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Moving to the West Coast? Tops for First Time Home Buyers

November 15, 2021 | Moving Guides & Tips

First time buying a new home? First time living on the west coast? Now is a very exciting time as you look for the perfect place for you, but it’s important to be well-researched and well prepared for the process of looking for and buying a home on the West Coast before you jump in head first. Moving to the west coast can be expensive, so you need to know a little bit about the market before you make the plunge.

Especially since the height of the pandemic, home buying and the process thereof has completely changed, and brought about a lot of new guidelines and processes that you’ll have to look out for when searching for your new home. Plus, now more than ever, as people work from home and wish to have freedom from city living, competition is ramping up for larger homes with more space that are also located in less populated areas. 

On top of these new circumstances you’ll be met with traditional home buying headaches, like competing for homes with other offerers and even bidding wars for homes. So how do you prepare for all of this before you even start looking for a home? Don’t get intimated!  We’ve got some amazing tips for West Coast home buying so you’ll be all set on your journey into homeownership. 

Know Your Markets

A huge aspect of your research process should revolve around which markets you’re looking in, and how the real estate markets in your ideal cities or neighborhoods are looking. When looking at cities in the areas of the West Coast you’d like to live in, make sure to not only focus on the areas surrounding places like Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego, but also secondary markets. 

What are Secondary Markets? 

Secondary markets are smaller cities within driving distance of larger cities or metropolitan areas, but who might have larger homes or more space available than the larger cities. When you think of secondary markets, think of places like Portland and Sacramento.

Especially since COVID saw people working remotely (and now permanently doing so!), these markets have seen a surge in interest, as people relocate from large cities to places that are still well connected, but are less jam-packed with people, and that are more affordable and provide more space. 

These secondary markets could be an amazing alternative to overspending on a small home or condo in a bigger West Coast city like Los Angeles. You’ll remain well-connected and within driving distance of these large attractions, while enjoying a relaxing lifestyle that won’t break the bank. 

How to Financially Prepare to Buy a Home

As a first-time buyer, it’s easy to get a little lost in the process, and not even know how much you need to have saved up to cover the initial costs involved with buying a home. We’re talking down payments, closing costs, and even moving expenses. These expenses can be in the tens of thousands all together, so make sure you’re prepared and have enough saved up to cover such concerns. 

In addition to preparing for the initial costs associated with home buying, make sure your finances are ‘in order’, so to speak. Buying your first home is a huge commitment, and a gigantic step forward for you. However, you must make sure that your credit and financial trustworthiness is good standing with your bank and creditors. 

Before beginning the home buying process, make sure you’ll be able to qualify for a loan and mortgage. Make sure your credit score is high enough to qualify you for any amount you anticipate needing, and research possible lenders to have your mortgage financed through. Make sure you’re aware of their credit requirements in order to make sure you’ll qualify for their programs. 

When combining a down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, and mortgage expenses together, it’s no easy feat to have enough saved up for your first home. It’s recommended to have at least 20% of your total home cost saved in order to comfortably make your purchase.  

How to Figure Out What Kind of House You Can Afford

So after calculating all of these expenses, and costs, you’ll now need to determine what kind of home you can afford. Before looking at potential homes, meet with lenders or banks that you’ve thoroughly researched or have positive existing relationships with to determine if you can be pre-approved for a home loan. The lender or bank will analyze your credit history and general financial situation to determine if they’ll lend to you. 

Knowing how much you’re pre approved for loan-wise will directly impact and determine what kind of home you’re able to look out and afford. By having your price point and lending options clearly laid out for you, you’ll be able to fine tune your pool of housing options, as well as the markets you’re looking in. 

Once you’re pre-approved for a loan of whatever amount, revisit the market you initially took interest in, including the aforementioned secondary markets. If you can no longer afford a home you’d previously eyed up in these markets, consider broadening your search to areas surrounding your ideal neighborhoods. 

Keep in mind that just because you’ve been pre-approved for a certain amount of money, you don’t have to necessarily spend that much! Stay under the budget you’ve made for yourself, and well under the amount you’re pre-approved for in case of unexpected expenses. 

What’s the West Coast Housing Market Like? 

When looking for a home on the West Coast, especially if you have the freedom to choose anywhere you’re interested in on that side of the country, it can be hard to figure out which area is best for you. 

When looking, make sure to research which areas of the west coast are in the biggest market currently, and which ones are having the largest surges as of late. Demand for homes is particularly high right now, especially for those on the west coast, so make sure you know your price range, market, and target neighborhood in mind, but don’t be afraid to be flexible. Who knows, your dream home might be located just outside of your initial search radius!

Hottest Housing Markets 2021

  • Irvine, CA
  • Fremont, CA
  • San José, CA
  • Riverside, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Portland, OR
  • Spokane, WA

Once you’ve determined which market you want and can afford to look in, it’s time to figure out what neighborhoods you’re interested in within those city or town parameters. This can be especially hard if you’re moving cross country and are relying on virtual tours or Google searches of different towns, but do your best! If you can, fly out and check out the neighborhoods you’re looking in, and try to go to some in-person showings while you’re there. 

Once you’ve chosen some neighborhoods to choose from, look up home values in that neighborhood and compare to the current listing prices of homes for sale. If homes in that area are selling for more than they’re worth, odds are you may want to look in another area. 

Just as you would when scoping out a rental, don’t forget to check out crime rates, school ratings, and access to grocery stores, hospitals, doctors, or just any essential business or practice you’ll need. 

Make a Wish List

Before viewing homes, sit down and determine what you’re looking for in a home, including any deal breakers you might have. What are the most important things to you in a new home? 

Determining the top things you’re looking for, and the top things you’re NOT looking for in a home are both key to making sure you’re happy and satisfied with such a huge purchase. Plus, having realistic expectations for your home will stop you from maybe going over budget or getting too excited and not paying as much to financial sensibilities. It’ll also give you an excellent guide to otherwise eliminate to help choose your next home. 

Have Your Home Appraised & Inspected

Once you’ve settled on the home you want, always schedule an appraisal and home inspection by a third party in order to make sure you’re buying a home that is appropriately priced, and that doesn’t have any secret issues that could become a huge expense later on. Make sure you do this before signing anything! By having your potential new home inspected and appraised, you’re making sure you get the best deal, while also providing yourself with security and safety net from any potential pitfalls. 

Making Moving Arrangements

You’ve done it! You’ve signed on a home, made your down payment, gotten your loan squared away, and now can move in whenever you want. Congratulations on your first home purchase – this is a huge step forward for you!

Now that those arrangements are out of the way, it’s time to coordinate movers for the job of getting your things into your new home safely. As it so happens, that’s where we come in. 

Whether you’re in need of local, long-distance, or international moving services, Bekins is exactly what you need to make sure your move is handled efficiently, safely, and with the least stress on you possible. 

Learn more about Bekins’ areas of expertise and our specialty moving options today!

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