyers get excited to start looking and sometimes think they know how much they qualify for, but its important that they are also comfortable with the payment. Buyers should find someone who is willing to educate them on the process, the market in the area they are looking and answer their many questions , from the begining of the transaction until days after closing. Find an agent who is a good communicator and willing to take the time to explain.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
I would get comfortable with your agent as the first step. Pick someone who you feel at ease with that you can trust to help you locate the home you will love. Have the agent go through the entire process from start to finish so you know what to expect. Please call or email me if I can assist.
Bert Keane
McGuire Real Estate
DRE # 01898466
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Get pre approved for a loan. All else follows

Once you know what price range you are in, you can start narrowing down neighborhoods. Every buyer has a wish list, and as you look at properties, keeping in mind what you qualify for, you will be able to prioritize your narrow down what features would be nice to have, what are must haves.

Good luck. You are about to embark in an exciting adventure. Sometimes you will be frustrated, but do not give up- in the end you will own your own home, something most people in the world cannot do.

Astrid Lacitis
Keynote Properties
415 860 0765
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Investing time and becoming an authority on your target location can benefit you greatly. Knowing the market, price points, availability, advantages, disadvantages, etc. can make you an informed buyer....one that saves you money and identifies a great home for you and your family.

Good luck,

0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Once a buyer has been pre-approved for a loan, the buyer and their realtor will be on a quest to find the "perfect" home. This launches an investigation into location, condition and value of the homes that they find as good possibilities, based on location. Location means different things to different people. For some it is prestige; For others it is convenience. Next, is condition. Is the list price reflective of the condition of the property? Fixer-uppers can sometimes turn out to be more expensive than a home in move-in condition. Last is value. Is the house priced fairly for the neighborhood? Beware of homes which have been overbuilt for the neighborhood. Whenever you have to go outside the neighborhood to establish value, you are not really getting a true picture of the real value of the home.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
Let's get together to discuss... Each case is different.
Contact me at Ellie@ClimbSF.com or 415.948.1601
Web Reference: http://climbSF.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 7, 2012
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