Buyer's Guide

A complimentary guide when looking to buy a home.

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


Step 1: Deciding to Buy

Are you tired of paying rent? Have you decided to pay your own mortgage and not your landlord’s? Have you outgrown your current home? Are you looking for an investment portfolio? Are you looking for a rental property? Would you like a larger yard? Would you rather live in a different area? Do you want to shorten your commute? Having a clear sense of your reasons for buying will help you choose the right property when you've decided to look for a home in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, or Redondo Becah.


Step 2: Build your Green file

Before you begin shopping, it’s best to do a bit of homework on your finances, starting with Building a Green File. A green file contains all your important financial documents. You will need it to secure financing for your property. The typical green file should contain:

  • Financial statements
  • Bank accounts
  • Investments
  • Credit cards
  • Auto loans
  • Recent pay stubs
  • Tax returns for two years
  • Copies of leases for investment properties
  • 401K statements, life insurance, stocks, bonds, and mutual account information.

Check Your Credit Rating

Your credit score will have a huge impact on what type of property you can buy, and at what price. It is first recommended to check your credit rating with an experienced lending institution so that we can determine what you can afford. The lender will research your credit ratings from the three credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. We will be happy to recommend experienced, knowledgeable lenders in the residential, construction, and commercial and investment real estate fields.

Be Careful With Your Finances

Now is not a good time to make sudden career changes or large purchases. You want to approach your property purchase from a position of financial stability.


Step 3: Select an Agent

Buying a property requires making many important financial decisions, understanding complex issues and completing a lot of paperwork. It helps to have an expert in your corner when undertaking such a large purchase. We can guide you through this process, and also provide you with access to property listings before they hit the general market.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing your real estate professional:

  • Look for a full-time agent – one who has experience completing transactions similar to yours.
  • Interview a few agents: Are they familiar with the area in which you are interested?
  • Ask how much time the agent will have for you, and if they are available at night and on weekends.
  • Ask about their credentials and education: A good agent will continually strive to improve and gain knowledge of the latest real estate trends and hold the highest designations in their respective fields of expertise.
  • Does the agent return your calls promptly? Time is money when attempting to buy a property.
  • Ask for a list of properties they have sold or a list of references.
  • Choose an agent who listens attentively to your needs and concerns. Pick an agent, with whom you feel comfortable.

Step 4: Time to go Shopping

Once those preparations are out of the way, it is time to find the right property for you.

  • Get to know the neighborhoods, complexes, or subdivisions, which interest you. Drive around and get a feel for what it would be like to own a property in the area. Start getting a sense of the properties available in those areas.
  • Select a few properties that interest you the most and have your real estate agent make appointments to visit them. Ask your real estate agent about the potential long term resale value of the properties you are considering.
  • Once you have picked out the property you want to purchase, your real estate agent can help you make an offer that the seller will accept. A good agent will investigate the potential costs and expenses associated with the new property. An agent can also help you draft your offer in a way that gives you the advantage over another offer.

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

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Step 5: Escrow, Inspections and Appraisal


I: The Initial Agreement And Deposit

An effective agreement is a legal arrangement between a potential purchaser and the property’s seller.

Some important tips to keep in mind to streamline the process:

  • Keep written records of everything. For the sake of clarity, it will be extremely useful to transcribe all verbal agreements including counter-offers and addendums and to convert them into written agreements to be signed by both parties. We will assist you in drafting all the paperwork for your purchase and make sure that you have copies of everything.
  • Stick to the schedule. Now that you have chosen your offer, you and the seller will be given a timeline to mark every stage in the process of closing the real estate contract. Meeting the requirements on time ensures a smoother flow of negotiations so that each party involved is not in breach of their agreements. During the process we will keep you constantly updated, so you will always be prepared for the next step.

II: The Closing Agent

When buying a home, you'll need a closing agent, either a title company or an attorney, to handle the final steps. The closing agent safeguards your deposit in escrow and thoroughly examines the property's recorded history to confirm that the title is clear of any issues. They also ensure that any new encumbrances are correctly added to the title. Be aware that some properties come with restrictions, such as building or parking limitations. Additionally, there may be recorded easements and encroachments that could affect how you use your property.


III: How To Hold Title

It's wise to consult an attorney or tax advisor about the best way to hold title. The method you choose for holding title can have significant legal, estate, and tax implications. For instance, holding title as joint tenants with the right of survivorship ensures that the property automatically passes to the surviving owner upon the death of the other. On the other hand, holding title as tenants in common allows for a more flexible distribution of ownership shares but may require probate upon death. Understanding these differences is crucial, especially when planning for the future, selling the property, or managing your estate. Consulting with professionals can help you make informed decisions that align with your long-term goals and financial planning.


IV: Inspections

Once your offer is accepted by the seller, you will need to have a licensed property inspector inspect the property within the time frame that was agreed upon in the effective contract to purchase. You may elect to have different inspectors inspect the property, if you wish to obtain professional opinions from inspectors who specialize in a specific area (eg. roof, HVAC, structure). If you are purchasing a commercial property, then you will need to have an environmental audit done on the site for the lending institution. We can recommend several different inspectors.

Depending on the outcome of these inspections, one of two things may happen:

a. Either each milestone is successfully closed and the contingencies will be removed, bringing you one step closer to the close, or

b. The buyer, after reviewing the property and the papers, requests a renegotiation of the terms of contract (usually the price).


V: Appraisal And Lending

It is imperative that you keep in close communication with your lender, who will let you know when additional documents are needed to approve your loan application and fund your loan. If the agreement is conditional upon financing, then the property will be appraised by a licensed appraiser to determine the value for the lending institution, via a third party. This is done so that the lending institution can confirm their investment in your property is accurate. Appraisers are specialists in determining the value of properties, based on a combination of square footage measurements, building costs, recent sales of comparable properties, operating income, etc. When you are within two weeks of closing, double check with your lender to be sure the loan will go through smoothly and on time.


Association Approval (if applicable)

If the property that you are purchasing is conditional upon an association approval, request the rules, regulations, and other important documents from the seller as soon as you have an effective agreement to purchase. Make sure that the application documents and processing fees are submitted to the appropriate person at the association by the required time. Fill out all of the information completely and legibly so there is no delay in processing the application. If you are required to meet with the association for your approval, make an appointment as soon as possible for the interview. Most associations require a certificate of approval before move-in. Your closing agent will request that the original copy of this approval letter be brought to the closing, so that it can be recorded with the deed in the county public records.


VI: Property Insurance

If you are obtaining a loan, you will be required by your lender to purchase a certain amount of insurance on the property. The value will depend on the lending institution and the purchase price of the property. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars a year on homeowners insurance by shopping around for insurance. You can also save money with these tips.

  • Consider a higher deductible. Increasing your deductible by just a few hundred dollars can make a big difference in your premium.
  • Ask your insurance agent about discounts. You may be able get a lower premium if your home has safety features such as dead-bolt locks, smoke detectors, an alarm system, storm shutters or fire-retardant roofing materials. Persons over 55 years of age or long-term customers may also be offered discounts.
  • Insure your house NOT the land under it. After a disaster, the land is still there. If you do not subtract the value of the land when deciding how much homeowner’s insurance to buy, you will pay more than you should.

We will be happy to recommend experienced knowledgeable insurance agents for every property type.


VII: Closing Day

If you have come this far, then this means that it is almost time for a congratulations, but don’t forget to tie up these loose ends:

  • Final Walk-Through Inspection

More of a formality than anything else, the final inspection takes place a day before, or the day of the closing. You will visit the property to verify that all is in working order, everything is the same as when you last viewed the property, that there are no extra items left behind, and that everything included in your purchase is still at the property.

  • Home Services And Utilities

We will provide a list of useful numbers for the activation of home services and utilities after the closing occurs.


VIII: Be Prepared

We are here to support you if any unexpected issues arise, even at the final stages of your homebuying process. Whether it's a sudden breakdown at the property or a minor detail that needs attention, there's no need to worry. Our team has extensive experience handling these problems efficiently and with minimal stress. We understand the importance of a smooth closing and are committed to ensuring that any last-minute glitches are resolved quickly, so you can move into your new home with peace of mind. Our expertise ensures that you're in good hands every step of the way.


IX: Closing

The closing agent will furnish all parties involved with a settlement statement, which summarizes and details the financial transactions enacted in the process. You and the seller(s) will sign this statement, as well as the closing agent, certifying its accuracy. If you are obtaining financing, you will have to sign all pertinent documentation required by the lending institution. If you are unable to attend the scheduled closing, arrangements can be made depending on the circumstances and the notice that we receive. If you are bringing funds to the transaction, you can elect to either have the funds wired electronically into the closing agent’s escrow account, or bring a certified bank check to the closing in the amount specified on the settlement statement. The seller should arrange to have all property keys and any other important information for you at the closing so that you may receive these items at this time.


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. 


Erin Helgerson

Right from the start, the Jen Caskey Group was impressive beyond expectation. As a first-time home seller, I had no idea what to expect, and Jen and Starr were professional, prepared, and patient with me. Their extended team is...
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Ariel Hankin

I am so thankful we partnered with Starr and so grateful to have had her in our corner during our house purchase and sale. We wanted to move to the South Bay and sell our home in LA. It was important to us to buy first and then...
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Ashley Peper

Jen and Stacia are the BEST! We sold our first home with them and couldn't imagine anyone else representing us. Their social media presence is strong and the way they promote their listings is unmatched. They made the process i...
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Work With Us

The Jen Caskey Group is here to help you determine your current property value, create a competitive offer, and expertly write and negotiate a contract. If you're looking to buy or sell real estate in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, or Redondo Beach, contact the Jen Caskey Group today for personalized assistance and expert guidance in these local markets.

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