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. 

My Testimonials

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REUBEN C.

Working with Catrina was a pleasure, and she made what could have been a difficult experience easy and pain free. We had rented our house in OB for two years before putting it up for sale. The renters had not been kind to it...
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WENDY M.

Catrina is an awesome RealtorĀ®! This is our second real estate transaction with Catrina and would never use anyone else. Great listener, able to identify our needs quickly, well connected in her neighborhood, always available!
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LAURA H.

Ms. Russell saved the day at the last minute for me to rise to the occasion for close on time. She called in favors for movers and haulers who performed stellarly, allowing me to keep my contract in a timely manner.
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CRAIG V.

Catrina is a superb real estate agent. She handled everything from the moment we decided to start the selling process until the end. She made everything work in a timely professional manner and we closed 6 weeks after the house...
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JEFF K.

Simply the best agent in OB and Point Loma. Her local knowledge of the market can't be beaten. She sold our home quickly and very close to the initial list price. Her staff is great and she is very attentive and helpful through...
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DAVE

Having bought two houses through Catrina, it is easy to recommend her. Catrina has an amazing knowledge of houses on the market (even ones that have not yet been listed). She is great at knowing what particulars you are looking...
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DANA H.

Catrina was the right real estate professional for our house sale. We were out of the area when our house was on the market and she took care of everything including scheduling contractors, overseeing painting and carpet instal...
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TRISHA K.

Catrina did such an incredible job selling our house a couple of years ago we decided to work with her again to buy us a forever home! She is truly the best in the business and there is no question that her experience and couns...
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ALAN P.

After 43 years, of living in the same Point Loma home, I was hesitant to put my future in the capable hands of Catrina Russell with Coldwell Banker West. After our initial meeting, I was confident she would accomplish her sched...
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JORDAN

Catrina Russell wowed me throughout this experience. I have never met an agent quite like her. She made all the arrangements for the market-ready viewing of the home, met with the contractors, and made sure the work was perform...
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MADELINE C.

Catrina sold one piece of property and helped us buy another property all within 30 days' time, closing on the same day. Everything was smooth, timely, and so easy for us. She was always three steps ahead, knew how to guide us,...
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ANNA R.

My husband and I were at a place where we were open to looking at homes, just to see what was out there. We'd had some brief experience with Redfin and talking with other agents, but Catrina was referred to us as "the closer". ...
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Get assistance in determining the current property value, crafting a competitive offer, writing and negotiating a contract, and much more. Contact us today to find out how we can be of assistance to you!

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