Buying a Home in Bakersfield CA

Buying a Home in Bakersfield CARegardless whether you’re a Bakersfield CA native or relocating to the area you’ll want to read this article about Buying a Home in Bakersfield CA.  Buying a home in Bakersfield is a fairly simple process; first you’ll locate a Realtor, look at homes, make an offer and then once your offer is accepted enter escrow.  The buying process is pretty simplistic but choosing the right home can present some challenges.  When buying a home in Bakersfield you’ll want to also evaluate why you’re buying the home and how long you’re planning on staying.  These topics will help you focus on what’s important when it comes to selecting homes to look at.

The first step is finding the right agent, you’ll want to begin your home buying journey on the right foot so don’t just hire your brother-in-law or neighbor because they have a real estate license.  Unfortunately in the past it didn’t require much to become a licensed agent and many people rushed out during the boom in the early 2000’s to strike it rich in real estate.  Now, these agent are left with a license but most of them don’t know how to properly service their clients.  Just because someone has a real estate agent doesn’t mean they’re knowledgeable or experienced in that field.

Agent Hiring Tip:  Do not hire an agent that doesn’t work in real estate full time

Take some time to do your research and hire an agent that has the knowledge and experience to properly represent you.  Just like the tip above you’ll want to make sure you hire an agent that is working in real estate full time, to confirm this simply ask the Bakersfield CA Real Estate Agent for a copy of their recent sales and productivity for the last 12 months.  If the agent has sold 12 or more properties in the last rolling 12 months then it’s a good sign they’re giving the focus to their business that it needs and will likely be experienced enough to represent you properly.  Another good option is to seek out what others are saying, many online sites like Realtor.com, Zillow.com and even Yelp.com offer great agent reviews.  As a licensed agent serving Kern & Ventura Counties I’d appreciate the opportunity to assist you in your next home purchase in Bakersfield CA so I guess I’ll take a moment to introduce myself! :-)  I’ve been a licensed Realtor since 2006 and a licensed broker since 2009.  I’ve successfully managed a top producing real estate office in Bakersfield and have personally sold over 1,000 properties since being licensed.  One thing I am very proud of is my impeccable record with client satisfaction and reviews.  If you’re looking for an agent that will properly represent you and keep integrity, communication and ethical practices at the forefront of our business than please consider me for your next home purchase.  Click here to learn more about me, Jason Thoele.

Now that you have an agent (hopefully :) you’ve picked) you’re ready to look at homes right?  We’ll not quite… how are you planning to pay for this new home?  Are you paying cash or will you be needing a loan?  If you’ll require a loan then you’ll need to get approved with a lender.  Much of the same process applies with locating a lender that was done with finding an agent but one very good thing you have now is that you’ve hired an agent and most agents can offer you even more resources on getting a great lender to help you.  Most agents will have lenders they work with on a regular basis and can offer you those referrals.  As a buyer you want to make sure to do your due diligence on getting the best deal for you and your family but keep this in mind, your agent (especially if they’re a busier agent) will have likely seen good lenders and bad lenders throughout their transaction history.  Lean on your agent as a trusted real estate resource to help guide you through the process in selecting a good lender that can assist you.  You don’t need to make the mistake of hiring a bad lender when you have a good agent!

Buying a Home in Bakersfield CA

Believe me, I can definitely tell you some lender horror stories with the 1,000+ transactions I’ve closed in my day.  Unfortunately some lenders will tell their clients what they want to hear just to get them as a client instead of what their clients need to hear which is the truth and that may be that the Buyer’s simply not ready to buy a home yet.  Since being licensed in 2006 I’ve seen both good and bad lenders, lenders over-promising and under-delivering and only a small hand full of lenders that under-promise, over-deliver and are actually good at what they do.  The lenders I choose to do business with are the lenders that share in my philosophy of thinking which is Integrity & Simplicity Before Profitability.  The lenders I recommend are lenders I have personally used and continue to use for my own purchases, you can be assured that if I’m referring them they’re companies I personally use and not just companies that I do business with.  Having this relationship with my lenders allows them to know the level of service I expect for my client.  If you’re looking for a lender that will treat you right while offering honest communication and fair pricing then let me know and I can refer you to one of our preferred lenders.

Alright, let’s get to the good stuff, you’ve got an agent and now your pre-approved with a lender.  The next step in Buying a Home in Bakersfield CA is actually looking for a new home in Bakersfield CA!  At this point it’s a good time to have a discussion with your agent and establish exactly what you’re looking for in your new home.  Looking at homes for sale can be long drawn out or short process and it really all depends on how well you communicate with your agent what you’re looking for and how well the agent’s able to turn that information into properties for you to look at.  Establish the basics right off the bat, things like how many bedrooms and bathrooms, what’s the minimum square footage you can live with, what neighborhood, school or community do you want to live in or nearby and of course your budget.  Once you have these things figured out then you’ll be well on your way.  When it comes to your agent asking these questions make sure to provide as detailed information as possible, if your agent asks about lot size but doesn’t mention anything about a pool don’t feel bad about speaking up and telling your agent your preference on a pool and other items alike.  Additionally, when it comes to discussing pricing and budgets, don’t feel like your agent is trying to talk you up in price, most likely they’re instead trying to find out what the max price you’re ok with spending so your agent ensures they find you the best home that is within and not beyond your budget.

Native Bakersfield residents buying a home in Bakersfield CA will likely know the area well and what parts of town they’d like to live in and move to.  Buyers relocating to Bakersfield will have to rely on other resources and websites like Wikipedia, City of Bakersfield, Bakersfield Travel Guide and this article to help them in their home buying journey.  If you’re moving from out of town another good option is to schedule a trip into Bakersfield so your agent can give you a tour of the town, that way when it comes to buying a home in Bakersfield CA you’ll know the areas like a pro!

Bakersfield is made up of six main areas; Northwest, Southwest, South, East, Central and North.  The Northwest and Southwest parts of Bakersfield offer newer amenities like shopping centers, restaurants and other entertainment.  Additionally, the construction for homes is also newer in these areas with the oldest construction in these areas being in the mid 1980’s.  Most construction in the Northwest and Southwest though is in the 1990’s and well into the 2000’s with much new building still be completed presently.  Central Bakersfield is considered downtown and offers a busy nightlife, good walk-ability score and older craftsman style homes.  South, East and North Bakersfield are all pretty much the same with regards to it’s construction being mostly developed in the 1940’s 50’s and 60’s.  Many new home buyers in Bakersfield CA will often opt for homes closely located to their work and it’s good to note that traffic is not really an issue during most times of the day.

When buying a home in Bakersfield CA it’s important to know what you’re looking for.  Your Bakersfield CA Realtor will be able to help you find a home but I don’t think any agent can actually read minds so make sure you communicate your needs and wants in great detail.  Something to consider when searching for the perfect home is the neighborhood you’d like to live in, things like proximity to shopping, entertainment and schools usually play a part in a buyers wish-list so be aware to communicate your needs on these items during your conversations with your agent.  Another thing to be aware of if you have kids going to school will be the quality of their education.  A good resource to see how well schools are doing in the area is Great Schools which rates schools by several different metrics such as test scores and academic progress just to name a few.

Depending on your likes and dislikes and what your looking for in a home these more popular communities may or may not be of interest to you.  This list is not inclusive of all the neighborhoods but if you’d like a list of all areas please check out our Communities & Neighborhood Page.

Once you’ve located the perfect home the next step is to make an offer.  If your agent has been doing this awhile they’ll likely have rapport with many agents in town so don’t be afraid to ask your agent to place a call and see if the other agent has any offers.  The last thing you want to do is overpay and compete against yourself.  When you’re armed with the right information you can be assured to make the best decisions.  If there are no offers on the table then the next step would be to determine what the property is actually worth.  Agents have many different resources available to them to assist you as the buyer in making an educated, calculated offer.  Lean on your agent and ask them to pull comps (comps are properties that have recently sold in the area) for the neighborhood, this will assist you in knowing what the area is actually selling for.  Armed with this information you’ll know what similar properties are selling for so you can be assured you don’t overpay for a property.  Likewise, if it’s a property you actually are interested in buying then you also don’t make the mistake of insulting the seller with an uneducated, low-ball offer.  One of the worst things you can do as a buyer is make a low-ball offer on a property in a Seller’s market.  If you do this then do not be surprised when you get quick rejections or your offer is even just ignored.  For more information on our current Bakersfield CA market check out some recent Market Reports here.

Now, we’ve covered if there are no offers on a property and what that looks like but what if there are offers, how should we proceed?  Much of the same principles do apply, for instance your agent should call and see if the other agent will give some insight as to what you need to come in at to wrap the deal up.  Many times if there are multiple offers on a property, your agent and just how much rapport and business your agent’s done with the other agent will determine whether you get the property or not.  Seems strange right?  Look at it like this, agents like to do business with other agents they know are good, can close deals and are drama free.  Now, that doesn’t mean your offer of $5000 less is going to be accepted just because of your good agent but if your agent’s done a fair amount of business in the area it’s a big plus.  Next, try and find out what the other offers are looking like.  Does calling the other agent and asking about the other offers seem a little unfair to you?  Let me ask you a question, if you were the seller of the home and you had another buyer that would be willing to pay more for the property wouldn’t you want your agent to try and sell your home for the highest amount possible?  Some agent will disclose offer information and others won’t but if you don’t ask you don’t get.

At this point in the game you need to be aware of three things; 1) know what you’re signing in the offer contract  2) the availability and solidity of your pre-approval letter and  3) available funds for your Earnest Money Deposit.  The offer contract known as the California Residential Purchase Agreement is an ever-changing document, you can download a sample copy here or for the most updated version, please contact us and we can email one to you.  Make sure your agent goes over the contract with you and answers any questions you may have.  Most of the contract is boilerplate that cannot be changed but there are many check boxes and spots for optional initials within the contract that can change the tilt of things so definitely be aware of what you’re signing.  Let me be very blunt, if your credit has not been ran, your income and assets have not been verified with the lender and you have a pre-approval letter just throw it in the trash.  If these items haven’t been completed then you shouldn’t be writing an offer till they are and here’s why, later in this article we’ll discuss contingencies and when those contingencies are removed then you will likely loose your deposit which we are covering next.  The earnest money deposit is a sum of money that will be deposited into an escrow account, it’s an agreed upon sum that is noted on the purchase contract that is considered “Good Faith Money”.  This deposit will stay in escrow and not be given to either side, Buyer or Seller till either the deal goes through and closes or is cancelled.  We’ll talk about the cancellation process later in this article.

Ok, next we’ll talk about offer acceptance and the transaction process.  Once your offer has been presented to the Seller and accepted, “Acceptance Date” then your contingency timelines will begin.  As a buyer you’ll want to be aware of the contingencies in your offer and have an understanding of the contract and what your signing.  In this article will summarize some of the key-points of the contract but if you’re looking for a more detailed explanation of things check out our article on the California Residential Purchase Agreement.  Unless otherwise agreed to by both parties the standard contingency timelines are as follows; 17 days for inspections, 17 days for appraisal and 21 days for loan.

Inspection Contingency:  The inspection contingency creates the opportunity for a Buyer to do their due diligence and have the property inspected before buying it without being under duress.  During this 17 day inspection period a buyer can inspect the home themselves or hire applicable professional inspectors to inspect the home.  Unless otherwise agreed to in writing, a buyer’s deposit is not in jeopardy during this period as long as the buyer doesn’t remove their inspection contingency.  For more information on the inspection contingency please contact us.

Appraisal Contingency:  Much like the inspection contingency the Buyer has 17 days to complete their appraisal if financing is in place.  If Buyer is paying cash then an appraisal is optional and a Seller may very well counter the appraisal contingency out during offer negotiations.  During the appraisal contingency, if the appraisal comes in lower than value then the Buyers agent can negotiate price.  If Seller doesn’t agree to reduce the price to the appraised value and Buyer doesn’t want to pay over the appraised value then the Buyer can cancel.  Unless otherwise agreed to in writing, a buyer’s deposit is not in jeopardy during this period as long as the buyer doesn’t remove their appraisal contingency.

Loan Contingency:  Lastly you have the loan contingency, this 21 day contingency is in place so you as the Buyer can work with your lender to finalize everything and get your final underwritten approval.  Upon the 21 day contingency arrival date, make sure your lender has given you final approval before removing this contingency.

These three contingencies are in place to protect you the Buyer.  Make sure you use this time your allotted wisely and do not remove a contingency unless you’re certain of the repercussions of doing so.  If for some reason you’ve removed all three of these contingencies and you decide to cancel the escrow then your earnest money deposit may be up for grabs.

During the same time of your acceptance of the offer contract, the listing agent or seller will open a file with an escrow company.  This file process is called opening an escrow, one thing to point out at this time is that the escrow company is a neutral party to the transaction.  The escrow officers job and ultimately the reason for escrow is to collect information and data and serve as a neutral third party to make sure everything is accounted for in the transaction.  Never should an escrow officer get involved in a negotiation or make suggestions to one party or the other on the transaction process or deal.

Now that escrow has been opened the escrow officer will reach out to all parties and begin the escrow process.  As a Buyer you can expect many emails to start flowing back and forth, some emails will contain messages for you to review and/or items to sign while others may just to be keeping you informed.  Regardless, if you get an email from your Realtor, Lender or Escrow Officer please make sure to read them.  Your escrow officer will order the Natural Hazard Zone Disclosure report also known as an NHD, additionally your agent will also request from the listing side the Seller’s disclosures.  Make sure to read these documents very carefully as they will contain items like the Sellers Property Questionnaire and Transfer Disclosure Statement which you’ll want to be aware of.  These two documents are completed by the Seller and it’s the documents that ask the Seller many questions about the property that they need to answer.  Reading these documents are just as important as having the home inspector inspect the home.  The combination of the Seller’s disclosures, proper inspections and appraisal will ensure you as the Buyer are fully protected. 

Disclosure Review:  Do not rely on your agent to point out defects in disclosure paperwork.  Your agent is not going to have the knowledge to know what items you’re ok with or not ok with so review all disclosure paperwork carefully!

Once you get past the inspections there might be some items of concern, remember you have 17 days with your inspection contingency so now is the time to try and negotiate some repairs.  Some Buyers like to ask for everything noted on inspection report while others stick to health and safety related items.  It’s my experience that somewhere in the middle is reasonable and sticking to health and safety issues while adding a couple extra big ticket expenses that you’re not comfortable paying for is your best bet.  Now a Seller doesn’t have any obligation to fix any of the items you’re requesting them to fix in fact they technically have no obligation to even respond to your request but that’s why you have your 17 day inspection period.  Look at it like this, when you made the offer you agreed to purchase the property in it’s current condition (yes, all properties are sold in their as-is condition) however you’re not a home inspector so you hire a professional to make sure the home is in proper working condition.  When items are found (and they usually always are) that you’re not comfortable with then you are within your right under your inspection period to cancel but this is why we ask the Seller for repairs because obviously if the Seller will fix the defect, why not move forward since you loved the home enough to make an offer in the first place.  Assuming the Seller will agree to the repairs then you’re good to go but if they won’t then you need to make a decision of whether to cancel escrow and locate another home or waive your repair request and move forward.

So you’ve come this far and past the repair negotiation, whew!  Last two hurdles are the appraisal and loan and then you’re pretty much home free.  By the time you’ve negotiated your repairs you’re most likely going to have received your appraisal report.  As mentioned in the Appraisal Contingency section above there will be one of three outcomes, 1) appraisal comes in at value (this is most typical) 2) appraisal comes in higher than purchase price (do your happy dance now) or 3) appraisal comes in lower than purchase price (no more happy dance).  If the value comes in low then you’ll need to work with your agent to strategize and work out a game-plan on how to proceed.  With a low appraisal usually the options are pretty limited to either 1) seller agrees to reduce purchase price to appraised value 2) buyer agrees to bring in more money to make up for the deficit or 3) parties agree to mutually cancel.  Option #3 usually doesn’t happen unless the appraised value is considerably less than the purchase price.

Lastly, is finalizing the loan and there really isn’t much to discuss here because if your lender doesn’t have the loan underwritten approved by now then something most likely went sideways along the way.  Again, the loan contingency is your final contingency and if your lender is not 100% certain of your approval at this point then do not remove your contingency.  For now though we’re going to think optimistically… your loan is approved!  After your loan has final approval the lender will issue a closing disclosure to you.  This disclosure will have all your final numbers like interest rate, loan amount, monthly payments, etc.  You must review this disclosure and agree to its terms because if you don’t agree then the mandatory three day waiting period that must pass before you can close will never start.  Of course all the numbers you and the lender have discussed along the way are in balance so you sign the disclosure, wait your three days, sign loan docs, lender funds the loan and you then can close escrow.

Closing Escrow Tip:  While not mandatory, it’s always a good idea to celebrate now, after all you just bought a house!  Congratulations!!!  This is a great time and although there will be bumps and bruises along the way it’ll all be worth in it the end. 

As previously mentioned, my team and I really enjoy assisting clients buy and sell homes so if you’re considering buying a home in Bakersfield CA or any other cities within our service areas please contact us and allow us the opportunity to add you to our growing list of satisfied clients.

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