The San Diego Home Buyers’ Survival Guide


    Buying a home can be an overwhelming and emotional process. With the help of an experienced realtor and this San Diego Home Buyers’ Guide, you can navigate the purchasing process and get into the home of your dreams.

    Calculate What You Can Afford

    Your income isn’t the only factor when figuring out how much you can afford to spend on a home. You’ll also want to consider the following:

    • Calculate your monthly income, expenses and debt: Figure out your average monthly income, your average monthly expenses, and any debt, including monthly payments for credit cards, cars, etc.
    • Check your credit report and FICO score: Many financial institutions offer free FICO scores, depending on what credit card or bank account type you use. To get a rough estimate of your FICO score for free, you can use to answer a few questions to get your estimated FICO scores range.
    • Use a mortgage calculator: There are many mortgage calculators available to estimate your mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance. Zillow’s Mortgage Calculator asks you to enter the price of the home, your down payment, and details about the home loan to calculate your mortgage payment breakdown, schedule, and more.
    • Figure out your down payment: Conventional loans have typically required a down payment of 20% or more of the purchase price. However, for certain borrowers with the right mix of credit, debt and income considerations, it is possible to get a conventional loan with a down payment as low as 3%.

    Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

    Getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan is one of the best things you can do to help improve your chances of getting the home you want. Mortgage pre-approval is essentially a promise from the lender that you’re qualified to borrow up to a certain amount of money at a certain interest rate (subject to property appraisal and other requirements). We recommend talking to at least five lenders and mortgage brokers and shop for the best interest rates and programs.

    Research Your Target Neighborhoods

    People often start narrowing down their home search by geography. Do you love the urban vibe downtown? Perhaps you’re looking for a quiet home in the country? Or maybe you’re somewhere in between with a desire for a home in the suburbs.

    When searching for your target neighborhood, look online for information on the school district, crime rate, traffic and zoning. Figure out what your work commute will be.
    What are the local hotspots, such as parks, restaurants, and shops? Walk around the neighborhood and get a feel for the area.

    Determine What Kind of Home Suits Your Needs

    Next you have to think about what type of house you might like within your price range: single family home, townhouse, condo, or loft? What size suits your needs? Are you drawn to a certain type of architectural style?

    Find a Real Estate Agent Who Knows San Diego

    Having a great real estate agent is crucial to a smooth home-buying process. Start by asking friends and family for referrals in your target area and research agents online with an excellent track record. Once you have a couple of realtors in mind, contact each agent to set up an interview to make sure any questions you have are answered. It’s a good idea to interview at least three agents and look for experience and compatibility.

    If you’re in San Diego County, consider a REALTOR® from Ascent Real Estate, a brokerage in San Diego made up of a team of some of the industry’s most respected real estate agents with experience in buying and selling single-family homes, condos, luxury estates, and multifamily investment properties. In fact, Ascent Real Estate was one of San Diego’s top brokerages in sales volume in 2016. Learn more at:

    Browse Homes in the MLS and For Sale By Owner

    Browse home listings online in the MLS. You can find listings on,, or if you’re in San Diego. Check local newspapers and magazines for local listings and attend open houses. Have your agent to set up tours of homes that fit your criteria.

    Research the Homes You’re Interested in Buying

    When you find a home you’re interested in making an offer on, ask your real estate agent for comps to estimate the property’s fair market value. Google the home’s address and see what comes up. Ask for the seller’s reason for selling, review all property disclosures, and find out about any restrictions such as liens and easements.

    Make an Offer and Negotiate

    When you’re ready to move forward on a home, determine the purchase price you’re willing to offer. Include contingencies, which are clauses that give you an out if something unforeseen arises. Contingencies work to the buyer’s advantage, so in a competitive seller’s market, you’ll likely need to minimize contingencies. List any special requests and repairs you want included with the sale.

    Determine an earnest money amount. Earnest money is a deposit made to a seller by the buyer to allow the buyer more time when seeking financing. Earnest money is typically held jointly by the seller and buyer in a trust or escrow account. Lastly, you’ll want to define a move-in date. If/ when both parties agree to the terms, the Purchase and Sale Agreement will be signed.

    Finalize the Deal

    To finalize the deal, you’ll need to get the house appraised. You’ll also want to have the home professionally inspected, especially for structural engineering, roofing, and termites. If anything comes up during the appraisal and inspections, you should use the reports to re-negotiate if necessary. Below are some other steps to finalize the deal:

    • Choose a company for home insurance.
    • Complete the loan process with the lender.
    • Do a walk-through inspection prior to closing.
    • Set aside cash for the closing costs and down payment.

    Close the Purchase & Move In

    You’ll want to review the settlement document at least two days prior to closing to see how funds will be collected and distributed. You’ll need to bring a cashier’s check for the necessary amount to closing, including the down payment and closing costs. Congrats! You’re a homeowner! Now it’s time to get your keys and start picking out your wall colors! To learn more about buying a home in San Diego, visit

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