Buyer's Guide

A Step-by-Step First Time Buyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by your agent will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.

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Step 1: Research

Do you already know where you want to buy? If you want a condo, townhome, or single-family home? Which features do you like and dislike? What’s available on the market now? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to start researching. In addition to looking for homes that interest you, also take note of any changes in asking prices. This could give you valuable insight into housing trends in specific neighborhoods and help you when the time comes to make an offer.

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Step 2: Decide on Your Budget

Notice I said to decide on your budget—not determine how much the mortgage company will give you. In many cases, a mortgage company will pre-approve you for more than you’re comfortable spending, which is why you need to determine the monthly payment you feel comfortable with before talking to a lender. This likely includes doing a full household budget and taking into consideration what changes other than a mortgage payment will occur once you move into your new home. If you’ve lived in an apartment or with roommates, you may overlook new expenses like garbage, water, or HOA fees that could easily blow your budget.

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Step 3: Get Prequalified

Just because you think you can afford a certain payment every month doesn’t mean the mortgage company will agree. Just as they may approve you for too large of an amount, they may also approve you for a lesser amount or deny you a mortgage altogether. Lack of time at a job, insufficient credit, past bankruptcies, or other financial issues can cause major problems when trying to secure a mortgage. Before you get your heart set on a home, talk to a mortgage professional to find out what amount you can qualify for. This will also be an advantage when you make an offer on a home, as some sellers won’t entertain offers from those who aren’t already prequalified for a loan.

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Step 4: Choose a Real Estate Agent

Can you shop for, look at, and ultimately make an offer on a home without a real estate agent? Technically yes, but why would you when it costs you nothing for an agent like me to take much of the stress off your shoulders? Not only will I help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but I also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. I may be able to steer you away from certain homes or neighborhoods, suggest hidden gems, or give you pointers that will help you find your dream home for the right price.

My goal is to provide you with the most personalized service that is designed to help you buy your dream home.

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Step 5: Find the Right Home

This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). I will arrange showings of homes you’re interested in that are within your price range. Take notes about what you like and don’t like, and make sure to pay attention to details. Turn light switches on and off, open and close doors, and run the faucets in various rooms. Don’t limit your inspection to the home itself. Make sure to take time to explore the neighborhood and keep an eye on traffic at certain times of the day, the parking situation, and how close it is to necessities like schools and grocery stores.

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Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you have selected the perfect home, work with your agent to craft a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes on the market. Depending on what the home is listed at and whether the current environment is a buyer’s or seller’s market, your offer may be below, at, or even above the asking price. I will be able to help you negotiate if you receive a counteroffer and reach an agreement. At this point, the house will go into escrow.

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Step 7: Have the Home Inspected

In most cases, your offer will be contingent on having the home inspected to ensure there is no major structural damage or large repairs needed. I can help you arrange this, and you can schedule it within days of making an offer. If there are no major issues, the process goes to step eight. If there is, you can renegotiate your offer based on what needs to be fixed, or you can withdraw it.

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Step 8: Select Your Loan

Now is the time to go back to the mortgage lender who pre-approved or pre-qualified you and choose your mortgage. You will be presented with various options based on your unique financial situation, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, 15-year, 30-year, or special programs such as VA loans or FHA loans. Work with your mortgage lender to select the option you feel the most comfortable with.

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Step 9: Get a Home Appraisal

Your lender will have your new home appraised so they have their independent value of it. The appraisal is to ensure that all parties involved are paying a fair price for the house.

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Step 10: Finish Paperwork

No one looks forward to all the paperwork involved in buying a home, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Fortunately, everything will be arranged by your lender and title company and, when you’re finished, you’ll know you are the legal owner of your new home.

Congratulations!

After signing the final paperwork to complete the purchase, you are now the owner of a new house. It may take a few days for your loan to be funded once the paperwork has been returned to the lender, but once that check is delivered to the seller, you’ll be all set to move into the home of your dreams. 

Testimonials

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Bingham

Carly Seiff is an exceptional Realtor® in every sense of the word and we highly recommend her as an agent who will achieve your goal to the highest degree. After losing our mom, and finding it necessary to sell our family home ...
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Alex H.

Carly is incredible at her job. I just purchased our first home in the San Mateo area. Being first-time buyers, we were both clueless and nervous about the whole process (especially since this area moves fast and is hyper-compe...
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Alisa R.

Carly Baleix (Now Carly Seiff) helped us purchase our home in San Mateo this year. She is an exceptional Realtor®. We were first-time buyers, thrown into our situation unexpectedly, and very unprepared. Our home-buying process ...
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Alisa W.

Carly Seiff helped us purchase our home in San Mateo in 2014. She is an exceptional Realtor®. We were first-time buyers, thrown into our situation unexpectedly, and very unprepared. Our home-buying process (like that of many bu...
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L F.

My husband and I had the pleasure of working with Carly a couple of times over the past four years. She is an extremely dedicated Realtor® and will go above and beyond to help you purchase your new home. We are originally from ...
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Mike D.

I'm putting this part at the top because it is all you need to know: calling Carly a Realtor® is like calling Neil deGrasse Tyson a science teacher. Sure, you are technically correct, but it lacks the gravitas of how uniquely t...
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Steve L.

We've worked with Carly for buying our home in Menlo Park as well as selling our home in San Mateo. If we were to do any other real estate transaction again, we are surely going to work with Carly. She was able to provide hones...
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Cathy B.

Carly is a wonderful agent. She is dedicated, a go-getter, very professional. She listened well to what we said we wanted and also deduced from our body language and emotional reactions what we responded well to in a home. She ...
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Anga L.

Carly did an amazing job throughout our first-time home buying process. In retrospect, we realized more and more that she allowed us to go through our process and journey to buying our first home. She was supportive and patient...
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Alisa W.

In the real estate industry, honesty is a rare commodity, but Carly has it in spades. It was so reassuring and refreshing! She proves that you can be an assertive, and highly effective Realtor® without ever sacrificing integrit...
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Susan S

My husband and I have purchased two homes and sold one with Carly's work with Carly, you won’t regret it! Carly is savvy, dedicated, and diligent. We knew we loved Carly as buyers, but she took our esteem over the top when we s...
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Trudy H.

Carly was so great helping us find a home. Not only did she find a place to suit our needs, but she was also able to help us close below the asking price which is unheard of in this market! She had so much patience with us as w...
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Buyer

As first-time home buyers, and in an extremely competitive market, Carly helped us buy a house after making only one offer! Her understanding of our wants/needs and the local market allowed us to narrow in on the best house for...
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Hunter H.

Carly was an extremely patient and wise educator. Her knowledge of the local neighborhoods is second to none, and she was always able to give us excellent lists of pros and cons for each area we explored. Carly has lived here h...
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