A Step-by-Step First Time Buyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by your agent will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.


Step 1: Research

Do you already know where you want to buy? If you want a condo, townhome, or single-family home? Which features do you like and dislike? What’s available on the market now? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to start researching. In addition to looking for homes that interest you, also take note of any changes in asking prices. This could give you valuable insight into housing trends in specific neighborhoods and help you when the time comes to make an offer.


Step 2: Decide on Your Budget

Notice I said to decide on your budget—not determine how much the mortgage company will give you. In many cases, a mortgage company will pre-approve you for more than you’re comfortable spending, which is why you need to determine the monthly payment you feel comfortable with before talking to a lender. This likely includes doing a full household budget and taking into consideration what changes other than a mortgage payment will occur once you move into your new home. If you’ve lived in an apartment or with roommates, you may overlook new expenses like garbage, water, or HOA fees that could easily blow your budget.


Step 3: Get Prequalified

Just because you think you can afford a certain payment every month doesn’t mean the mortgage company will agree. Just as they may approve you for too large of an amount, they may also approve you for a lesser amount or deny you a mortgage altogether. Lack of time at a job, insufficient credit, past bankruptcies, or other financial issues can cause major problems when trying to secure a mortgage. Before you get your heart set on a home, talk to a mortgage professional to find out what amount you can qualify for. This will also be an advantage when you make an offer on a home, as some sellers won’t entertain offers from those who aren’t already prequalified for a loan.


Step 4: Choose a Real Estate Agent

Can you shop for, look at, and ultimately make an offer on a home without a real estate agent? Technically yes, but why would you when it costs you nothing for an agent like me to take much of the stress off your shoulders? Not only will I help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but I also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. Finding the perfect home can be a daunting task, this is where my expertise and wealth of knowledge come into play. Let me show you around some homes that meet your dream home criteria so you can find the one that's right for you.

My goal is to provide you with the most personalized service that is designed to help you buy your dream home.


Step 5: Find the Right Home

This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). I will arrange showings of homes you’re interested in that are within your price range. Take notes about what you like and don’t like, and make sure to pay attention to details. Turn light switches on and off, open and close doors, and run the faucets in various rooms. Don’t limit your inspection to the home itself. Make sure to take time to explore the neighborhood and keep an eye on traffic at certain times of the day, the parking situation, and how close it is to necessities like schools and grocery stores.


Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you have selected the perfect home, work with your agent to craft a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes on the market. Depending on what the home is listed at and whether the current environment is a buyer’s or seller’s market, your offer may be below, at, or even above the asking price. I will be able to help you negotiate if you receive a counteroffer and reach an agreement. At this point, the house will go into escrow.


Step 7: Have the Home Inspected

In most cases, your offer will be contingent on having the home inspected to ensure there is no major structural damage or large repairs needed. I can help you arrange this, and you can schedule it within days of making an offer. If there are no major issues, the process goes to step eight. If there is, you can renegotiate your offer based on what needs to be fixed, or you can withdraw it.


Step 8: Select Your Loan

Now is the time to go back to the mortgage lender who pre-approved or pre-qualified you and choose your mortgage. You will be presented with various options based on your unique financial situation, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, 15-year, 30-year, or special programs such as VA loans or FHA loans. Work with your mortgage lender to select the option you feel the most comfortable with.


Step 9: Get a Home Appraisal

Your lender will have your new home appraised so they have their independent value of it. The appraisal is to ensure that all parties involved are paying a fair price for the house.


Step 10: Finish Paperwork

No one looks forward to all the paperwork involved in buying a home, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Fortunately, everything will be arranged by your lender and title company and, when you’re finished, you’ll know you are the legal owner of your new home.


After signing the final paperwork to complete the purchase, you are now the owner of a new house. It may take a few days for your loan to be funded once the paperwork has been returned to the lender, but once that check is delivered to the seller, you’ll be all set to move into the home of your dreams.

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Bob & Andrea C.

Andrea and her team are the best in the area. Would highly recommend it. We had a journey together and they were flexible and professional and spent a great deal of time making our purchase happen.

— Jennifer S.


Andrea knows the Laguna Beach market well and her many years of experience helped us to navigate the purchase of our home in Laguna Beach. Andrea is a great person and we enjoyed working with her.

— Ramsey G.


Andrea is hands down one of the best Realtors® we’ve ever worked with! She’s authentic and super friendly! She includes you in every step of the process! She wants the best for her client! We have loved working with Andrea!

— Lindsay M.


We cannot say enough good things about Andrea. We were referred to her by our friends who are Realtors® and were told that she was the go to agent in Laguna. They were right! From the first day, Andrea took us under her wing and treated us like a friend. We immediately felt that she was invested in finding the perfect home for our family. Even though we began our search during the challenging real estate...

— Lily R.


We are displaced due to a house fire. The insurance co. offers a service to relocate. With no success over two weeks, we called properties ourselves to try and find a home. By chance, we got Dusty on the phone and he secured a beautiful home in Dana Point at 8:00 hrs, with Three dogs! Great local knowledge, fast and responsive. I can't thank Dusty enough!

— Jim S.


Dusty went above and beyond in helping us find the perfect home for our family! We recently relocated from the Midwest, and Dusty was our constant advocate in advising us about the area, negotiating the price of our potential home, and helping us through the whole process. He is very responsive, and professional, and always maintained our best interest. We would definitely recommend Dusty to any prospect...

— Kelly P.


Dusty, and behind him, the Ballesteros team, were absolutely vital to our successful listing, and selling our $2.9m home in Laguna Beach. This was our first time selling a home and they were extremely helpful, supportive, and patient along the way helping us across the finish line. We had 2 offers within the first 48 hours of listing, and a further 3 offers within a week. They helped us navigate this and...

— Christopher S.


I was incredibly pleased working with Dusty! I contacted Dusty when my wife and I were considering selling our first home. Immediately, Dusty did his homework and helped us come up with a list price and when to go on the market. We listed at a very high number for the neighborhood and our square footage. Dusty requested photography and within a week, we were on the market. Within 2 days, we had at least ...

— Watt


We had the privilege of working with The Ballesteros Team on the purchase of our dream home in Laguna Beach. Andrea's aggressive negotiation skills, in depth knowledge & passion surpass any agent we have ever worked with. She provided us with intel about everything and answered every question we had during the process. Her team gave us first rate recommendations on everyone from an incredible mortgage br...

— Kori P.


We just completed a seamless home purchase in Laguna Beach with Andrea representing us. I cannot recommend her more highly. I have provided a perfect score on all dimensions, which might seem less credible, but I thought deeply about this, and am confident that this is an accurate review based on my experience. (For context, I grew up in a 'Real Estate' household. My father was a broker and my mother was...

— Dan B.


We currently have the pleasure of working with Maddi who displayed unwavering kindness, remarkable patience, and unmatched dedication. Her warm demeanor puts us at ease, making questions easy to ask. Her patience is evident as she takes the time to understand our needs. She never rushes decisions and makes the process stress-free. Maddi’s dedication is exemplary; always available, she provides valuable ...

— Gabriel and Stefanie


Maddi Chalabian was truly incredible during our closing and escrow process. We had some delays due to inspections, and Maddi worked so hard to make us feel confident that everything would work out. And it did! Maddi worked well with all the outside parties to make sure everything was taken care of. We both felt truly grateful that someone was in our corner and working so hard for us. Her ability to expla...

— Stefanie T


Maddi Chalabian (Mastro) Andrea and I want to thank you again for all your help with our home buying process. We appreciate your attention to detail making sure everything was always moving forward in the right direction. Your organizational skills are a great asset to you and the Ballesteros Real Estate Group. Thank you!

— Bob & Andrea C.

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