First-Time Homebuyer 101

Being a first-time homebuyer and buying a house in the Bay Area is equally thrilling and nerve-racking. Learn the home buying steps so you can dive into house hunting with confidence. Let’s get started!

Home Buying Steps

Your first-time homebuyer journey won't be daunting if you can see the road ahead – and know that it ends with keys in your hand and a glass of celebratory bubbly! Here's an easy-to-follow map of all the home buying steps.


Planning and preparations

  • 1) Interview real estate agents. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, including how well they know your target neighborhood, their fees and what services they offer beside negotiations and escrow. Also request references from past clients.
  • 2) Meet with a lender to get pre-approved and learn what you can afford. (See our article, Get All Your Docs in a Row.) Don’t know any lenders? Trusted agents have great lenders to recommend.
  • 3) Set search parameters with your agent so you are on the same page.

Find a home

  • 4) Attend open houses. The more you see, the more you learn about the market.
  • 5) Request and review disclosures. When a property piques your interest, your agent can request the disclosures and review them with you.
  • 6) Check the comps. Your agent will review comparable properties that sold recently to get a better valuation on an offer price.

Prepare and submit an offer

  • 7) Write buyer letter. You fell in love with a house and now it’s time to make it personal. Write a heartfelt letter to the sellers about why you want their home. (See our article How to Write a Winning Love Letter.)
  • 8) Submit offer. Your agent will package your letter, pre-approval documents and your offer and submit it all to the listing agent.
  • 9) Congratulations! Your offer is accepted. Now you are in escrow, the length of which can vary.

Escrow and closing

  • 10) Drop off a security deposit. A security deposit is due in escrow three business days after your offer is accepted.
  • 11) Inspections. Your agent will set these up, and you’ll want to attend them.
  • 12) Negotiate. Review the inspection reports and negotiate as appropriate.
  • 13) Remove loan/appraisal contingency. Loan or appraisal contingencies can be a major negotiation point in a competitive market like the Bay Area. Talk to your agent about how to structure your offer’s terms to get a competitive edge.
  • 14) Final walkthrough. You have the right to inspect the house prior to closing.
  • 15) Sign the closing docs. Coordinate with your escrow officer to sign your closing docs (roughly 3-5 days prior to closing.)
  • 16) Get the keys. That’s it. You can move in! (See our article about how to eliminate moving day stress.)
  • 17) Uncork the bubbly!

Home Buying Tips

What our buyers are saying

I have never ever needed anything at Abio that was not given to me. Not help, advice, tools, support, marketing, camaraderie, lists, a door opened, a contract interpreted. I have never once lacked for a single thing that I needed in four full years here.

Mariah Bradford

To me, Abio is all about the 4 Greats: Great People, Great Energy, Great Support & Great Marketing!

Keith Sjöholm

Marketing & Culture ROCKS!

Vikki Bearman

Culture, collaboration, cheesy puns and cosmos.

Krista Miller

I would have to say that I came to Abio because it is a boutique company with a can do attitude. I am here today because the leadership, culture, marketing and support is unsurpassed by anyone…. I could not see myself at any other company.

Mary Anne LaHaye

Larry and Kress are a dream team! In advance of our cross-country move for a job transition, we began looking for homes in the Lamorinda area while still living in NYC. With very little knowledge of the East Bay and very limited time to look for homes, we knew we needed a realtor with deep knowledge of the area and a willingness to step in as our local advocate.

Eliza & Peter

The whole team at Abio was a dream to work with – we had an incredibly smooth closing process for the purchase of our first home.  Took us a while to find the right place but due to the relentlessness of our agent Sarka, we wasted no time when we found the right spot and we’ve been blissfully living in it for the last year.  The market knowledge was a huge leg up in this competitive market.

Christina T. — Oakland, CA

We bought our first home in December of 2016. Working with Sarka was an awesome experience. Our home search went much faster than we expected (three weeks from first open houses to going into contract) which meant that we had to move fast and make quick, confident decisions.

Meta K. — Oakland, CA

Our mortgage company works with hundreds of real estate agents, and everyone at Abio stands out. They are all tech-savvy, professional, charming and responsive, and they know their stuff. The founders, Cameron and Linnette, often mention how they go out of their way to make sure everyone on the Abio team is both friendly and a great personality fit, and it shows.

Jay V. — Walnut Creek, CA

I’ve worked with Abio twice in the past 2 years. Both experiences went very smoothly and resulted in great outcomes.  They provide sound advice and strategy on how to maximize the value of your property. I will definitely use Abio again when the time comes.

Jim W. — San Francisco, CA

I would like to recommend Julianna for her extensive knowledge, honestly, and professionalism. She helped us find our dream house. It was hard because we bought at a time when everyone else was buying too. Julianna always looked out for us she wrote multiple offers and even when we lost hope she kept positive and never gave up on us.

Astrid Q.

Mary Anne was so dynamic she took care of every detail – we did not have to worry about anything. Mary Anne has been the best agent I have ever used in any of the 5 moves I have made.

Cleo & Ann

Felicia is awesome. She’s friendly, reliable, dedicated and has amazing work ethic. She’s one of a kind, and a huge breath of fresh air in this real estate market full of sharks. I can’t recommend her enough.

MaryKate R. — El Cerrito, CA

When Mary Anne talks, people listen! Her knowledge and experience are respected by both her clients and the local real estate community. When faced with a problem, I am always amazed at Mary Anne’s ability to look at all sides on an issue to find the best outcome for her clients. If I wanted to build the ideal real estate professional I would just copy Mary Anne!

Bob O’Grady

I worked with Shannon on a transaction recently and she was fantastic. Smart, honest, hard working and clear. I would not hesitate to work with her again.

Seth F. — Berkeley, CA

Marco’s warmth, professionalism, great sense of humor, and attention to details and always going the extra mile for his clients are what really blew me away.  He is wise beyond his years!  If you are in need of an energetic, savvy & hardworking realtor MARCO is your man!

Michele D. — Orinda, CA

Raquel is amazing! Not only did she help me find the home I’ve always dreamed of, but she made the process so smooth. She is a true pro and knows her business.

Deanna D. — Emeryville, CA

What we like best about Abio is their knowledge of the industry and ability to communicate that so you know exactly what is going on and what will occur. We also like the “non-pressure” style, whether purchasing or selling. They truly want you to be happy and not just “close the deal.”


Cameron and Nicole are the best! We were new to the market in Oakland and they made us feel comfortable we were making a good decision. They guided us toward the right neighborhoods, and went above and beyond to give us recommendations on restaurants, bars, shops, etc nearby. We felt they really understood who we are and what we were looking for.

Mike B. — Oakland, CA

Tomi Thomas was a wonderful find my husband and I were nervous 1st-time buyers. She guided us through every phase of the confusing process of house hunting (I knew nothing!).  She went out of her way to meet with us on OUR schedule when we needed to meet. And, didn’t let us get discouraged in a competitive market if a bid got turned down.

Tammy P. — Berkeley, CA

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