Whether you're an experienced house-hunter or an eager first-timer, you probably have a few questions about the home buying process. And in a market as competitive as San Francisco, it's crucial to be well-educated before starting your search. Check out our FAQs to learn everything you need to know about buying real estate in the Bay Area!
Answering Your Most Asked Home Buying Questions
Q. Where should I begin?
A. Believe it or not, you've already started the home buying process! Educating yourself through online articles, books, and videos is the easiest way to get a head start on your home search. However, you won't want to start touring listings right away. Here's what you'll want to do during this information-gathering stage:
- Get familiar with your finances
- Research potential neighborhoods in San Francisco
- Cut down your debt as much as possible
- Save for a down payment
Now is also a great time to get in touch with a local real estate agent. It's always better to establish a connection as early as possible!
Q. How do I know which loan is right for me?
A. Unless you're paying for your home in cash, you'll need to take out a mortgage to cover the rest of your purchase. When it comes to selecting a loan, it's best to shop around for the best deal. You can also connect with a mortgage broker, who can do the research for you and get you the best possible deal.
The type of loan that's best for you depends on several factors. You should consider:
- Interest rates (fixed or adjustable, as well as the percentage)
- The type of loan (conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, etc.)
- How much money you have saved for a down payment
- Your credit score
- Down payment/loan assistance programs
Once you've done your research, you'll want to get preapproved for a loan. This means you've been cleared to borrow a specific amount of money at a set interest rate by a lender. A preapproval letter will show your agent and sellers that you're serious about buying!
Q. Why should I use an agent?
A. As a buyer, you won't have to pay a dime to work with a real estate agent, but you'll still get to reap all the benefits! A top-rated agent will serve as an invaluable resource, especially if you're new to the area or unfamiliar with the nuances of the San Francisco market. Advantages of using an agent include:
- Knowing the complexities of buying a home in the Bay Area
- A local perspective on San Francisco's unique neighborhoods
- A connection to professional networks
- Having someone that can help you answer questions, negotiate, and understand complicated paperwork
Q. What should I look for in my next home?
A. This is an extremely personal question! Depending on your individual needs, you may need a home that's a particular size, has a certain amount of bedrooms and bathrooms, or is in a specific location. If you have any must-haves or dealbreakers, be sure to write them down. If a home doesn't have everything you absolutely need, it's probably not the right fit for you. Here are some other factors you'll want to consider as you begin your search.
- What's around
- Local schools
Q. Does San Francisco have any programs to help buyers?
A. San Francisco is known for its high property values, which can make homeownership seem like a challenge. However, owning a home is still a very attainable goal, and the city currently has three programs in place to assist buyers.
- Below Market Rate: Homes that are sold at prices below market values. Buyers can also apply for down payment assistance for these homes.
- Down Payment Assistance Loan Program (DALP): Buyers can be approved for a down payment loan up to $375k to bid on a property on the open market.
- City Second Loan Program (CSLP): A down payment loan up to $375k that buyers can use to bid on a collection of properties also advertised on the open market. You can resell the unit at market prices, but the city has the option of selecting a buyer to match the first offer.
Q. What will I pay upfront for my home?
A. Here's what most buyers should expect to pay before they get the keys to their home:
- Earnest money: You pay this security deposit when you submit your offer to prove to the seller that you're serious. After your offer is accepted, it is applied to your down payment or closing costs
- Down payment: This is the amount of cash you have on hand to pay for a portion of the home. Most buyers put around 20% down, but you may be able to put as little as 0% down with the right loan
- Closing costs: These are typically low for buyers and represent the fees for paperwork and lender charges
Q. What other costs will I pay?
A. As you budget for your big purchase, you'll want to include a few more smaller expenses into your monthly budget.
- Utilities, HOA or condo fees, and property taxes will be lumped into your mortgage payment
- Ask your agent about any other fees associated with your neighborhood
I Still Have Questions!
Don't worry—we have the answers you need! Contact Amore Real Estate for all of your San Francisco home buying needs. We have decades of experience helping clients find their way home, and we'd be happy to help you, too.