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I want to buy a home in San Diego, where do I start?

Purchasing a home is one of the most thrilling and overwhelming times in your life -- especially if it's your very first place. Moving through all the steps to make your real estate investment is like fitting pieces together from a complex jigsaw puzzle. You can start in the middle and work your way out, or you can start with the edges and corners, then complete the rest. While there isn't a mandatory order for the steps needed to complete the game, there is a recommended (and strategic) order to accomplish the task at hand in the smoothest way possible. And if you're wondering where this analogy comes from, I spent many years solving my family's annual holiday puzzle, so I've applied my strategic ways of thinking to the real estate game.

Awesome news! You want to purchase a home, so what should you do next?

STEP ONE: Ask around and do your research.

Be wary of claims that are too good to be true. If you're in the market for a home, you have likely been targeted (or you are simply more aware) of radio, TV or social media ads marketing houses for sale, the lowest mortgage rates, or superstar real estate teams making all kinds of amazing-yet-unrealistic claims. My best advice is to talk to your friends and family first and see if they have a trusted REALTOR they recommend -- with legitimate reasons why they're a pro versus comments like, "Joe Shmoe is my best friend's cousin's boyfriend and he dabbles in real estate on the side."

A professional REALTOR should know their stuff and be able to guide you through the process and smooth out any bumps in the road (because whether clients know it or not, there will always be bumps -- it's the nature of the industry). They should be honest and responsive with excellent negotiation and people skills. The reason these qualities are important is, there's a lot riding on your transaction. Just because another agent claims they can do things cheaper or faster, doesn't mean it's better or the right method to meet your unique buying or selling needs. I have seen deals fall apart over this very scenario -- and when they fall apart, it's not like clients can go elsewhere and order an identical dream home on All their hard work, anticipation and even the 3% earnest money deposit can be lost -- which in San Diego, is typically $10,000 at the least! These are some huge stakes, which is why choosing a REALTOR should not be handled by calling the smiling lady on the public bench or clicking on the latest Facebook ad.

STEP TWO: Meet with a recommended mortgage lender and get pre-approved.

This is a crucial step because it helps you and your REALTOR narrow down the search to homes that fit within your true budget, which often narrows down to the monthly mortgage payment you're comfortable making. If you don't know a reliable and trustworthy mortgage lender, your REALTOR should have a few industry contacts they can recommend.

Some clients may be tempted to go home shopping before getting the green light from a lender, but any real estate professional will tell you that it is not a good use of your time and does not make you a contender to actually get the home of your dreams. Here are two main reasons why pre-approval is imperative:

Avoid the heartache of falling in love with a home that is perfect for you in every way, except your budget. And yes, I personally learned this the hard way before I was a REALTOR, because it happened to me and my wife. There are mortgage calculators online, but beware, because many do not take into account extra monthly expenses like property taxes, insurance and HOA or Mello-Roos. So, what could appear to be a $2,100 per month mortgage payment could actually be $2,600 per month -- and for most people, that extra $500 can make or break the deal.

Avoid submitting offers that are not serious or too late. Homes in the San Diego market, especially priced under $800,000, attract multiple offers and sell quickly. So in order for your offer to be considered, it needs to be submitted with a pre-approval letter and proof of down payment. The pre-approval process can take several days and involves the lender gathering documents from you and/or your significant other (credit check, income verification, etc.). Finding your dream home is an amazing feeling, but can you imagine not being a contender to buy it because you failed to get pre-approved first? Save yourself the disappointment.

STEP THREE: Unleash the home search (the fun part)!

You made it to the best part of the process: actually touring homes and imagining your family livin' the dream in San Diego. Where will your furniture go? What colors will you paint the walls? What room will each kid get? Now that the lender has given you and your REALTOR the "magic number" to start shopping, you can hit the ground running looking for your potential home.


Now that you know the best way to go about finding your first or next San Diego home, let's get started! If you or anyone you know is looking to purchase or sell their home, I will be happy to help guide them through the process. Call or text 619-993-9559 or shoot me an email here.

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