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F​irst-time home buyers’ guide : East Bay,CA


Buying a home in the Bay Area? This helpful guide will tell you what you need to know about purchasing property in this competitive market.

Getting ready to buy

The home buying process starts even before you start searching for the right property. Since you will first need to apply for a mortgage, make efficient use of your time by preparing all necessary financial documents. These include:

  • W-2 forms from the last two years
  • Federal tax returns from the last two years
  • Pay stubs from the last 30 days
  • Savings and financial statements from the last 60 days
  • Statements for investment accounts like stocks and bonds
  • Credit card statements and information
  • Residential history from the last two years
  • Investment property documents and records
  • Records of existing debt
  • Life insurance records
  • Proof of funds

Next, pull up your chances against other buyers by strengthening your credit score. This proves that you are financially capable of buying a home – a preferred quality for potential buyers – and are qualified for a mortgage. You can do this by following these practices:

  • Consolidate or pay off debt.
  • Clean up any discrepancies in your credit report.
  • Save for a down payment, which generally costs 20% of the home price.
  • Talk to multiple lenders to find the best rates and loan terms.
  • Avoid major purchases on your credit card in the months preceding your
    loan application.
  • Get pre-approved for a loan.

Working with the right real estate agent

With competition for properties in the San Francisco Bay real estate market as stiff as it is, you will need all the help you can get. Save valuable time and money by working with a real estate agent with extensive knowledge in buying and selling homes in the Bay Area. As experts in the field, they can point you to the best homes suited for you. They can also fill you in on the latest market trends and guide you through tough negotiations to get the best deal.

First-time homebuyers are often advised to get an agent who can focus only on them instead of getting dual agents – those who represent both buyer and seller. The latter agents could be in for a tough juggling act to balance everyone’s interests, including their own.

Looking for a home

The East Bay covers a vast geographic area east of San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay. Here, you’ll find urban and suburban neighborhoods with a wealth of housing options, including:

  • Blackhawk
  • Danville
  • Alamo
  • San Ramon

The neighboring cities of Pleasanton, Dublin, and Walnut Creek are also worth checking out. These neighborhoods have bustling downtown scenes, great weather, and their own BART stations.

When choosing a neighborhood, establish your wants and needs. Make a list of non-negotiables and decide which features you’re willing to compromise on like location, square footage, outdoor space, and price.

After deciding on a neighborhood, zero in on the right home here. Pick one with a good build, in a convenient location close to work, and with easy access to major roads. Keep in mind to choose a home you can afford, not one you fell in love with.

If you’re looking at a fixer-upper, first assess the true cost of turning it into your dream home before putting in an offer.

Buying tips

Making the highest offer seems like a surefire way of buying a home in a competitive market. However, money doesn’t always talk in the complex real estate landscape of the East Bay. With an increasing number of bidders in the market and homeowners with several reasons for selling, you need to be creative with your offer. Sweeten the deal by offering to pay for inspections, making a bigger down payment, paying in cash, or maybe even waiving some contingencies.

Home inspection and appraisal

Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth by having a home inspected before making an offer. A professional inspector will look at the property and let you know about any problems they find. If any major issues are revealed, then you could either treat these as red flags or as leverage for negotiations.

Also, let a licensed appraiser give an objective estimate of the home’s value. By doing this, you avoid offering too high a price for a home whose asking price might not even be in the same ballpark as its assessed value. This is what occasionally happens in the East Bay, where buyers offer above the asking price, thus driving up the perceived value of the home.

Avoid buyer’s remorse with proper guidance. We, the Chawla Real Estate Team, are here to help. Call us at 510.406.4836 or send us an email at JouJou(dotted)Chawla(at)ChawlaRealEstate(dotted)com to find the right home in the East Bay.