Over the past 30 years we have worked with hundreds of first time home buyers and our advice and guidance has garnered a 98% retention rate on all first-time clients. Many of these steps below are very similar to our “Home Buying Process” section but they are even more important for first time buyers. 


Obtain Pre-Approval: While knowing how much you can afford is the first step, sellers will be much more receptive to potential buyers who have been pre-approved. You’ll also avoid being disappointed when going after homes that are out of your price range. With Pre-Approval, the buyer actually applies for a mortgage and receives a commitment in writing from a lender. This way, assuming the home you’re interested in is at or under the amount you are pre-qualified for, the seller knows immediately that you are a serious buyer for that property. Costs for pre-approval are generally nominal and lenders will usually permit you to pay them when you close your loan.

Create List of Needs & Wants: Make 2 lists. The first should include items you must have (i.e., the number of bedrooms you need for the size of your family, a one-story house if accessibility is a factor, etc.). The second list is your wishes, things you would like to have (pool, den, etc.) but that are not absolutely necessary. Realistically for first-time buyers, you probably will not get everything on your wish list, but it will keep you on track for what you are looking for.


Get Representation by a Professional: Consider hiring your own real estate agent, one who is working for you, the buyer, not the seller. 

Why is a Professional Agent Important?

Buying and selling real estate is a complex matter. At first it might seem that by checking local picture books or online sites you could quickly find the right home at the right price.  But a basic rule in real estate is that all properties are unique. No two properties — even two identical models on the same street — are not precisely nor exactly alike. 

Homes differ and so do contract terms, financing options, inspection requirements and closing costs. Also, no two transactions are alike. For example, you may be stopped because of a lack of cash. contact us. In this maze of forms, financing, inspections, marketing, pricing and negotiating, it makes sense to work with professionals who know and are experienced in Marin County. With over 60 years of experience, we can help guide you through your purchasing decision. Please contact us for more customized information.


How to Select a Professional Realtor? 

Across Marin County there are hundreds of realty brokerages and real estate agents and brokers and the competition may be intimidating at first. Many buyers will interview several real estate professionals before selecting one with whom to work and this is a great opportunity to consider such essential qualities like training, experience, representation and professional certifications.  Buyers should use all the resources that they have to select their realtor including referrals, the internet, testimonials and regional experience. 


Stay Focused and Organized: Buying your first home is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make and the process will be much less stressful if you stay focused and organized. In a convenient location, keep items some of the following items handy to help you jot down notes or ideas:

  • One or more detailed maps with your areas of interest highlighted
  • Saved searches and listings online and a physical file of the properties that your agent has shown to you, along with ads you have cut out from the newspaper
  • A digital camera or camcorder to help refresh your memory on individual properties, especially if you are attending a series of showings
  • Town or city guides to cross-reference properties with community details. Look at a potential property as if you are the seller. Would a prospective buyer find it attractive based on school district, crime rate, proximity to positive (shopping, parks, freeway access) and negative (abandoned properties, garbage dump, source of noise) features of the area?

Be Objective: Instead of thinking with your heart when you find a home, think with your head. Does this home really meet your needs? There are many houses on the market, so don’t make a hurried decision that you may regret later. 

Be Thorough: A few extra dollars well spent now may save you big expenses in the long run. Don’t forget such essentials as:

  • Including inspection & mortgage contingencies in your written offer
  • Having the property inspected by a professional inspector(s)
  • Requesting a second walk-through to take place within 24 hours of closing.
  • You want to check to see that no changes have been made that were not agreed on (i.e., a nice chandelier that you assumed came with the sale having been replaced by a cheap ceiling light)

Title insurance: Purchased with a one-time fee at closing, title insurance protects owners in the event that title to the property is found to be invalid. Coverage includes “lenders” policies, which protect buyers up to the mortgage value of the property, and “owners” coverage, which protects owners up to the purchase price. In other words, “owners” coverage protects both the mortgage amount and the value of the down payment.


Homeowners’ insurance: Homeowner’s insurance provides fire, theft and liability coverage. Homeowners’ policies are required by lenders and often cover a surprising number of items, including in some cases such property as wedding rings, furniture and home office equipment.

Flood Insurance: Generally required in high-risk flood-prone areas of Marin County surrounding rivers and lakes, this insurance is issued by the federal government and provides as much as $250,000 in coverage for a single-family home plus $100,000 for contents.

Home Warranties: Home warranties for existing homes are typically one-year service agreements purchased by sellers. In the event of a covered defect or breakdown, the warranty firm will step in and make the repair or cover its cost.

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