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6 Ways to Search for Your First Home Like a Pro


Berkeley, CA, lies across the San Francisco Bay just east of San Francisco and borders Oakland and Emeryville to the south and Albany to the north. About 125,000 residents call Berkeley home, and it is home to the oldest of all the University of California campuses in the state.

Among its attractions lies the Berkeley Rose Garden, which is a terraced amphitheater that lies in a small canyon with sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay and the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. It is the site of many weddings and special events, and offers more than 100 varieties of roses to delight visitors year-round, with peak season happening each May.

Music lovers — especially jazz aficionados — will delight in the live concert offerings at the Greek Theatre, which was founded by William Randolph Hearst. It’s an 8,500-seat amphitheater that is both owned and operated by the University — U.C. Berkeley, that is; and visitors will enjoy jazz, pop, rock ‘n roll, and world music concerts all year-round; as well as recitals, graduation celebrations, and VIP addresses from past and present luminaries including the Dalai Lama.

People’s Park and Telegraph Avenue — hotspots of 1960s anti-war demonstrations and counterculture — are both located in Berkeley.

As with many cities in California, the area is experiencing a seller’s market, which means there are fewer homes available to meet the demand of buyers eager to nab Berkeley real estate for sale. If it’s your first rodeo, here are some tips for home buying.

1. Save your pennies

Even if you only pay 3% of a home’s worth for a down payment, you’re still looking at a steep upfront cost in the thousands of dollars.

In addition, you’ll be responsible for closing costs; that is, the fees required to finalize the mortgage, and they usually range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount. 

Many mortgage loans on average require a 20% down payment, especially if your credit rating is less than ideal.

You’ll also need to be prepared to pay cash for move-in expenses, which include repairs, renovations, and possibly furnishings and appliances.

2. Calculate how much of a home you can afford


While it might be your dream to own one of the luxury Berkeley homes for sale as a first-time homebuyer, you need to find out what your budget will allow. Check out an online home affordability calculator to determine your budget based on your current income, debt, down payment allowance, and credit score.

Your credit score directly affects the interest rate that mortgage lenders will offer you. If your score is weak, you’ll need to bolster it to lock in a better rate, and that can take some time. Make sure to pay all your bills on time, and keep track of your credit reports so you can dispute any errors and correct them in a timely manner.

3. Research home buyer assistance programs

Many cities and states — and even counties — offer first-time home buyer programs. These usually blend low-interest-rate mortgages with some form of down payment assistance as well as closing cost assistance. Some programs even provide tax credits. Skip the pride and ask your real estate or legal professional if there are such programs available to help you nab the home of your dreams amongst Berkeley homes for sale.

4. Obtain a preapproval letter


A preapproval letter is a lender's offer to loan you a certain amount of money under particular terms. It shows sellers and realtors that you are a serious, prepared buyer, and definitely gives you an edge over buyers who haven’t taken this step yet. Once you’ve decided to begin shopping for Berkeley real estate, apply for the letter at that time. The lender will pull your credit reports and other paperwork to analyze them and verify your reported income, debt, and assets so he can produce your preapproval letter.

5. Invest in a home inspection


Don’t rely on a cursory glance at a home as a sure thing when it comes to an inspection. A professional home inspection involves a thorough inspection and assessment of the home’s structure and mechanical systems. Make sure you specify that the inspection covers chemical/gas assessments (such as radon) as well as signs of mold or pests (such as termite infestation). Make sure the inspector has access to every part of the house, including the roof and crawl spaces. Make sure you attend the inspection so you can ask questions about any findings that are unclear, and review the inspector’s report to make sure you understand all of it.

6. Purchase adequate home insurance


Lenders require buyers to purchase homeowners insurance before a purchase can be finalized. Homeowners' insurance covers costs to repair or replace the home and its contents if they're damaged by an incident that is covered by the policy. These incidents can include crime (such as breaking and entering, theft, and arson) or an “Act of God,” that is, weather-related events that include tornados, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, or earthquakes. Homeowners’ insurance also provides coverage if you're held responsible for an accident or injury. At the very least, you should purchase enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding your Berkeley real estate if it is destroyed.

Partner with a local Bay Area realtor

Local realtors like Cynthia Speers are experts and can help seasoned home buyers, as well as first-timers, nab the homes of their dreams. Reach out now! With deep roots in the Bay Area, Cynthia is the local expert you need on your side.




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