What are some tips for first-time home buyers?

Asked by Trulia, San Francisco, CA Sun Mar 4, 2012

Can you share some of your top advice or tips for home buyers?

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Marc Guzman, Real Estate Marketer’s answer
Marc Guzman,…, , 94806
Thu Apr 26, 2012
Right now in most areas of the SF Bay Area there is a shortage of housing inventory and huge buyer demand. Here is a video link that provides an example of the bidding wars happening in the East Bay.


Hope this helps!
0 votes
Jed Lane, Agent, Petaluma, CA
Mon Mar 5, 2012
The first and most important thing all first time buyers should be told is to ask questions. Be assured that there is no question you can have that doesn't deserve to be answered clearly. The answer should be understandable and if not then feel free to ask it again. Never ever feel as if you should know something that you don't. This is the case with all the people in the entire process from your agent, your mortgage broker/banker to the escrow people.
Next, know that buying real estate is very much about trade-offs. Size vs. location, upgraded vs. potential, price vs. commute etc
Get to know the market where you want to live. Knowing the market in San Francisco isn't going to help you if you are looking in Daly City and yes it can be even more specific than that. Know if the market favors buyers or sellers, know how offer price can differ from sale price and how often it goes either way. Learn to be able to set your top price for any property. This is the price where you will be comfortable if you succeed and conversely comfortable that you went as far as you wanted to go if you don't succeed.
There is more obviously but I need to go and help my clients get what they want. The knowledge you are looking for comes to you by developing a relationship with your agent. Be comfortable and honest with your agent, remember we work for you. If you ever feel that your agent is putting their interests before yours, fire them and report them to the CA Department of Real Estate for breach of fiduciary duty.
2 votes
UpNest Top R…, Agent, Burlingame, CA
Fri May 9, 2014
Here's a contrarian view, use a rent vs. buy calculator to see if it makes financial sense to buy in your neighborhood vs. continue renting. Of course, home ownership isn't all about dollars and cents. This decision may be more due to life choices (need a bigger space, starting a family, etc.). Nonetheless, it's always good to do the calculations.

For this and 6 other great tips for home buyers, check out our recent blog post "Tips for First-Time Home Buyers" --> http://www.trulia.com/blog/upnest/2014/02/tips_for_first_tim…
1 vote
Jennifer For…, Agent, South Lake Tahoe, CA
Thu Mar 8, 2012
Always talk to 3 lenders and keep different quotes on loans. Ask yourself this? Can I really afford this home? Buyers need to take some responsibility for their actions as well.
1 vote
Jeff Teperme…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Mon Mar 5, 2012
Hi there,

Below is the link to my website page with information you need:
When ready, please work with a Realtor.
Web Reference:  http://sf-bay-area-homes.com
1 vote
Kamal Randha…, Agent, El Sobrante, CA
Mon Mar 5, 2012

Here is everything you need to get started :)


All of us are here to assist you once you familiarize yourself and are ready to start looking.
1 vote
Mary Macpher…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sun Mar 4, 2012
This will sound self-serving, but the best overall advice I can give you is to get representation. A good real estate agent is worth their weight in gold. They'll help you with everything from recommending a good loan agent (and that in itself, in this challenging lending environment, will not only help you with your loan but with qualifying you to the listing agent and seller when you finally do decide to write an offer on a home you love).

A good real estate agent is often well-connected, for lack of a better term - someone who often knows about properties before they hit the market, and who has trusted relationships with agents who work in the areas you'd like to live in. They can advise you about an upcoming listing, giving you ample time to not only mentally prepare whether you'd like to move forward with an offer on a home, but review comparable sales in an area to know what a reasonable, yet compelling, offer might look like. And, when the time comes to submit an offer, a good agent will go to bat for you - and knows how to negotiate.

A good agent will help educate you about the market. Every neighborhood in San Francisco is a city within the City, and there are subtle and not-so-subtle distinctions on every block. Schools, traffic, transportation, future developments, parks, good food (and this city loves to eat) - all matter when buying, and all matter when selling!

For a first time homebuyer, follow this checklist:

1. Talk to friends/relatives/co-workers about the agents they've used. If you're new here, go to some open houses and meet some agents. Who seems the best prepared? Who is engaged and knowledgeable? Chances are those who best prepare for their open houses are those who will work the hardest for you.
2. Ask the agent about getting pre-approved. Ask them for a recommendation (or two, or three) for a good loan agent.
3. When you know your price range, try it out in different areas. Chances are that even though you were dead-set on a one-bedroom condo in Mission Dolores, you might be pleasantly surprised what that might buy you somewhere else.
4. Be ready to take action. Someone flipped a switch this year and the market is hot again. It may take some heroics to get a home you love - don't be afraid to go for it. *** And, I ask this of all of my clients, TRY TO SEE YOURSELF LIVING IN THE HOME! If I'm going to give you keys on that first day of homeownership, how do you feel? If you can look deep within and know it's meant to be, then go for it!
5. Read and re-read the disclosures. For example, if you're buying a condo, look at the homeowners association reserves. Look at the meeting minutes and budget statements. Make sure there are no surprises (ie., special assessments or an upcoming increase in monthly dues). Look at items like the 3R report (the city's Report of Residential Record). What improvements were done with/without permit?
6. If your offer is accepted, do your due diligence. Have all the inspections you need (and there's a full menu of inspections to be had in San Francisco, just like anywhere else).
7. Watch the clock. Be aware of all of your passive and active contingencies in your contract. A good agent will guide you here.
8. Stay in close contact with your loan agent. Be ready for any additional documentation they might (and probably will) ask for from you. Lenders want everything but your first born nowadays, so don't take anything personally. They just want to make sure they're not repeating some of the sins from pre-2008.
9. This will sound like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth, but try to enjoy this time! If you're in escrow, then you're only a month or so away from getting the keys to your new home.

That's a condensed version of what can be a complicated process, but you get the gist. Please don't hesitate to contact me if I can help in any way.

Warm regards,
Mary Macpherson
1 vote
Michelle Car…, Agent, Coppertino, AL
Sun Mar 4, 2012
1) Locate a knowledgeable real estate agent you feel comfortable with (references from friends & family to experienced agents knowledgeable in the kind of home & area you want)
2) Get pre-approved with a reputable lender (again, references from your agent, plus friends & family)
3) Learn about the area(s) you are interested in
4) Drive through the neighborhoods at daytime and nighttime to make sure you feel safe
5) Get market data on homes for sale, pending and sold so you can know what's happening in that specific neighborhood.
6) See homes in your price range

Working with experts will help make your home buying journey safe, and even enjoyable.
1 vote
David Tapper, Agent, Burlingame, CA
Sun Mar 4, 2012
Most of the agents on this forum will tell you the first thing you should do is get pre-approved for a loan so you will know what you qualify for and also what you can afford.

You may be qualified for more money than what you are comfortable paying for so make sure to ask how much your payments will be.

You should also find an agent to work with. The best way other than this forum is to get a personal referral from a friend, relative or co-worker.

One of the most important things you need to find out is if you communicate well with your agent, because the buying process could take months. Don't work with an agent who makes you feel like you "HAVE" to make a decision.

Lastly, the home should sell itself. Your agent should be there as an advocate for you, to make sure you get the proper inspections, negotiate the price and navigate the contract.

If you need some information on first time home buying, feel free to email me and I will send you an item of value that will explain the process.


1 vote
Jonathan Sza…, Agent, Marina del Rey, CA
Tue May 13, 2014
Be familiar with your HOA - Join http://www.hoamemberservices.com to stay on top of HOA News & Information
0 votes
There are many really good sites to learn more about living in a HOA Homeowners Association which statistically is a high percentage of all new homes being built. There is much to learn if you want to avoid the pitfalls. Many agent tell you to get good representation, but the reality is, it's not so easy to tell who's really going to give you the best advise. I know of a top selling agent for a major S.F. Bay Area firm who told me personally that she tells all of her clients to stay away from HOA mtgs., don't read notices etc., and by staying ignorant, you have nothing to disclose when you sell. IMO that is highly unethical behavior.
Flag Thu May 15, 2014
UpNest Top R…, Agent, Burlingame, CA
Wed Apr 23, 2014
We wrote a great blog that addresses your question. Check it out on the Trulia blog section http://www.trulia.com/blog/upnest/2014/02/tips_for_first_tim…
0 votes
Tiffany Razo, Agent, Broadmoor Village, CA
Wed May 9, 2012
To help you feel comfortable with the home buying process here is a list to start your thinking, and ask questions:

1. Be sure you are ready to buy a home.

2. Determine how much you can afford.

3. Get organized. Gather your personal information.

4. Get pre-approved.

5. Find Me - Your real estate professional!

6. Research areas and neighborhoods of interest.

7. Search for a home.

8. Visit selected homes.

9. Make an offer on the home you want.

10. Schedule a home inspection.

11. Prepare for closing.

If you would like more detailed information contact me direct 415-666-5886, Email: trazorealtor@gmail.com, or Twitter: TiffanyRazoBHG
0 votes
Peter T. Chin, , San Francisco County, CA
Mon Apr 9, 2012
Research the location with your Agent and research the property and do comparable sales info within the last six months.

Obviously, stay within your budget and interest rates and place your best offer with this in mind if you find your dream home.

There are other things too many to mention, but have your agent walk and hold your hand throughout the whole process; this is what I always do.

Peter Chin Dre #01866332
0 votes
Eric Wu, Home Buyer, Russian Hill, San Francisco, CA
Thu Mar 15, 2012
Great answers below, one things I would add is to not underestimate the value of a solid floorplan. These are often hard to correct.
0 votes
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