For many people, purchasing a home is a significant accomplishment and a source of great pride. Home ownership can be enormously rewarding, both personally and financially, and offers a sense of security and peace of mind for home owners and their families.
Unfortunately, the home buying process can be daunting, emotional and frustrating - especially if you’re a first time home buyer. Nowhere is that more true than in the Bay Area, where home prices are skyrocketing, supply is limited and competition is fierce.
Proper preparation is the key to a successful Bay Area home purchase. Arm yourself with information to make sure you understand how the process works and what to expect at every stage of the journey. Do your homework, and ensure you’re ready to move quickly and decisively when the right opportunity comes along. In short, be prepared, be organized and be patient.
How Do I Buy a Home?
We find it’s often helpful to think about your home buying journey in four phases:
- Step 1: Narrowing your search: On any given weekend in the Bay Area, there are over 500+ properties holding an open home. You’ll want to narrow down your search criteria to focus on the properties that you’re most likely to buy.
- Step 2: Evaluating specific homes: Once you know what you’re looking for, go out and find it! Keep up to date on new listings, perhaps by setting up a listing alert with your desired home criteria on a site like Redfin or Zillow. Block out time, often on the weekends, to visit open homes for listings that look attractive. Refine your understanding of the criteria that do - and don’t - matter most to you in your search. When you find a home that looks like it could be a good fit, dig deeper by obtaining the disclosure materials for the home and understanding a bit more about the home’s valuation and expected sales price. If the home still seems attractive, consider submitting an offer.
- Step 3: Submitting a competitive offer: Submitting your first offer is a big step in the home buying process. Whether it’s deciding on your bid strategy, coordinating with lenders, understanding contingencies, or navigating the legalese, there’s always a lot to process. A typical offer package contains a personal letter, financing pre-approval letter, proof of funds, an offer contract and signed disclosures. When you have an offer accepted, you’re “in contract” or “in escrow” on your new home. Next, you’ll need to stay on top of the escrow process to ensure a smooth and efficient closing.
- Step 4: The closing process, post-closing and home ownership: Congratulations! You’ve had your offer accepted and you’re “in escrow.” Now what? You’ll need to continue to work with your real estate agent, as well as the escrow and title agent for the sale, to ensure that you’ve completed all escrow period obligations and can close quickly and efficiently. These include things like finalizing your mortgage with your lender, completing any inspection or appraisal requirements, signing closing paperwork, and preparing closing funds transfers. Once the obligations are completed, a new deed showing you as the homeowner can be recorded with your County or City assessor’s office, and you’ll officially own your new home!