The first step in the home buying process is for you to get approved for a home loan.

After finding a property that interests you, I will show you the comps (comparable sales) to help us determine the value of the property. The best comps are in the same building (if a condo/townhome) or in the surrounding area (if a single family home or income property). Appraisers are generally required to focus on the past 6 months when reviewing area sales, so I try to do the same when verifying the property's value.

At this point we are ready to make our offer, which will consist of 4 separate items:

1. The offer contract itself. It is written on a standard California Association of Realtor's contract, which I complete and then review with you either in person or over the phone. I offer my clients the option of signing electronically, which can save a lot of time and paperwork hassles.

2. A pre-approval letter from your lender (let me know if you would like me to e-mail you contact information for the local lender that my clients most highly recommend).

3. Verification of funds which shows liquid funds for the down payment + closing costs using (cost is just $4.99 and it's valid for 30 days).

4. Buyer's intro letter. This explains who you are, what you do and what you like about the property. I usually write about 95% of this letter for you and then e-mail it to you for final editing and approval.

The offer is presented to the sellers, and we wait for their response. Usually, they will not sign off on our offer initially but instead write a counter offer which addresses items in the contract that they would like changed (price is the item that is countered most often). It may take several counter offers before the price and terms are agreeable to both parties.

After the offer is accepted, escrow is opened. Escrow is a neutral 3rd party, and their job is to make sure all obligations of the contract are fulfilled before the seller gets their money and the buyer gets keys to the property. The most standard escrow length is 30-45 days.

I will send a copy of the completed contract to the lender, and you will need to promptly provide them with any additional information and/or paperwork that they require. The lender takes care of scheduling the appraisal.

You will schedule the physical inspection with an inspector of your choice. I can give you a list of inspectors that my clients have been very happy with. The physical inspector checks all the major systems in the property (plumbing, electrical, heating, etc) and also looks for cosmetic damage and problems (sloping floors, doors that stick, cracks in walls/ceilings, etc). For a condo/townhome inspection, the inspector only inspects the unit and not the common areas (building, hallways, pool, etc) but if you are purchasing a home, the inspection will also check out the exterior (roof, foundation, garage, etc.). I recommend that my clients always get a mold inspection done, and if the property has a fireplace, then you should also have that inspected. Whenever purchasing a single-family home, it is very important to have a sewer inspection. Geotechnical inspections are especially important if you are buying a home in a hillside area. You can also schedule additional specialty inspections if you would like. After reviewing all inspection reports, we will usually complete a Request for Repairs form (asking for a credit and/or repairs)... depending on what was found in the inspections.

You will also need to call an insurance company to verify that the property is insurable and get quotes for the cost of insuring the property. For a condo/townhome, you are generally just insuring your personal contents (the building is almost always insured by the Homeowners Association).

The other inspections that take place during escrow include the termite inspection, which is usually paid for by the buyer. A retrofitting inspection will also take place to make sure the property is up to code with smoke detectors/carbon monoxide detectors, water heater strapping and the gas shut-off valve (retrofitting requirements vary from city to city).

If the property you are purchasing is a condo/townhome, you will receive copies of all the homeowner's documents to review. You generally have 5 days to review this paperwork which includes: copies of the meeting minutes for the past year, budget and financial information (including the amount currently in the HOA reserves) and a copy of the CC&R's (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions).

Loan docs are usually signed as early as a week before closing.

Five days or less prior to closing we do a walk-thru of the property. This gives us a chance to verify that any seller repairs were completed, and we also make sure the property is in the same condition as it was when we initially wrote our offer.

Two days before closing you wire any additional down payment & closing costs to escrow. The loan proceeds are wired to escrow one or two days prior to closing.

On closing day, we wait to hear from the title company that you are listed on the county records as the new owner, and then you get keys to your new home.