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.

Connie R.
Jon & Jaimie C.
Ellie M.
Brian S.
Kim L.
Carol T.
Greg B.
Brett L.
Matt H.
Todd C.
Fred S.
Debra R.
The Branan Family
Karen K.
Ron & Shari
During the interview, we recognized that Joanie both thinks quickly and thinks outside the box. She minimized several concerns we had. She suggested things that others had not, such as listing our home after we moved so as to eliminate our exposure to COVID. She also recommended doing inspections upfront, and that led to a quicker sales agreement and earlier closing. Clearly, Joanie came to the interview...

— Connie R.

Joanie knows the neighborhood well. Joanie closed the deal in record time! Joanie understood that selling/leaving our home was an emotional endeavor. She handled every step of the way with such compassion and patience; she also understood that we wanted the most financially out of the sale so she worked hard and kept us moving forward in one of the most emotionally draining and difficult things we have e...

— Jon & Jaimie C.

Joanie understood that selling/leaving our home was an emotional endeavor. She handled every step of the way with such compassion and patience; she also understood that we wanted the most financially out of the sale so she worked hard and kept us moving forward in one of the most emotionally draining and difficult things we have ever had done. She always had time for questions, reassured us when our nerv...

— Seller

We were grateful to have Joanie by our side throughout a fast but arduous home purchase process. In addition to being an expert on the local market, Joanie was attentive, communicative, and tremendously supportive. Due to reasons beyond her control, our closing occurred about a week after the anticipated closing date. During this delay, Joanie advocated on our behalf to get answers from the various parti...

— Ellie M.

Joanie is the type of person who takes care of business with excellent follow-through, communication skills, and commitment to get the job done. With a no-nonsense approach, she says what she'll do, and does what she says with no exceptions. Joanie had my best interest throughout the entire process and went way above and beyond to ensure the home purchase would be completed by providing the home warranty...

— Brian S.

Joanie is fabulous! She is very knowledgeable and was highly motivated to sell our home. She is flexible and was willing to work around our schedule. She worked quickly and walked us through the process of getting our home ready to sell. She had great ideas and even provided finishing touches (plants, decorations, a new doormat, etc.) to make our home looks its best. She was easy to reach by phone, text,...

— Kim L.

We met Joanie through a coat drive she ran in the neighborhood the year before our sale. Turns out she lives around the corner from us. From the moment we met her we had confidence she could help us to quickly sell our home. We relocated to another state which made things much more complex. Joanie helped to coordinate between three agents and two title companies for sales that went off without a hitch. I...

— Carol T.

Joanie is extremely thorough. From our first appointment to look at homes where she showed up and gave us a binder with information on each home we were going to see and the buying process, to helping us figure out the best offer price to get the home we wanted to walk us step-by-step through the buying process. I would highly recommend her to buy or sell your home. She has helped us with both sides of t...

— Greg B.

Joanie Cubias has high integrity and is a true professional. She has vast experience and knowledge of the industry and the specific geographic area which we were selling and buying. She was very good at understanding our needs and concerns to help us identify a great strategy to transition from preparing our home for sale, selling our home, and finally to finding a replacement home in a highly competitiv...

— Ron

Joanie was referred by a family member and exceeded every expectation we had. Joanie was wonderful and really helped walk us through the home buying process as first-time buyers. Joanie was very personable and we always felt comfortable with her. Top-notch! Joanie was the best and I look forward to recommending her to others. Even our parents were impressed with how smooth Joanie made the home buying pro...

— Brett L.

If you want to experience the gold standard of Realtors® - hire Joanie Cubias. She took us to view over 50 homes before contacting someone who did not have their house listed for sale. She made several attempts and ultimately ended up brokering us a great purchase. She remained in contact with us frequently throughout the entire 3-month process and there is not another Realtor® I would use other than Joa...

— Rowan

Confidence in your Realtor® is key. Confidence that they are competent, advocate for your best interest, and family is critical. Joanie Cubias has proven again and again to exemplify rock sold honesty and the ability to help through her extensive knowledge of real estate. Strongly recommend her to anyone seeking real estate in California.

— Matt H.

Joanie Cubias was amazing throughout the whole process. We appreciate her hard work. I would highly recommend Joanie Cubias. Her knowledge of the area as well as her ability to stage our homemade selling process easy. We also understand the time away from her family during the buying process helped make the process seamless.

— Todd C.

The top-notch agent will definitely call on her again for our next real estate transaction! Got our house sold in a few days, at full price and even handled a tangled mess with our solar company for us. Thank you, Joanie, you're a gem!

— Seller

I am a real estate broker and handle a lot of transactions. I would say Joanie was probably one of the best I’ve ever had. I highly recommend her, she is very competent, detail-oriented, and handles the transaction very well!

— Fred S.

Joanie was recommended to me with glowing reviews. "Use Joanie she is knowledgeable of the area" "Joanie has great contacts in the area to assist in your home buying experience" Thank you again, Joanie, a job a well done!

— Debra R.

Joanie is absolutely amazing. She helped us buy and sell a home. We had worked with Realtors® in the past that did not compare to Joanie in the least bit. I would recommend Joanie a hundred times over.

— The Branan Family

Joanie is awesome and worked with us to find the right neighborhood and home for us. She walked us through every step of the process and made sure we made a fair offer and got what we wanted.

— Buyer

We had an exceptional experience with Joanie as our agent. She was very detailed and professional. We would recommend her to anybody in the future.

— Karen K.

Joanie's experience, knowledge of the area, and understanding of our needs were key in her finding a property for us in a timely manner.

— Ron & Shari

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