Buying a home for the first time is one of life’s sweet milestones. In Southern California, home to 27 of Zillow’s 100 most expensive U.S. ZIP Codes, it’s not for the faint of heart.
“Lines down the street to see a house, outrageous counteroffers, multiple rejections” is what Douglas Lazo, 32, and his partner at the time, now his wife, faced for more than a year and a half before buying their home in Anaheim Hills.
Danielle Oldfield, 37, and her husband looked at more than 50 homes from Westchester to El Sereno and spent “hours upon hours on Redfin and Zillow.” The hardest part? “Finding a home within our budget that also fit our needs.”
Even when you are prepared, “you have to be nimble and expect nearly everything is not going to go your way,” said Courtney Northrop, 31, who scored a North Hollywood home. “This process needs to be more universal, transparent and comprehensible to the average potential buyer.”
To help you snag your first home, we asked Times readers to share their biggest questions and hurdles, then talked to housing experts, financial advisors and successful home buyers for advice. Then we built a calculator to help you figure out what you can afford.
Buying a home for the first time is one of life’s sweet milestones.
Here’s one great piece of advice to consider right up front. You should ask yourself this basic question: What are your future plans? If you could be moving in the next few years, you may want to hold off on home buying.
Selling the home you buy costs money, and if you haven’t built enough equity — either through mortgage payments or rising real estate values — you may have to sell at a loss, or might not be able to sell at all.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Congress established to help consumers after the subprime mortgage meltdown, says it can be “risky and expensive” to buy and then “move again within a few years.”
Daryl Fairweather, chief economist with brokerage Redfin, gave a more specific timeline. “Is this somewhere you want to be for the next five years?” she said.
Most people don’t buy a home with a 20% down payment. Here’s how you can put down less and get more help with down payment and closing costs.
In the following series of stories, we decrypt the jargon, explain what will be required of you and offer tips for standing out in the crowd of rival buyers.
We’ll help you choose the best house-hunting apps, pick an agent, manage the swirl of open houses and make an offer you can afford. And we’ll walk you through escrow and what happens after you get your keys.
The Great SoCal House Hunt is a comprehensive guide for first-time home buyers, informed by original reporting and questions from Los Angeles Times readers. We decrypt the jargon, explain what will be required of you and offer tips for standing out in the crowd of buyers.