Buying a house in 2023’s unpredictable California housing market is a challenge. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to make a strategic investment, navigating such a market requires knowledge and careful planning. In this blog, we’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to buy a home in California successfully.
- Benefit From Declining Home Prices: Because of the current market, you can save thousands by buying homes at lower prices. In Q1 of 2023, median home prices dropped to $4,36,800 from $4,79,500 in Q4 of 2022.
- Take Advantage of Stabilizing Mortgage Rates: Considering that the 30-year fixed mortgage rates are expected to stabilize between 6% to 6.5% in 2023, you get an opportunity to secure a favorable interest rate.
- Maintain a Healthy Credit Score: Aim for a credit score of 670 or higher, as a higher credit score can result in a lower interest rate. The median credit score for buyers in Q3 2022 was 768.
- Plan Your Down Payment & Closing Costs: Allocate about 20% of the home’s sale price towards down payment, and budget 2% to 5% of the total purchase price for closing costs.
7 Steps to Buying a House in California
We have simplified the process of buying a California house in 7 easy steps. Here’s how you can do it:
Step 1: Check Your Financial Health
One of the most crucial things to know before buying real estate is financial preparedness. Here are a few things you need to do to ensure you are financially ready to purchase a home in California:
- Calculate Your Home Affordability: Use home affordability calculators to understand your financial preparedness. These calculators take into account your income, debts, location, and down payment. You’ll be able to determine your monthly mortgage payment and other costs of homeownership.
- Check Your Credit Score: You must check your credit score which decides the mortgage rate: higher credit score, lower interest rate. Pull your credit score reports from any of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion – that offer one credit report for free annually. You can also work with your bank or credit card company to access your credit report for free.
- Prove a Steady Employment History: Your lender will study your employment history to ensure safe investments. Lenders or mortgage brokers will check your job profile, work history, and family background. Stable employment history will help you get a home loan quickly.
- Review Your Debt to Income Ratio (DTI): You can calculate your DTI ratio by dividing the monthly debts by gross monthly income. California mortgage lenders use DTI to evaluate the mortgage amount they can lend you. Most lenders consider a DTI of 36% or less to be safe.
Step 2: Plan Your Down Payment and Closing Costs
It’s time to plan your down payment after knowing how much house you can afford. A 20% down payment is typically the norm, but you can choose your own amount.
California buyer closing costs may come as a shock for first-time buyers. Like a down payment, closing costs are out-of-pocket expenses you pay to finance, buy, and own a house. Budget 2% to 5% of the total purchase price for closing costs.
If you are looking to buy a house with cash, you can skip Steps 3 & 4.
» Know More: How to Buy a House With No Money Down?
Step 3: Get the Preapproval Letter For Your Mortgage
The mortgage pre-approval stage in the house-buying process determines how much money you can borrow to purchase a home in California. A pre-approval letter shows you are a serious buyer working with lenders to finance a house.
Before you apply for pre-approval, you need to know the types of home loans and which one’s the best for you:
- Conventional Mortgages: A conventional mortgage is a loan not backed by a government agency. You can get a conventional loan from private mortgage lenders in California. It is subject to their guidelines, down payment requirements, credit score criteria, and interest rates.
- FHA Loans: Federal Housing Administration grants FHA loans to borrowers having lower credit scores and higher DTI ratios. Remember, low credit scores = higher interest rates.
- VA Loans: United States Department of Veterans Affairs offers VA loans to veterans. With no down payment and lenient credit requirements, you can even get a VA loan with bad credit.
- USDA Loans: Low to moderate-income home buyers in rural areas can apply for USDA loans. They offer zero down payment loans, but you need to cover the USDA closing costs of 2% to 6%.
Step 4: Start Your Home Search
Traditionally, home buyers are helped by a real estate agent in the home-buying process. The agent scours the MLS and the local inventory to shortlist properties for you.
However, on California For Sale By Owner websites, you can find FSBO homes yourself. Some FSBO listing sites like Houzeo allow you to make offers online. You can also schedule in-person showings online using Houzeo Showings.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind while shopping for homes:
- See Homes In-person: Viewing property listings online is only the first step. You need to see the shortlisted properties in person. A personal visit will help you visualize your future in the home and also give you an idea about the neighborhood.
- Keep Your Schedule Open: Ensure you have free time to see the newly listed properties.
- Attend Open Houses: Explore the neighborhood of your interest. Attend open houses of listings that catch your interest.
💡 Pro Tip: Search Properties Without a Realtor!
On Houzeo, you can buy a house without a realtor. With Houzeo’s mobile app and website, you can sort homes by its location, mark favorites, request showings, and make offers in just a few clicks!
Step 5: Make an Offer
Work on making your offer appealing after finding a home you want to buy. Your offer should include the offer price, preapproval letter, and proof of funds for the down payment. Additionally, include contingencies and terms of purchase.
In most cases, home sellers make counteroffers. You can negotiate, accept or reject the counteroffer.
After the seller accepts your offer, both parties will sign the purchase agreement and open an escrow account. You need to keep an escrow deposit of 1% to 2% of the purchase amount in the escrow account.
Step 6: Schedule a Home Inspection & Appraisal
A home inspection report will highlight structural or mechanical issues, if any. Based on the report, you can demand repairs from the home seller. Or back out of the deal if the property has severe damages.
Hire a professional California home appraiser to appraise the property and come up with its current market value. The lender will lend the loan amount equal to the appraised value. In case of a shortfall, you may raise the down payment or re-negotiate the offer.
Step 7: Close the Sale
After all the contingencies are met, and you are satisfied with the final walk-through, it’s time to close the deal. . It is the last step in which you pay the closing costs, sign the paperwork, and get the keys.
Three days before closing, your lender will give you the closing disclosure. It contains all details of your mortgage, such as mortgage type, monthly payment, loan term, rate of interest, mortgage origination fees, the money you need to bring at the closing, etc.
This is when you will wire the closing costs and down payment to the escrow, which will then transfer it to the seller after making the necessary deductions.
Tips For Buying a House in California
Home purchasing in California can be an overwhelming yet exciting journey. To help you be prepared, here are some tips for buying a home in the Golden State:
- Prioritize Early Saving: Calculate both one-time and recurring costs like down payment, closing costs, move-in expenses, and property taxes and start saving to buy a house.
- Maintain a Healthy Credit Score: Your credit score affects your eligibility for home loans and the interest rates offered. Pay bills on time, keep credit cards open, and monitor your payments regularly to repair your credit score.
- Organize Loan Paperwork: Lenders require financial reports to verify your income, assets, and debts. Keep all necessary documents, including tax returns, W-2s and 1099s, and bank statements in one place.
- Opt for First-Time Homebuyer Programs: Explore first-time homebuyer programs offered by states and cities, such as low-interest rate loans, down payment, closing cost assistance, and more.
In conclusion, with declining home prices and stabilizing mortgage rates, now is the best time to buy a house in California. Plan your down payment and closing costs in advance to avoid falling short of cash. Likewise, make timely payments to ensure that your credit score stays high.
By following the actionable tips provided in this article and with careful planning, you can confidently embark on your journey to homeownership.
Find Your New Home With Houzeo
With thousands of property listings, Houzeo.com is one of the biggest property listing sites in the US. Find condos, townhouses, co-ops, and other types of homes for sale in California on Houzeo.
» NEED MORE CLARITY? Read these exclusive Houzeo reviews and learn why the platform is the best in America’s competitive housing market.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What to know before buying a house in California?
Before buying a house in California, you must understand California's housing market conditions, to know whether it is a good time to buy a house now.
2. How to plan to buy a house in California?
3. How easy is it to buy a house in California?
It is easy to buy a house in California, provided you have planned your finances, have a good credit score, and have a mortgage preapproval letter.
4. Where to start when buying a home in California?
When buying a home in California, you can start by finding out how much house you can afford.
How to Buy a House Near Me
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