Set Yourself Up to Purchase Your Dream Home

Here’s how to maximize your ability to buy the home of your dreams.

  • Determine how much to spend. The first step for any homebuyer is to determine how much you can afford, and then how much of that you actually want to spend. Just because a bank offers you a big home loan doesn’t mean you have to spend that much.

    Work with a lender to get pre-approved (not just pre-qualified). When you are pre-approved for a loan, you only have a couple of steps before you’re done securing the loan: identifying the property you want to buy and having it meet appraisal. When you’re pre-qualified, a lender has estimated how much you can afford, but they haven’t gone through the process of verifying your income, debt, credit rating, and all the other details required to secure a loan.

    If the lender says you can afford a payment of $3,700 per month but you plan to buy a car with a monthly payment of $700 as soon as escrow closes, you may opt for a home loan with a monthly payment of $3,000. When it comes to finances, everyone is different. If you want to stretch to afford the home you think you’ll need in five or ten years, spend a little more. If you are concerned about buyer’s remorse and would be more comfortable with a smaller payment, spend a little less. Once you select a Realtor, be sure to share this information with them.

  • Identify your must-haves. Get clear on the amenities you must have as opposed to the ones you would simply prefer. This may require a little soul searching. How many bedrooms and bathrooms are essential? How much square footage do you need? Do you require a home office? Do you want room for a vegetable garden, a few acres for your two horses, a paved space to park your RV? Must you be in a certain school district, within a 15-minute commute to work, or at least two hours away from your in-laws? Do you plan to expand your family in the years to come, and if so, how much space will be required then?

    Create a list of needs and wants and prepare to share them with your Realtor.

  • Find a Realtor. Now that you know what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend, it’s time to find a Realtor. Rather than calling the number on the lawn sign in front of the property that interests you, contact friends and business associates to ask for recommendations. Maybe do a little online investigating to narrow your list and then interview the top candidates to find the best Realtor for you.

    Starting in July of 2025, Realtors representing buyers will be required to provide clients with a written agreement indicating they are representing you in your search for a home. The agreement will outline the pay schedule and who is responsible for paying the fee. Some people think this law will reduce commissions and therefore the price of real estate. It may have a small impact on commissions, but the market will continue to set housing prices.

    I am glad that the law will prevent buyers from ditching a Realtor who has worked with them in good faith. It will no longer be legal to dismiss a Realtor, only to give the business to a friend or family member or to try to write up the offer without representation.

  • Choose a property and make an offer. Regardless of the list price or market value, make an offer based on what the property is worth to you. The Realtor will present your offer to the sellers, and they can decide whether they prefer their property or your money.
  • Don’t rush and don’t skimp. Take the time and spend the money to do this right. If the seller didn’t order inspections, you should. Then read the reports, along with the 75-100 pages of disclosures and the preliminary report from the title company.

    Be sure you can live with the issues disclosed and any easements as well as the covenants, conditions and restrictions. If you have your heart set on painting your home purple but the architectural review committee only allows beige, you’ll want to know this ahead of time.

  • Don’t make a major purchase or quit your job before escrow closes. Keep your finances stable and consistent. Don’t buy anything that requires a loan or a significant draw on your cash or credit. Save major purchases and career changes for after the close of escrow.

    If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *