Guide to Buying a Home

The Early Bird’s Guide to Buying a Home

By Daniel Bortz

Edited by Sabrina


Planning to buy a home this year? ย Then – is the time to get rolling.

โ€œSpring is peak home-buying season, which means youโ€™re going to have a ton of competition from other buyers,โ€ says Peggy Yee, supervising broker at Frankly Realtors in Vienna, VA. Hence, winter is theย ideal time to get ahead of the curve. ย But life happens when you make other plans. ย Regardless of when you want to buy – follow these steps and youโ€™ll be way ahead of the pack.

Step No. 1: Find aย buyerโ€™s agent

Teaming up with a Realtor is your first step. ย For starters, anย agent can take the time to help you identify what type of home you wantย and educate you on the local market so that youโ€™ll have realistic expectations of what youโ€™ll be able to find in a few months.

Also, โ€œyour agent may hear of properties that are going to come on the market or sold off market, which could enable you to get a sneak peek at homes before other buyers.โ€

To find a real estate agent, you can ask friends or family for referrals, or use a reputable real estate database.

โ€œIf youโ€™re laser-focused on a specific neighborhood, youโ€™ll want to work with a neighborhood specialistโ€”someone who knows the community like the back of their hand,โ€ Yee advises.

Step No. 2: Get your financing squared away

Before you even lay eyes on a house, you should be looking at lenders. Why? Because lenders will help you get real about how much house you can afford. They will determine how much money theyโ€™re willing to lend youย by checking out your financial details, from your income to your credit scoreย and more. Plus, if your finances are less than perfect, youโ€™ll be able to find out in plenty of time to make amends.

โ€œDepending on what shape your credit is in, it may take a couple of months to raise your score,โ€ says Richard Redmond, mortgage broker at All California Mortgage in Larkspur and author of โ€œMortgages: The Insiderโ€™s Guide.โ€

Thereโ€™s no magic spell to banishย poor credit; the strategyย will depend on your financial situation.

โ€œFor some people, it might make sense to pay off their credit card balances over the next couple of months, but that might not be the right move if youโ€™re going to need the money for closing costs,โ€ Redmond explains. Thus, itโ€™s beneficial to get credit advice from a mortgage professional at least two to three months before you plan to buy.

If your credit score is strong (760 and above will qualify you for the best interest rates), getting pre-approved for a home loan now makes sense.

โ€œPre-approval is usually only good for 90 days,โ€ says Redmond, โ€œbut itโ€™s easy to renew it if the borrowerโ€™s financial picture doesnโ€™t change. And when interest rates are trending upward, which they currently are, itโ€™s better to lock in your rate sooner rather than later.โ€ ย And remember – you don’t lock a rate until you have an accepted offer. ย Now that’s a whole other blog.

Step No. 3: Start previewing homes

Youโ€™ll probably do an initial consultation with your agent to identify what type of home you want to buy. However, you wonโ€™t really know what type of home youโ€™re looking for until you actually step inside some homes, says Lisa Cahill, co-owner of Evolve Real Estate in St. Petersburg, FL.

โ€œYour criteria can change when you start to look at properties,โ€ says Cahill. For example, you might think you need a home with 2,500 square feet of living space, but that number could change when you start seeing homes in person. Your real estate agent can alert you to open houses to attend so you get a feel of homes on your own. ย As you would in your own life.

Step No. 4: Scrutinize prospective neighborhoods

Have your sights set on a particular neighborhood? Check it out – to see ifย the community is going to be a good fit.

โ€œYou can tell whether an area has good schools on paper, but there are a lot of things you canโ€™t judge unless you go there in person,โ€ says Cahill.

For instance, online research wonโ€™t show you what the noise level is during rush hour or what the neighbors are like (e.g., is it more for young families or older residents?). Those are things that you need to assess with your own eyes. Concerned about traffic? โ€œGo and test-drive your commute,โ€ says Yee.

Step No. 5: Donโ€™t rule out buying early or later

Even if you had originally planned to buy later in theย spring, what if you find a home you absolutely love earlier or later? If youโ€™re willing and able to move earlier or later, thenย keep an open mind with respect to buying a home.

If you’re thinking of buying this year – let’s sit down and chat. ย I’m sure you have questions and we probably have the answer – and if we don’t we know who does. ย Contact the Caton Team for a free Real Estate consultation.


I read this article at:

Remember to follow our Blogย for the local real estate beat, a pulse on the San Francisco Peninsula at:

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help. ย 

Email Sabrina & Susan at:

Call us at: 650-568-5522 Office: 650-365-9200

Want Real Estate Info on the Go? Download our FREE Real Estate App:ย ย


Visit our Website at:ย ย

Visit our INSTAGRAM page:


Visit us on FACEBOOK: ย ย

YELP us at:

Or YELP me:


Connect with us professionally at LinkedIn:

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

Thanks for reading โ€“ Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Effective. Efficient.ย Responsive.ย  What Can The Caton Teamย Do Forย You?


Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices โ€“ Drysdale Properties

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE# 70000218/ Office BRE #01499008