Ventura County Real Estate
Brian & Samantha Zell, Realtors®, ABR, SRES
Blake Mashburn, Realtor®, GRI, SFR, CPDE

The Mashburn Zell Group | Century 21 Fine Home & Estates, REA

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Home Buyer Guide


A home is probably the biggest financial investment you’ll make in your life. So before you get started looking at homes and imagining yourself in them, let's do some homework. Use this Buyer’s Guide as a primer to help you as you hunt the home of your dreams.



Determine How Much You Can Afford

Real Estate Buyers Guide

Step 2
Get Pre-Approved - Know Where You're At

How much house you can afford is largely dependent on how large a mortgage (home loan) you can qualify for. Our website offers a mortgage calculator that will help you, but, better yet, give us a call and we will connect you with local lenders. We highly recommend that you become pre-approved for a mortgage before you start house hunting. This will tell you exactly how much you can afford and will make the closing process go faster.

Getting pre-approved also makes your offer much more attractive to potential sellers because they know they won't have to wait for a guarantee that you qualify for the loan. In addition, purchasing a home involves more than just making sure you have enough money to pay the mortgage and property tax. You'll also have to be sure you have enough money at hand for what are known as closing costs. Closing costs could include:

  • Earnest money, usually 1 to 3 percent of the cost of the house, which you pay as a deposit on the house when you submit your offer. It’s your proof that you’re a serious buyer. Depending on the laws in your state, you may be able to get this money back should you decide not to purchase the house, but you must make this decision within about two and a half weeks of paying the earnest money.
  • Your down payment (this is different than earnest money), usually 5 to 20 percent of the cost of the house, which you must pay at closing. There may be down payment assistance available, contact us for more details. 
  • Mortgage insurance. If you can't make a down payment of at least 20 percent, mortgage lenders charge you extra insurance. This is also known as private mortgage insurance or PMI.
  • Closing costs to pay for processing all the paperwork. Contact us for a breakdown of those costs, but count on at least 1 1/2 percent of the cost of the purchase price of the property.

In addition, as you research whether you can afford to purchase a home, don't forget to include the day-to-day expenses you'll incur. This includes.

  • Utilities
  • Homeowner or condo association dues
  • Property taxes (mentioned above)
  • City or county taxes

Shop for a Home

Real Estate Buyers Guide

Step 3
Search For Your Home

House hunting can be both exciting and frustrating. To make your search easier and faster, browse properties on the Internet. Search properties HERE or straight from our homepage. This information is up-to-date and accurate. Go one step further and save your search to receive future updates when new properties that meet your criteria come up on the market. The Internet is a quick way to see whether the houses that are currently available meet your following critical criteria: are they in the right location, with the right features, and at the right price.

If you find after your search on our website that few properties meet your needs, you may want to readjust your criteria – change the location, features, price – to increase your chances of finding a house that works for you. If you have any difficulties in this initial search, please contact us for assistance. Homes can become available instantly and we are always the most current resource for up-to-the-minute information on new home listings.

Before viewing homes, it's a good idea to put together a checklist of things that you’ve decided ahead of time are important qualities of your future home. Download House Hunting Checklist HERE

This might include:

  • Is there enough room for your family to grow in the house?
  • Is the house structurally sound?
  • Is the house move-in ready or will it need work?
  • Is it close enough to everyday needs, such as grocery stores, schools, work?
  • Will you feel safe here?
  • Are any appliances included?
  • Is the yard right for your needs?
  • Do you like the floor plan?
  • Is there enough storage?
  • Will you be happy in this house in winter, summer, spring, fall?

You may also want to take some exterior and interior photos of each house you visit so that you can keep track of its pros and cons.  Download House Comparison Chart HERE




Make an Offer

Real Estate Buyers Guide

Step 4
Make An Offer

When you’ve found a house you really want, it’s time to make the offer. How much you offer may depend on a number of factors:
  • Is the asking price fair? Here’s where the legwork you put in while shopping for a home pays off. Decide whether this house is priced right or out of line in the current marketplace. We can look at what are known as "comparables" to help determine if a home in which you're interested is priced "right." Comparables are simply the prices homes near the house you're interested in sold for in recent weeks and months. Comparables can be wonderful tools when it comes to negotiating a sales price: "You're asking $700,000, but the house up the street built the same year with the same square footage sold a month ago for $675,000."
  • Is the house in good condition? Is this house in move-in condition or will it need a lot of work? Take any costs of improvement into consideration when deciding your offer price.
  • Has it been on the market long? Usually, the longer a house has been on the market, the more likely it is the owner will accept a lower offer. Or it may be just overpriced for the market.
  • Is it a seller’s or buyer’s market? If the houses you’re interested in are being bought as soon as they’re listed, that means you’ve got a lot of competition from other buyers; offer accordingly. If houses aren’t selling fast, you may have more leverage in negotiating a lower price.

Once you’ve determined how much you’d like to offer, it's time to make an offer. As your buyer agent, we will draw up a contract with your offering price and necessary contingencies into a formal contract. You will want to review this document carefully and make sure it states your terms exactly. If the seller accepts the offer, the contract will become a legally binding agreement.

In addition to an offer contract, you will need to provide earnest money as well as a letter from your lender indicating your qualification to purchase. Earnest Money typically equals roughly 1 - 3 percent of the property purchase price. You will not be at risk of losing your earnest money as long as you do not default on your contract. The amount will be credited towards the purchase price of the house at closing.


Step 5
Negotiation And Contract

After you've made your offer, the seller will be able to:

1. Accept your offer
2. Reject your offer
3. Execute a counteroffer

In most cases, a seller will not accept your initial offer outright. Typical counteroffers include modifications to:

• Purchase price
• Closing date
• Possession date
• Inclusions

When you make an offer on a house, you should be prepared for the negotiations to go back and forth several times before both parties agree to the terms. You might also have to compete with other interested buyers in certain market conditions.

When an agreement is reached on all issues, and both the seller and you as the buyer have signed the offer, you are both under a legally binding contract. This is known as being in contract, under contract, or in escrow.



Step 6
In Escrow
Your offer is accepted. Now it's time to get to work. Before we can close on the purchase of your new home, we need to take a few more steps to make sure the purchase is a sound decision.

Step 1: Home Inspection / Property Survey

As the buyer, you have the opportunity to hire a professional inspector to evaluate the condition of the home. An inspection clause is included in the written contract given to the seller. The goal of a home inspection is to give you an objective, independent and comprehensive analysis of the physical condition of your potential new home and check for any safety issues that might otherwise be unknowable.

A professional inspector will check on the structure, construction, and mechanical systems of the house. This usually includes checking these areas:

  • Electrical Systems
  • Plumbing and waste disposal
  • Water Heater
  • Insulation
  • Ventilation
  • HVAC System
  • Water source and quality
  • Lead paint
  • PestsFoundation
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Ceilings
  • Walls
  • Floors
  • Roof
  • Radon gas
  • Asbestos 

You will receive a written report of the inspection and an estimate of the cost of any and all repairs. If you choose to be present during the inspection, you can ask your inspector about the unique features of the property and get his or her opinion on the necessary maintenance for different areas of the property.

Depending on the results of the inspection, you will have the opportunity to:

• Get out of the written offer if major problems are discovered.

• Renegotiate the purchase price to account for necessary repairs.

• Negotiate that repairs are made by the seller before the final purchase of the property.


Your lender may also require that a legal land survey be completed of any property on which they issue a mortgage so that they can obtain a clear lender's title insurance policy.

A surveyor will determine:

• Whether the house is within the property borders.

• Whether there are any encroachments on the properties by neighbors.

• The extent to which any easements on the property may affect legal title 

Step 2: Clearing the Home Title

Simply explained, "title" is the right to own, possess, use, control, and dispose of property. When you buy a home, you are actually buying the seller's title to the home. A deed is the written legal evidence that the seller has conveyed his or her ownership rights to you.

Before the closing meeting when the actual transfer of ownership occurs, an attorney or title specialist generally conducts a title examination. The purpose of the title examination is to discover any problems that might prevent you from getting a clear title to the home. Generally, title problems can be cleared up before settlement. But in some cases, severe title problems can delay settlement, or even cause you to consider voiding your contract with the seller.

Some "clouds on title" can be corrected relatively easily while others can become quite complicated to remove. You should insist on being kept informed of every step in the title examination process. If title problems are uncovered, it is important for you to understand your legal rights.

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance is the best way to protect yourself against title defects that have occurred in the past, which may not appear until after you've taken ownership of the property.

Before a title insurance policy is issued, a title report is prepared based on a search of the public records. This report gives a description of the property, along with any title defects, liens, or encumbrances discovered in the course of the title search. It is different than casualty insurance in that you pay a one-time fee and it protects against past (as opposed to future) events.

Title insurance will protect you against title defects that were not discovered in the course of the title search. If such a defect were discovered later, your title insurance would cover you. If title problems are severe enough and not covered by insurance, you could actually lose your house. A title insurance policy protects you and your heirs against title defects for as long as you own your home.

Step 3: Getting an Appraisal

Once you have determined that there are no defects on the title and all inspection concerns have been resolved, it is time to order an appraisal.

An appraisal is an estimate of the value of a property made by a qualified professional. The appraisal of your prospective home is as important as your credit history in obtaining a mortgage. After all, the property you are purchasing serves as the collateral for the loan. Although the primary goal of the appraisal is to justify the lender's investment, it also protects you from overpaying. Your lender will generally hire the appraiser and will charge you as the buyer a fee for the service. If the appraisal falls short of the amount you wish to borrow you may be refused a mortgage or offered a smaller amount on the mortgage. Your offer contract will be contingent on whether the appraisal comes in at or above the purchase price you and the seller have agreed upon.

Step 7
Final Details 

Once all of the purchasing steps and contingencies are cleared, it's time for closing! Understanding the steps and terminology used for the closing procedures are key, and we are happy to help you with a quick rundown of the process in our local area. There are a few things that you will need to do to prepare.

In order to ensure a smooth closing you will need to:

  • Obtain a homeowners insurance policy and provide this information to your lender. A paid homeowner’s insurance policy is required at closing. We will help make sure your insurance company and your title officer are working together to put your policy in effect by the close of escrow. But, if you get your insurance agent involved early in your home-buying process, he or she also may help point out ways to help keep your insurance premiums lower.
  • Review the Closing Disclosures form that your lender or closing agent will provide you no later than 3 days before closing. This document will contain a detailed description of all costs associated with the transaction, including the exact dollar amount you will need to bring to closing.
  • Conduct a walk-through of the property prior to closing. This will give you an opportunity to see that the condition of the house is the same as it was at the time of the contract. Additionally, you will be able to ensure that any repairs agreed to by the seller, based on the inspection, have been completed.


Step 8

When the property you’re buying has been inspected and you’ve had your final walk-through of the property to see that all contingency conditions – such as final repairs made by the seller - have been met, documents are signed, the loan has funded and recorded it’s time to celebrate. . This is the day you get the keys to your new home.





The Mashburn Zell Group | Century 21 Fine Homes & Estates, REA

1190 S. Victoria Ave.
Ventura, CA 93003

Brian & Samantha Zell Realtors® DRE# 01995643-02079199

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