A Step-by-Step First Time Buyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the most exciting milestones of your life. To prepare yourself for this moment, you need to know what to expect during the process. This step-by-step first time buyer’s guide created by our team will help reduce the stress of buying a home and help you enjoy the journey as much as possible.

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Step 1: Research

Do you already know where you want to buy? If you want a condo, townhome, or single-family home? Which features do you like and dislike? What’s available on the market now? If you answered no to any of these questions, now is the time to start researching. In addition to looking for homes that interest you, also take note of any changes in asking prices. This could give you valuable insight into housing trends in specific neighborhoods and help you when the time comes to make an offer.

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Step 2: Decide on Your Budget

Notice we said to decide on your budget—not determine how much the mortgage company will give you. In many cases, a mortgage company will pre-approve you for more than you’re comfortable spending, which is why you need to determine the monthly payment you feel comfortable with before talking to a lender. This likely includes doing a full household budget and taking into consideration what changes other than a mortgage payment will occur once you move into your new home. If you’ve lived in an apartment or with roommates, you may overlook new expenses like garbage, water, or HOA fees that could easily blow your budget.

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Step 3: Get Prequalified

Just because you think you can afford a certain payment every month doesn’t mean the mortgage company will agree. Just as they may approve you for too large of an amount, they may also approve you for a lesser amount or deny you a mortgage altogether. Lack of time at a job, insufficient credit, past bankruptcies, or other financial issues can cause major problems when trying to secure a mortgage. Before you get your heart set on a home, talk to a mortgage professional to find out what amount you can qualify for. This will also be an advantage when you make an offer on a home, as some sellers won’t entertain offers from those who aren’t already prequalified for a loan.

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Step 4: Choose a Real Estate Agent

Can you shop for, look at, and ultimately make an offer on a home without a real estate agent? Technically yes, but why would you when it costs you nothing for agents like us to take much of the stress off your shoulders? Not only will we help identify properties you might be interested in, arrange showings, and ultimately handle the offer process, but we also have a knowledge of the market that you don’t possess. Finding the perfect home can be a daunting task, this is where our expertise and wealth of knowledge come into play. Let us show you around some homes that meet your dream home criteria so you can find the one that's right for you.

Our goal is to provide you with the most personalized service that is designed to help you buy your dream home.

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Step 5: Find the Right Home

This should be the most enjoyable step of the entire process (other than moving in!). We will arrange showings of homes you’re interested in that are within your price range. Take notes about what you like and don’t like, and make sure to pay attention to details. Turn light switches on and off, open and close doors, and run the faucets in various rooms. Don’t limit your inspection to the home itself. Make sure to take time to explore the neighborhood and keep an eye on traffic at certain times of the day, the parking situation, and how close it is to necessities like schools and grocery stores.

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Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you have selected the perfect home, work with your agent to craft a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes on the market. Depending on what the home is listed at and whether the current environment is a buyer’s or seller’s market, your offer may be below, at, or even above the asking price. We will be able to help you negotiate if you receive a counteroffer and reach an agreement. At this point, the house will go into escrow.

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Step 7: Have the Home Inspected

In most cases, your offer will be contingent on having the home inspected to ensure there is no major structural damage or large repairs needed. We can help you arrange this, and you can schedule it within days of making an offer. If there are no major issues, the process goes to step eight. If there is, you can renegotiate your offer based on what needs to be fixed, or you can withdraw it.

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Step 8: Select Your Loan

Now is the time to go back to the mortgage lender who pre-approved or pre-qualified you and choose your mortgage. You will be presented with various options based on your unique financial situation, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, 15-year, 30-year, or special programs such as VA loans or FHA loans. Work with your mortgage lender to select the option you feel the most comfortable with.

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Step 9: Get a Home Appraisal

Your lender will have your new home appraised so they have their independent value of it. The appraisal is to ensure that all parties involved are paying a fair price for the house.

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Step 10: Finish Paperwork

No one looks forward to all the paperwork involved in buying a home, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Fortunately, everything will be arranged by your lender and title company and, when you’re finished, you’ll know you are the legal owner of your new home.

Congratulations!

After signing the final paperwork to complete the purchase, you are now the owner of a new house. It may take a few days for your loan to be funded once the paperwork has been returned to the lender, but once that check is delivered to the seller, you’ll be all set to move into the home of your dreams.

Roger U.
James & Jane
Terri Velasco
Debbie & Tim W.
Shannon Bartlett
John & Rachel K.
Derek R.
Michael G.
NR Arakelian
Sherri Finn-Werber
Tom Blanchfield
Nayri Shmavonian
Laura & Jeff L.
John N.
Steven Kamajian
Hope Zimmerling
Denise Kaprielian
Lauren & Will
Philip Dumbrille
Nicole L.
Proactive Sports
Lindsey Blanchfield
Michael O'Connor
Katy Balladares
Michelle Lau
Lisa Lewis
Amanda Haver
Stuart Shelton
Lindsey B.
Neal Bear
Benjamin Matzkind
Kels
Carla Mason
George & Theresa Brennan
Pamela Smith
Jamie Holland
Shelley Apelian
Steve Magruder
Juan Carlos Ducca
Nick Rieskampf
Israel Figueroa
Tony Di Carlo
Natasha C.
Philip Law
Brandon Apelian
Sue G.
Katie Dale
Jennifer Kraynak Orriss
Jeff Kragel
Will White
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Jill and Aileen were very helpful in preparing out home to be sold. They suggested repainting a few rooms and then arranged for the home to be staged. They advertised the open house in the neighborhood and got a good turnout. We got four good offers after the weekend and accepted the best one. Things went smoothly.

— Roger U. | Jill & Aileen were very helpful...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I met Jill and Aileen for the first time five years ago. They were so protective of their clients and aggressively negotiated for me. Therefore, I subsequently asked them to be my agent, and we have had a very wonderful relationship since then. As my agent for purchasing a house or looking for a tenant, they have never disappointed me.

— James & Jane | Aileen & Jill have never disappointed me...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Lisa Lewis is a treasure! We were in the area looking for a home to move to from the Midwest. When the ones that were available and Lisa showed them to us, didn’t work out, we headed back to the Midwest. But Lisa stayed on top of new listings that we’d be interested in and contacted us immediately when they became available. She helped with setting up viewings for our daughter who lived in the area unti...

— Terri Velasco | Lisa Lewis is a treasure!...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We had a great experience working with Jill and Aileen last fall. They were knowledgeable, extremely good with potential buyers of our house and were able to help us sell quickly in a slow market. We love them and recommend them highly!

— Debbie & Tim W. | Highly recommend Jill & Aileen...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We cannot recommend Emily Capretta enough! In this crazy market we needed to find a home that checked a lot of different boxes in a short period of time. Emily not only found us that home quickly but negotiated brilliantly and saved us money! One of Emily's strengths is how well she listened to our needs and kept us, her client as her priority through the whole transaction! Emily Capretta worked tireless...

— Shannon Bartlett | Emily Capretta worked tirelessly for us, and she will for you too!...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Jill has represented our family and friends on the purchase and sale of homes and has been nothing but a pleasure to work with. She knows the Conejo Valley inside and out, is prompt, personable and has always represented our best interests. I would highly recommend her to anyone buying or selling. Jill listed our home, in Westlake Village, for sale and it sold the same day. I attribute this entirely to J...

— John & Rachel K. | Jill Struck knows the Conejo Valley inside and out...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Aileen and Jill have lived and worked in this area for many years. They are extremely bright and remember everyone! And best of all, everyone likes them! This is a very intense and competitive market, it was difficult for us to find a home and a loan. Jill and Aileen were persistent and encouraging and we are thrilled with our house and their help. I know we would never have it without their skill! I am ...

— Derek R. | Jill and Aileen were persistent and encouraging...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Aileen and Jill were great to work with and made the whole experience extremely easy. They were very helpful and knowledgeable, always keeping us up to date on the homes that were available in our price range and showed us numerous properties. Aileen and Jill were always on time and very pleasant to work with. We will definitely use them again in the future.

— Michael G. | We will definitely use them again in the future...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
My mom had passed away and I needed help selling her house. Margaret was able to give a sale price as well as ideas to add to that value. She is honest, up front, conscientious, ethical, patient and so easy to work with. She goes above and beyond when assisting in my home sale. Her knowledge of California law as it pertains to real estate is unbelievable. Would love to have her as my real estate agen...

— NR Arakelian | Margaret goes above and beyond...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Debbie Cleary is amazing. She has a great work ethic and an even greater heart. Our home was in escrow within the first 2 weeks with a backup offer. And she knew exactly what we were looking for and she only took us to see new homes that she knew would work for us. Debbie made things so easy. I had never done anything like this on my own and she had the patience and knowledge to get me through this ...

— Sherri Finn-Werber | Debbie made it so easy...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I went on the Concept Fine Homes kitchen tour and the team showed me around many of the homes and explained the improvements that had taken place. They were very nice and knowledgeable and pointed out some of the advantages that the new designs provided. The homes were all beautiful. I look forward to seeing other homes in the future.

— Tom Blanchfield | I went on the Concept Fine Homes kitchen tour..

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Margaret was a great realtor to work with. She help my husband and I with the sale of our home. She was amazing, professional and easy to work with.

— Nayri Shmavonian | Margaret was amazing...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We partnered with Jill & Aileen 5 years ago when we wanted to step up to our next home as our family expanded. They helped us both sell our existing home and buy the next home. They were excellent to work with. Their experience really benefited us as there were difficult sellers and buyers. They stayed focused on making a successful deal for all parties but looking out for us, their client. We have recom...

— Laura & Jeff L. | Jill & Aileen were excellent to work with...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
What a wonderful experience I had with the purchase of my new home with Chris Ferguson and Margaret Dutton at Concept Fine Homes. Being an out of town buyer, I appreciated the the extensive local knowledge and experience with the intricacies of a real estate transaction in California. They are a great team, and they provided a high level of attention to the details of the transaction and a willingness to...

— John N. | Chris & Margaret are a great team...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Within 14 days of establishing a geographic boundary for my future residence, Margaret worked tirelessly to locate a condo for me. She negotiated a favorable price and terms, carefully monitored contingency periods and informed me of all issues every step along the way. I would not hesitate to work with her again. She is extremely knowledgeable of the contract, professional and articulate.

— Steven Kamajian | Margaret is extremely knowledgeable...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Aileen and her team are the best! Looking for a home for almost 2 years, Aileen remained positive, patient and helpful. She guided us in what home was right for us. She was quick to respond to any questions and always on top of negotiations. Most importantly, we developed a relationship built on trust. Wouldn’t want to work with anyone else!

— Hope Zimmerling | We developed a relationship built on trust...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Margaret Mooradian Dutton took amazing care with us on the entire process of purchasing our perfect home. We have been working with Margaret for almost 5 years. We were not in a hurry. She was very patient with us. During the purchase and escrow phase, Margaret took care of all the details. She was always supportive and professional. We highly recommend her services.

— Denise Kaprielian | Margaret took care of all the details...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We have worked almost entirely with Aileen and Jill, and we had such a great first experience with them, that we used them a second time. Both times Aileen and Jill made us feel like we were their only clients. They were so responsive, and really listened to what was important to us. When we were purchasing a new home, we really appreciated that they never tried to talk us into something that wasn’t righ...

— Lauren & Will | We credit Aileen and Jill’s expertise...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Margaret Dutton is my "go to" Real Estate professional and has been for me for many years. She is a credit to her profession and is a pleasure to do business with. Whether for a purchase or a sale, she is the one to get in touch with. She finds the best tenants through her client vetting for solid leases that always have had great results.

— Philip Dumbrille | Margaret Dutton is my "go to"...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We worked closely with Jill and Aileen when relocating from Europe to the Thousand Oaks area. They were responsive, extremely knowledgeable and helped make our home purchasing experience as stress-free as possible. We were on an accelerated timeline and doing much of the work from across continents, and even with these barriers they provided thoughtful guidance, were timely in responding and handled ever...

— Nicole L. | I would highly recommend working with Jill and Aileen!...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We have a lot of clients move into the area looking for short term rentals and/or home purchases for their off-season. For 10+ years we have worked with the team at Concept, starting with Aileen and now Emily for the past few years. Besides being timing, professional, efficient and having the ultimate discretion, Emily is a resource for any contact you need in the community. Her services don’t stop when...

— Proactive Sports

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I had the best time visiting the kitchen tour last week! We were welcomed with drinks, goodie bags, and pamphlets showing before & after remodeling. The team working were extremely welcoming and personally showed me around to each house and honestly just made me feel at ease and comfortable throughout the whole experience. Will be using this company & recommending to friends!

— Lindsey Blanchfield

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
The kitchen design tour was awesome. What a great way for people looking for homes or new designs by getting a chance to envision a variety of styles. Concept Fine Homes just know how to bring out the best. They did a great job with all the marketing to tie it all together and I’m sure everyone left with some great ideas.

— Michael O'Connor

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I had the best experience working with Debbie Cleary on the purchase of my home in 2019/2020. The timing was not the best, as it was during the pandemic plus my circumstances as a buyer were a bit challenging as I was still going through a complicated divorce. Even with those obstacles Debbie made the experience positive and helped me immensely throughout the whole process. Her real estate knowledge an...

— Katy Balladares | I highly recommend Debbie Cleary for the job...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
If I could give them 10 stars I would. Emily and Aileen helped me and my husband find the perfect first home to start our family ( 4 months pregnant), I did not think I could afford my home but Emily understood my needs and the value of the house. We were able to get the home under asking and they were there every step of the way to help me with the escrow and inspections (the sellers realtor was not pre...

— Michelle Lau | Our home has now gained so much value...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Margaret is extremely knowledgeable, trustworthy, and communicative, and was helpful during the entire process of selling our home. Her negotiation skills were topnotch and very much appreciated. We would definitely use her again and recommend her to our friends.

— Lisa Lewis | Margaret is extremely knowledgeable...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Margaret Mooradian Dutton has been our family realtor for the past 20 years, taking us from our first condominium all the way to our current “forever home” in our dream neighborhood. Margaret is a true professional, as she is knowledgeable in her field and completely dedicated to the needs of her clients. Her responsiveness sets her apart from her peers. She is compassionate, and truly looks out for you ...

— Amanda Haver | Margaret would be an asset to anyone looking to buy a home...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Best Decision I’ve Ever Made!!! Jill & Aileen found me the perfect investment property to purchase. As a tenant occupied property, the transaction could have been stressful and uncomfortable. Jill & Aileen, along with the Concept Fine Homes team came through for me. As the future landlord, the stress of interrupting the current tenants could have started things off on the wrong foot...not with this team ...

— Stuart Shelton | Best Decision I’ve Ever Made!!!...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We have been working with Emily during our rent/buy situation in Westlake. She’s super helpful,responsive and knowledgeable about everything in this community. From helping me with my sons school suggestions to finding me a sitter, she’s always available. And is she doesn't have the answer or contact to what we need, the team at Concept does!

— Lindsey B. | Emily is super helpful,responsive and knowledgeable...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
We have bought 5 homes due to company relocation and have several friends with similar experiences that we keep in touch with. None of my previous transactions, nor those of my friends that I am aware of, comes anywhere near the satisfaction and pleasantry of our recent dealings with you. You are without a doubt the most outstanding real estate broker we’ve met. You demonstrated professionalism, honesty...

— Neal Bear | Debbie, you were extremely patient with us...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Margaret is the best agent. She really looks out for you as the client. For my wife and I she would check the house out prior to us showing us. I felt like she really cared for our well being. If you need an agent please reach out to Margaret Dutton.

— Benjamin Matzkind | Margaret is the best agent...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I began working with Lisa as I represented my mother who was out of state in the purchase of a property. Working with my mother remotely represented several challenges but Lisa was exceedingly patient with me and very helpful! She knew I was frustrated acting as a representative to someone who could not see the property in person and she repeatedly gave me great advice and helped keep me calm. The entire...

— Kels | Lisa Lewis for all of your real estate needs!...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Margaret was amazing to work with. My experience with her was amazing and smooth. Margaret went the extra mile to see that the sale of my condo was easy and she was always there to lend a helping hand. I would highly recommend!

— Carla Mason | Margaret went the extra mile...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I can’t say enough exceptional words about working with Margaret. She has been outstanding throughout all of our dealings with real estate. We met 14 years ago when we purchased out condo from her. Through the years she has helped us obtain renters, manage the condo, all while we have have been out of state. She recently sold our condo, and helped us navigate a slightly tricky sale with lots of moving p...

— George & Theresa Brennan | Margaret will achieve amazing results for you...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Realtor Debbie Cleary has been a wonderful Realtor partner to stage for. My staging company (Ventura County Home Staging) has been working with her and her clients for many years. I always look forward to these successful collaborations!

— Pamela Smith | Debbie Cleary has been a wonderful Realtor partner to stage for...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Debbie Cleary was truly exceptional as our realtor. We had an opportunity for relocation and were under a short time frame. We chose Debbie to be our selling agent. She worked tirelessly with us to ensure the house was ready in a short time frame. Fortunately, our home sold before processing and Debbie followed through on all details as we were already re-located at the point of listing. Debbie has a hig...

— Jamie Holland | Debbie Cleary will work with you to make your dreams a reality...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Margaret Mooradian is our 1st Choice in real estate services, I would highly recommend her to anyone I know. She is professional, and goes above and beyond to service her clients. Very knowledgeable in Ventura county and the Fresno area! She is our go to gal for real estate property!

— Shelley Apelian | Margaret Mooradian is our 1st choice...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Margaret helped us with the sale of our house. Wouldn't have been able to get it all done without her help. I would highly recommend her for the buying or selling or your house. She adds the personal touch!

— Steve Magruder | Margaret adds the personal touch!

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Debbie sold our home in Long Canyon Estates and arranged a purchase of another bigger home within the same neighborhood. It was a daunting task since we wanted to move from our house to our new home without spending on storage or living in an apartment. She made sure that all the parties involved agreed to that and negotiated the best possible deal on our new home.

— Juan Carlos Ducca | Debbie sold our home...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I have used Jill and Aileen to represent me for two different moves as both buyer's and seller's agents, so they have represented me in four different real estate transactions over the past six years. They have always fought to get me the best price and terms in every transaction and went above and beyond to help my homes look as presentable as possible to potential buyers. I would absolutely recommend t...

— Nick Rieskampf | They have always fought to get me the best price...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
I needed someone who knew the area well, Margaret not only found a home with all details I wanted but made the experience very pleasant and positive. I put my trust into my real estate agent and she was there for all my concerns, making sure to follow through on my questions. I can truly say I made the right purchase because of her and her advice.

— Israel Figueroa | I can truly say I made the right purchase because of Margaret...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
By far, the best! I‘ve purchased several properties in my neighborhood, using several agents. All transactions were mostly positive experiences, however none perfect. But with Jill it has been flawless. And this particular purchase came with an unfortunate bonus: an extra difficult and dishonest seller‘s agent. Jill handled it all with the utmost professionalism, expertise, and tact. Thus protecting my...

— Tony Di Carlo | Step 1: Call Jill...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Working with Emily through this process was wonderful. She made sure it was stress free and seamless! Her expertise and insight were extremely valuable! We couldn’t me more pleased and grateful for our experience.

— Natasha C. | Emily made sure it was stress free and seamless!...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Carly has to be one of the most informative & helpful agents I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet!! My experience at her open house made me feel welcomed and at ease, which is something I’ve never experienced with another realtor!! Definitely give Carly a call.

— Philip Law | Carly has to be one of the most informative & helpful agents...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Margaret is great! She is the best realtor I know who is extremely polite, kind and professional. I highly recommend her for anyone in Ventura County and Fresno!

— Brandon Apelian

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Debbie found me my dream home! She took charge, yet was patient with me, and always responded immediately. She could sense what I was looking for and was not content until I found the place that would not have me wondering what new listing might come up the next day. A pleasure from start to finish. Thanks Debbie!

— Sue G. | Debbie found me my dream home!...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Working with Lisa Lewis was a total pleasure. She sold a home for me and found two more for my daughters. No problem big or small was beyond her scope. Lisa always handled the transactions effortlessly and professionally.

— Katie Dale | Working with Lisa Lewis was a total pleasure...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Deb was phenomenal when she helped us sell our house. Everything was staged so beautifully and then she helped us navigate the multiple offers!

— Jennifer Kraynak Orriss | Debbie was phenomenal...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Amazing experience and first class service all the way. There was nothing Emily didn’t handle for us at every stage in the process. Highly recommend her and the team. Thank you!!!

— Jeff Kragel | Amazing experience and first class service all the way...

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Emily Capretta was very helpful in helpful in helping us find a home. She was very proactive in giving us options and communicated effectively.

— Will White | Emily was very proactive...

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