Buyer's Guide

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 we 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 we help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but we also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. We may be able to steer you away from certain homes or neighborhoods, suggest hidden gems, or give you pointers that will help you find your dream home for the right price.

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

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Step 5: Find the Right Home

This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). We 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. We 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. We 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. 

Our Testimonials

Read what our clients love about our services.


Randy & Laurie M.

I was fortunate to find Steven (Steve to me) as I started to look at homes. My wife and I were living in Elk Grove and knew it was time to leave the area when the Sheriffs were out in our area several times to break up parties ...
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We'll give him a 10. If you're looking for an amazing real estate agent, Steve Rath (with Better Homes Realty is your guy. We were relocating to the area, sat down to the first talk, and tell him what we were looking for. He ac...
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Anne & Amir T.

Steve was referred to me by a close friend when we first started to think about buying. Steve spent 5 weekends with us driving through different neighborhoods and looking at homes. His vast experience and knowledge of the great...
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Vicky R.

Steve was an absolute pleasure to work with. He sold my house in Roseville in a week’s time and found me the perfect house in East Sacramento. He also went way out of his normal territory to find my fiancées house in the foothi...
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Julie H.

Steve was referred to us by a close friend when we were relocating back to the Sacramento area. Steve spent numerous weekends with us driving through different neighborhoods and looking at homes. His vast experience and knowled...
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For more than 20 years I've been impressed with Steve's efforts in the world of real estate. But it really hit home when I moved out of state and I had to use other agents. What I thought was common practice turned out to be St...
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Kevin & Sue C.

I have bought and sold many homes in the past and Steve Rath is by far the best Real Estate Broker I've ever used or known. Steve's neighborhood and home knowledge are amazing and surpassed only by his negotiating skills. Steve...
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Cheryl H.

Steven has mastered their market! They know all there is to know and serve their clients exceptionally well. Steven is completely on top of new trends and able to find the houses! Hard to do in this environment. He is terrific ...
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Lynn P.

Steve is a wonderful collaborative Realtor®. His years of experience have made him exceptionally well versed in all aspects of real estate from REO, Short Sales, Residential Sales, and Commercial.
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Becky E.

Steve Rath is a true real estate professional with a pure heart. I admire his hard work ethic for his clients and co-Realtors® like myself. His integrity and advice are priceless.
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Nick S.

I’ve known Steve for almost 30 years and he has always been a person of very high character and extremely knowledgeable in the Real Estate market. I highly recommend his services!
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Diane L.

Steve did a great job for me trying to find a new house in Sacramento. He listened carefully to my parameters and worked hard. Nice to work with!
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Whether you’re excited or maybe nervous about finding your next home, contact and have confidence finding your dream home with us.