A step by step guide to buying a home

Buyer's Guide

Buying With Zalone. A Step-by-Step Guide.

Buying a property can be a difficult experience, especially if you don't know what to anticipate. Fortunately, with the assistance of an expert agent and following simple guidance, you can complete the process smoothly. Following these steps will assist you in preparing to buy your next home for the best price possible.

Step 1: Analyze "Your" Situation

Find out if you’re ready to buy. We know the home buying experience can be confusing. As an experienced agent, I am able to leverage my expertise, local market knowledge, and key industry partnerships to ease you through the process of finding your dream home. I’ve been down this road before, so I’ll first ask the necessary questions and gather the important details that we need to launch your journey to home ownership. One of the key pieces to a successful home buying process is communication. It’s my goal to make sure we keep in touch consistently throughout every step of the process in order to have a positive and seamless experience. Let’s get started!

Step 2: Finance/Understand the Numbers

Get Your Finances in Order. At this stage, our job is to maneuver all the financial pieces to ensure you are confident and well educated on all the numbers so you’ll be ready to make a solid offer on your dream home. Our recommended network of lenders and financial experts will help tighten up your credit, determine exactly how much you can afford for both a home and a down payment/closing costs, and make sure you’re formally pre-approved for a loan, all with the goal of ensuring that you are a serious buyer.

You’ll also want to make sure that you DO NOT MAKE ANY LARGE PURCHASES OR DEPOSIT ANY LARGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY INTO YOUR FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS, WITHOUT TALKING TO YOUR LENDER FIRST (unless it's regular income or a tax refund that you’ve already reported to your Lender). This is CRITICAL during your loan approval process and throughout the home buying process.

Step 3: Shop

Shop for A Home. Now for the fun part! I’ll help you draw up a “wish list” of everything you’re looking for in not just your new home, but your new community as well. I’ll match your must-haves with your budget and then draw on my local expertise and network of industry colleagues to help you find a place that’s everything you wished for. Shopping for a home is exciting, so just have fun with it!

Step 4: Offer/Negotiate

Make an Offer and Negotiate. You’ve found the home you love and you’re ready to make an offer! I will help you formulate a fair, data-driven purchase offer based on a current market analysis (comparative home sales), and prepare the purchase agreement (contract). Then, I’ll leverage smart negotiating skills to guide you through contingencies and ensure you don’t spend any more than you need to. At this point, we pause our house shopping and wait for an offer reply from the seller.

NOTE: When we submit an offer on a home, we must include the following items:

1. A copy of your Proof of Funds (POF) i.e., Bank Statement, etc. If your offer is accepted, within 3 days after acceptance, you will pay your Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) to the Title company. Generally, this is 1% - 3% of the purchase price. If you are writing a check, keep in mind it will be cashed quickly so make sure the funds are available now and in the checking account from which you wrote the check. This account should be the same one you submitted to the Lender.

What is the Earnest Money Deposit? An Earnest Money Deposit functions as a promise to the seller (generally, these funds are held in an escrow account managed by the title company). This deposit is then applied to your total closing costs or returned to you at closing if it is in excess of what you owe. Earnest money funds are usually applied to a loan's closing costs or to the down payment.

2. A copy of your Pre-Approval letter from your Lender.

3. The signed Purchase Agreement (our Offer), along with other required disclosures.

Step 5: Offer Acceptance

Once your offer is accepted, we begin the Title and Escrow process (generally lasts between 17-25 days before closing) and your Lender will prepare and have you sign your loan disclosures based on the actual purchase contract.

Step 6: Title and Escrow

After your offer is accepted, the Transaction Process Begins (also known as the Title and Escrow process).

The Transaction time frame from start to finish is typically anywhere from 17-25 days (this can vary based on the offer) after we have an accepted offer and open Escrow at the Title company. The Title Company is a third party that works on behalf of both the lender and the buyer/seller. You hire them to research and insure the title of the home you’re buying. Title companies usually manage the closing on your home. This service may also be called “settlement.”

The Title Company works hard in the background performing various tasks to close timely. Some of those tasks include researching/verifying the chain of Title, any Liens and clearing any issues that may be present.

Step 7: Seller Disclosures, Lender Documents and Appraisal

During the first week of Escrow (or sometimes before we even submit an offer), we will receive all the Seller Disclosures to review and sign.

Your Lender will also have you sign loan disclosures and order your Property Appraisal. Generally, your Lender will collect this Appraisal fee from you via a credit/debit card during Escrow to pay the Appraisal Management Company (approximately $600 - $800) PAID WITHIN A FEW DAYS AFTER AN ACCEPTED OFFER (this money is non-refundable should we need to cancel a contract for any reason).

You will also need to obtain a Homeowners Insurance Quote (aka: Hazard Insurance) and provide it to your Lender as soon as possible. You may want to check with your Car Insurance Company as they may offer Homeowners Insurance as well and can offer you a "Multi-Policy Discount" for Auto and Home Insurance. If you want a reputable referral or to obtain a second opinion on a Quote, ask your LENDER OR REALTOR.

IMPORTANT: Don't confuse Homeowners Insurance (also known as Hazard Insurance - this is what the Bank/Lender typically requires to protect the investment), with a Home Warranty (which is optional for a Buyer). For example, Car Insurance is required when you own a vehicle, but a Car Warranty is optional.

After the Appraisal is completed, we will review the report and determine a strategy for negotiation if needed.

Your Lender may ask you for additional documents during our escrow process while working on your loan, so it’s very important that you communicate often with them and provide requested documents promptly. This is a critical piece of a successful transaction and making sure we meet contractual timelines so we don’t breach our contract.

Step 8: Inspections

Conduct Property Inspections. Once your offer is accepted, you can elect to inspect the property. We generally schedule inspections right away, within the first few days after your offer is accepted. If you don’t already have your own inspection companies, we can recommend reputable Inspectors. Home inspections detect issues that aren’t apparent on a walk-through and can possibly be a powerful negotiating tool. If issues arise, we’ll work with you to develop strategies on how best to proceed.

Any type of Home Inspections you choose can range from about $600 and up depending on what type of inspections you want to do. Since you pay the Inspection Company directly, these fees are NOT included in your closing costs from your lender and are your opportunity to do your due diligence and learn everything about the property before we close escrow. If for some reason we cancel escrow, your inspection money is non-refundable and is separate from your transaction costs.

After the Inspections are completed, we review the reports and determine a strategy for negotiation if needed.


Once we have completed our contractual obligations/tasks, we are required to remove any contingencies written in our offer (we may have waived some or all of these contingencies in our initial offer and therefore they would not apply here). The most common contingencies are the Inspection contingency, the Appraisal contingency and the Loan contingency. Your earnest money deposit is usually protected with title (per our contract) in the event we need to cancel a contract for some reason. After we remove these contingencies (typically within 7-17 days (whatever timeframe is noted in our contract), we cannot cancel/breach our contract. If you have agreed to liquidated damages in the contract, the seller may be entitled to keep your earnest money deposit should you attempt to cancel the contract after contingencies have been removed (refer to your specific contract terms). I have never had a buyer attempt to do this.

Approximately 5 days before closing, we will also conduct a final walk-through to make sure the property is in the same condition as when we first went into contract/escrow.

Step 9: Final Loan Approval and Signing

Get Final Loan Approval. This is a crucial piece of the final stages of loan approval. I will regularly monitor the progress of your transaction and keep you fully aware of each step. We also work with your lender to make sure all the necessary paperwork is complete as we move closer to a smooth closing.

Approximately a week prior to closing, your Lender will work closely with the Title Company to send them your Loan documents, verify all the numbers and schedule your final signing. Your Lender will also send you an estimated final CD (Closing Disclosure) which outlines all of the final closing costs, including the final amount you need to pay to the Title Company, prior to your signing appointment. This final payment is typically in the form of a Cashier's Check or a Wire Transfer to the Title company (consult with your Lender about how this should be paid to ensure a timely closing). A few days prior to closing escrow you will sign buyer documents at the Title company or with a Notary (there is a Notary fee charged to the Buyer for this service).

Usually, a day or two after your signing, the Lender will typically fund/wire the loan amount to Title. Once the Lender's funds are received by Title, Title will send the transaction to the County Recorder's Office to record you as the new owner and notify the Agents and Lender that we are officially closed Escrow!

Step 10: Celebrate!

After Title has confirmed Close of Escrow, we collect keys! Time to Celebrate! But wait! Don’t schedule your moving truck or place any personal belongings at the property on the day of closing since we never know what time we will close and you are officially the new homeowner. Make sure you contact all the Utility Companies and have them turned on in your name at the property effective the day after close of escrow. Don’t forget to also change your mailing address!

After Closing, What to Expect!

After Closing, your Lender and I will keep in touch. We are always here for you, even in the future. The Lender will make sure you have the best loan and interest rate for your situation and I’ll keep you updated on your Home's Value. If you decide later that you need a larger or smaller home or are looking to purchase an investment property, we're your team of professionals! Or, you may just need some good referrals for something, remember to call us first, we have lots of great resources!

If you have a mortgage loan and also have your Impounds (Taxes and Hazard Insurance) rolled into your monthly loan payment, your loan servicer will automatically pay your semi-annual “secured” property tax installments for as long as you have this mortgage.

The only property tax bill(s) that are NOT automatically paid by your loan servicer are your “supplemental” property tax bill(s). Please Click Here for important information that explains what to do if you receive a supplemental property tax bill. Supplemental property tax bills only occur in the first year of homeownership, and they are not something you will have to pay every year you own your home. You can read more about supplemental tax assessments here. As a reminder, if your property taxes and insurance are included in your monthly mortgage payment, your monthly payment may increase over time to adjust for any increases in property taxes or homeowners’ insurance premiums.

If this property will be your primary residence, you MAY BE eligible for a homeowners’ property tax exemption which would provide a reduction in taxable value for your home. Filing a homeowners’ exemption form with the county will save you a certain amount per year on your property taxes. You can find more information on the homeowners’ property exemption here.


*Homeowner’s Association:

A Homeowner's Association (HOA) is an organization that manages and governs a residential community or housing development. It is responsible for maintaining the community's standards, rules, and regulations. The HOA collects fees or assessments from homeowners to fund services and amenities such as landscaping, security, and maintenance of common areas.

*Mello Roos Taxes:

Mello-Roos taxes are special assessments (in addition to your regular property taxes) levied on properties within designated community districts in California. These taxes are generally used to finance public infrastructure projects and improvements, such as schools, roads, parks, and utilities, within the district.

Private Transfer Fee:

A private transfer fee, also known as a transfer fee covenant or resale fee, refers to a fee that is imposed on the transfer or sale of ownership of a property. It is typically a contractual obligation created by the original developer or homeowner's association (HOA) and recorded in the property's deed or a separate agreement. Not all properties have Private Transfer fees.

*Solar Liens:

A solar lien, also known as a solar panel lien or a solar energy system lien, is a legal claim or encumbrance placed on a property to secure financing for the installation or lease of a solar energy system. It is typically used when homeowners or businesses opt for solar panel installations but do not have the immediate funds to cover the upfront costs. A Solar Lien can typically be transferred to a new homeowner at time of sale if the new homeowner meets the Solar Lien company criteria for transfer.

Home Utilities:

Expenses you pay for in addition to your mortgage loan. For example; Gas, Electric, Water, Sewer, Garbage, Cable, Internet, etc.

Home Warranty:

Unlike Homeowners Insurance, which is required on most mortgage loans, a Home Warranty is similar to a car warranty and is optional. A Home Warranty is designed to offer homeowners protection against unexpected breakdowns or malfunctions after the purchase of a home. When a homeowner purchases a home warranty, they pay an annual or monthly fee to the warranty provider. In return, the provider agrees to cover the repair or some of the replacement costs of specified items, such as HVAC systems, plumbing, electrical systems, kitchen appliances, and more. The coverage may vary depending on the specific plan and provider chosen.

*Homeowners Insurance:

Lenders often require homeowners’ insurance as a condition for granting a mortgage loan. Think of Homeowners Insurance like car insurance and is for major repair claims. It is designed to help homeowners recover from unexpected events that may cause damage to their home or result in the loss of personal possessions. Homeowners insurance policies can vary in terms of coverage limits, deductibles, and exclusions.

*Flood Insurance or Fire Insurance:

Depending on the area you are purchasing in, the Lender may require you to have additional types of Homeowners Insurance (also known as Hazard Insurance), for example, if you are buying a property in a High Flood or Fire area.

*Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) or Mortgage Insurance (MI):

PMI or MI is an additional cost that borrowers pay on top of their monthly mortgage payments. The premium for PMI is typically added to the monthly mortgage payment or paid as a lump sum upfront. PMI or MI is a type of insurance that protects lenders in case a borrower defaults on their mortgage loan. PMI is typically required by lenders when the borrower makes a down payment of less than 20% of the home's purchase price.

*Lender or Seller Credits:

Lender or seller credits are financial incentives offered by either the lender or the seller of a property to the buyer. These credits are typically provided as a means to assist the buyer with closing costs or to offset certain expenses associated with the purchase transaction. However, it's important for buyers to carefully consider the terms and conditions associated with these credits. For example, the lender or seller may have limitations on the maximum amount of credits allowed, and there may be implications for the purchase price or interest rate.

*Gift Funds:

Gift funds refer to money or assets that are given to a homebuyer by a family member, relative, or sometimes a close friend to assist with the purchase of a home. These funds are typically provided as a gift, with no expectation of repayment. Lenders typically have specific guidelines regarding the use of gift funds. These guidelines may specify who can provide the gift (usually a family member or close relative), the maximum amount allowed, and any limitations on the source of the gift funds. Some lenders may require that the buyer contributes a certain percentage of the down payment or closing costs from their own funds.

*Your Income, Cash Deposits, Spending Money, Using Credit:

Keep in close communication with your Lender and Real Estate professional about changes in your income, work hours, etc. Make sure the only deposits going in to your account are deposits you have already reported to your Lender as this could affect your loan amount. DO NOT spend large amounts of money or use credit without consulting with your lender first!


zalonehomes.com Learn more about our Cookie Policy or Privacy Policy.