In my humble opinion, the first step is always to speak to a lender. Confirm that you (1) qualify to buy with current lending guidelines and (2) that you have selected the right price range to search in.
When you are pre-qualified with a lender, you're ready to begin your home search. Many people try web-based searches before contacting a real estate professional, but the information online is rarely up to date, and many homes that you research there are in fact already in escrow or sold. So it's best to make your second step the identification of a seasoned, full-time realtor who specializes in buyer representation in this area and has real-time access to current listings that meet your criteria. You'll need professional guidance when dealing with the current market climate, as short sales and foreclosures dominate real estate in virtually every market in the US. An agent who knows how to manage these types of transactions will save you time, money and heartache.
So some helpful hints:
1. Be realistic about your price range and the home that fits in your budget. If you're considering a fixer, be sure that you have the time and resources to make that fixer house into your home.
2. Research additional expenses associated with your purchase, beyond the mortgage, i.e. do the taxes in a certain neighborhood include special assessments, or are there HOA fees?
3. If you have children, identify their prospective school(s) of attendance and research test scores.
4. Always choose a local real estate expert to assist you in your search and investigations.
5. Don't ever feel pressured by any party when searching for a home. Take your time and trust your instincts.
If you're searching in the Santa Clarita Valley, I would recommend calling Mike Meena at Augusta Financial to discuss your pre-qualification...661-260-2970. He's a local direct lender who can get you on the right track, and his programs can't be beat. When you're pre-approved and ready to jump in the car to see some of the great homes (and great deals!) that our valley has to offer, be sure to give us a call. Our brokerage offers 100% service with 0% pressure, and first-time buyers are our specialty.
Happy House Hunting!
Crystal Sheppard, Broker