Fred Herrman
"Helping You Reach Your Financial and Real Estate Investment Goals"

The Complete Guide For First-Time Home Buyers

June 26,2019 | Posted By Fred Herrman in Buying
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Whether you’re moving to Los Angeles or Bakersfield, Fred Herrman Real Estate is committed to making the transition as seamless as possible. From relocating to buying your very first home, we believe real estate investment should not only increase your overall equity but also your quality of life. That’s why we love working with young professionals, families, and retirees who are interested in finding the best deal on a new home--perhaps their first real estate investment. From the ultra-competitive Los Angeles market to the more family-friendly and affordable market in Bakersfield, CA, Fred Herrman Real Estate walks you through the home buying process every step of the way.

Here, we’ve compiled some of the most crucial tips for first-time homebuyers, so you can start on the right foot when it comes to your real estate journey.

Priceless Tips For First-Time Buyers

Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in a lifetime. Neither the decision nor the process should be taken lightly. Although finding your dream home or ideal starter home involves time and effort, buying real estate isn’t an overly complex process if you remain strategic and recruit the right experts.

If you’re a first-time buyer just starting out, the Fred Herrman Real Estate team suggests following this thorough guide for long-term success with your real estate investment. These 15 steps breakdown the overall process, so buying a house can feel less overwhelming--plus, each step brings you closer to your very own dream home!

Start Researching Neighborhoods And Areas Early:

Even well-seasoned homebuyers and real estate investors make the mistake of not preparing or researching before their next purchase. However, in the Information Age, there is no excuse to not do your real estate homework with listings and virtual tours available online. Before you even contact a local real estate expert, you’ll want to know more about the areas and neighborhoods you’d like to live in as well as the average prices for the home size your household requires.

Get Financially Prepared:

It’s never too early to get your financial ducks in a row. Another thing that first-time buyers ought to start chipping away at before even actively looking at houses on the market is saving for a sizable down payment. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to have 20% of the home price available up front to stand out to sellers. You can also look into down payment assistance early on via the FHA or USDA.

Before contacting real estate agents or mortgage lenders, you’ll also want to be aware of your credit score and history. You will want to maintain a credit score of at least 620-640, as this is the requirement for most lenders. You’ll also want to avoid making any other investments right before undergoing the homebuying process (i.e. buying a car or taking out any other loan(s)) as this can negatively impact your overall credit. Websites like Credit Karma will allow you to monitor your credit score and open accounts without running a full report.

Find A Local Real Estate Expert:

Although online research will help you determine the criteria for your ideal house and give you a realistic snapshot of the local market, you will need to work with an established real estate professional to navigate the home buying process adeptly and successfully--preferably with a buyer’s agent. In addition to ensuring that your real estate agent is an expert in the local market and area, be sure to ask the following questions to secure the very best in real estate services and guidance:

  • Do you primarily work with buyers, sellers, or both?
  • How many clients do you or your team assist at a time?
  • How many homes, on average, do you secure for a buyer per fiscal year?
  • What are your best channels for communicating back and forth with clients?
  • How long have you been working in the real estate industry?
  • Do you dedicate yourself to real estate full-time or part-time?
  • Where can I read customer testimonials and feedback about your real estate services?
  • Would a previous customer be willing to talk to me about their experience while working with you?

No matter how ready you are to start looking at properties, do not ever skip the opportunity to interview your potential real estate agent--it can save you time, money, frustration, and stress in the long run!


Don’t Just Get Prequalified--Get Pre-Approved By A Local Lender:

Go the extra mile by obtaining a pre-approval letter from your mortgage lender. Doing so will give you a competitive edge over other buyers when making an offer on a home of your choice. Your real estate agent is a valuable resource for securing a quality, reputable mortgage lender in your local area. In order to earn pre-approval, you will need to submit financial documentation in the form of a credit report, pay stubs, and etc.--which is why it’s important to have all your ducks in a row and look good on paper leading up to this endeavor.

Understand Your Local Market:

Another reason why your real estate agent is a valuable resource is because they can provide their expertise and insight in regards to your local real estate market (or the area you plan on relocating to). This will help ensure that the home you purchase is a sound investment in the long-term. Be sure to ask your agent the following questions to learn more about the local market:

  • Is the current market a buyer’s or seller’s market?
  • What is local area’s absorption rate?
  • What is the average amount in real estate taxes for my local area?

Create A Checklist For Your Ideal Home:

Now that you’ve spent time researching neighborhoods and learning more about your local real estate market, you’re just about ready to start actively looking at houses. Prepare a list of criteria that covers what you’re looking for in a home and share it with your real estate agent. Think about the following factors:

  • Square Footage
  • Number Of Bedrooms + Bathrooms
  • Yard Space
  • Fixer-Upper Or Not?
  • Carpet vs. Hardwood Floors
  • Architectural Style
  • When The House Was Built

Look At Listings Online:

These days, the internet is a huge resource during the home buying process--especially for first-time buyers. At this stage, you can actually start actively looking at listings as your potential first home. Websites like Zillow and Trulia provide listings for any given area. Be sure to match these online listings in accordance with your criteria and budget--and always run them by your trusted real estate agent since sometimes this information can be different than what is posted online.

Attend Open Houses + Schedule Viewings:

Just like you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it, you don’t want to buy a home without seeing it in person first. When attending open houses or viewings for homes you’re interested in, be sure to bring your real estate agent, as they’ll be able to ask the right questions and spot potential maintenance issues such as:

  • Fresh Paint On Ceilings
  • Subpar Workmanship
  • Strange Odors
  • Structural Inconsistencies

Make An Offer:

When you’ve found a house that meets all or most of your criteria, submitting your offer is just the first step involved for securing your first real estate investment. If a home is overpriced, your real estate agent can help you negotiate a price that will get you the best deal. Additionally, to make a competitive offer, be sure to ask your real estate agent to conduct a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) for your house of choice. This type of research will provide information concerning all of the recent home sales in your regional area to help guide your offer. At this stage of the process it will also be crucial to determine all of the terms and deadlines within the offer such as:

  • Target Closing Date
  • Expected Deposit
  • Contingencies, Inspections, + Titles
  • Permit Requests
  • Seller Concessions
  • Written Mortgage Commitment


Undergo The Inspection Process:

Once your offer is accepted, it is time to complete the home inspection and any other inspections that were agreed upon between you and the seller. Keep in mind that you will have a window of time in which you need to complete the inspection(s), or you could lose the purchase opportunity. Besides your typical home inspection, here are some examples of other common inspections at this stage of the home buying process:

  • Chimney Inspection
  • Radon Test
  • Pest Inspection
  • Structural Inspection

Note: It is highly recommended that your potential property undergoes a proper home inspection even if the home is still under construction.

Complete A Formal Mortgage Application With Lender:

After inspections and other negotiations are completed, you will need to undergo the formal application process with your local mortgage lender. You will need to provide plenty of documentation (and even updates!), so have the following on hand:

  • Tax Returns From The Last 2 Years
  • Recent Bank Statements
  • Pay Stubs
  • Employment Verification

In addition to providing all of this substantiated information to your mortgage lender, you will also be expected to pay for the bank appraisal at this time. This will also be the buyer’s chance to secure a mortgage rate lock, so be sure to ask your lender and real estate agent about this.

Finalize The Bank Appraisal:

Upon completing the formal application process with your lender and paying for the bank appraisal, a third-party becomes responsible for comparing the sale price of your potential home with recent sales in your local market. In addition to determining the true value of the house, appraisers are also on the lookout for any safety issues such as:

  • Peeled Or Chipped Paint
  • Broken Windows
  • Missing Handrails
  • Roofs In Bad Condition

When an appraisal determines that repairs are needed, an additional inspection is required before a lender can officially approve the home loan. When a property is appraised for less than the sale price, this will create a delay in the process.

Do The Final Walk-Through:

After the appraisal, a closing date will be set, and this will be an opportunity for the buyer to conduct a final walk-through. Do not skip this step, as it gives you the chance to confirm that all necessary repairs from the appraisal have been made. During the final walk-through pay special attention to the following:

  • HVAC System(s)
  • Plumbing
  • Lighting
  • Final Meter Readings

If there are any inconsistencies at this part of the process, you will need to contact an attorney to procure a resolution before the set closing day. More often than not, a credit will be given to the buyer to move ahead with closing the deal.

Closing Day + Picking Up Your Keys:

When closing day arrives, you will need to sign documents that finalize the sale. If your purchase offer specified closing day as the official turnover for possession, you will also receive the keys to your new home!

Post-Move-In Tasks:

Moving in is the final step! Most savvy real estate professionals can help the process run smoother if you ask for referrals for moving companies and how to make the transition easier. Once you’re all moved in, consider also completing the following:

  • Changing The Locks
  • Changing Your Address
  • Having Your Mail Forwarded By The USPS
  • Informing Employers + Schools About The New Address
  • Meeting The Neighbors
  • Enjoying Your First Home

Are you a first-time buyer in Los Angeles or Bakersfield looking for guidance and assistance with the home buying process? For any questions that weren’t addressed in this guide, contact Fred Herrman Real Estate today at (310)-343-3219.


Fred offered wonderful service when I needed to sell a house. I literally turned the keys over to him one day and then never had t...
- Robert P. - Calabasas, CA


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