10 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers in San Diego

Being a first-time homebuyer can be an intimidating dream for a lot of people, especially in San Diego’s competitive real estate market. However, with the right information, planning, saving, and real estate agent, your dreams of owning a home could be turned into a reality. Below are 10 tips for first-time homebuyers from top San Diego REALTORS® Mary Beth Kellee and Philip Fredricksen. If you’d like to learn more, you’re invited to a free First-Time Homebuyer Seminar & Mixer on May 16, 2018 in San Diego. Scroll to the bottom of this blog for more details.

Know Your Credit Score

You’ll want to check your credit before you start the home buying process. Your credit is an important factor in whether or not you get approved for a mortgage loan, and it can help determine your interest rate and possibly the terms of the loan. Be sure to dispute any errors you find that could be dragging down your credit score.

Find ways to improve your credit by paying off a large sum of any outstanding debt. If you’ll be applying for a mortgage anytime soon, avoid new credit activity like applying for a new credit card or auto loan. When you open a new credit account, the lender does a hard inquiry, which will temporarily ding your credit score.

Know How Much You Can Afford for a Home

Knowing what you can afford before you start looking for a home can save you a lot of time and heartache. Often times you’ll find a home you love, but it’s out of your price range and suddenly nothing else compares. Use a home affordability calculator to estimate how much house you can safely afford.

Save for a Down Payment


If first-time home ownership is your goal for the near future, we recommend you start saving money now for the down payment. It’s common to put 20% down on a new home, however many lenders now permit much less. In fact, some first-time home buyer programs require as little as 3% for a down payment. Even if you do put a smaller percentage down, it can still be a hefty sum. For instance, a 3% down payment on a 300,000 home is $9,000.

There are many first-time buyer programs that could help you get into your first home in San Diego, such as Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, and Veterans Affairs loans. The California Housing Finance Agency, or CalHFA, also offers several loan programs to help qualified first-time home buyers get a mortgage.

Using a free down payment calculator can to help you set a goal for how much you should save for a down payment. Need some ideas on how to save money for a down payment? Consider setting aside your tax refund and work bonuses and set up an automatic savings plan with a few hundred dollars per month going into it.

Save for Closing Costs, Too

In addition to budgeting for a down payment, you’ll also need to save enough money for closing costs, which typically cost between 2% to 5% of your loan amount. When it comes to reducing closing costs, you can shop around for the best prices on certain closing expenses, such as title searches, homeowners insurance, and home inspections. You could also try to negotiate having the seller pay for a portion of your closing costs during your home-buying negotiations.

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage & Compare Rates

To improve your chances of getting the home you want, we recommend getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan. Mortgage pre-approval is basically a promise from the lender that you’re qualified to borrow up to a certain amount of money at a certain interest rate (subject to property appraisal and other requirements). A preapproval letter in hand will make you look much more serious to a seller than someone with only a prequalification or nothing at all.

We usually advise that you to talk to at least three to five lenders and mortgage brokers to shop around for the best interest rates and programs. San Diego REALTORS® Mary Beth Kellee and Philip Fredricksen would be happy to refer you to experienced and trusted mortgage brokers and lenders they’ve worked with in the past.

Consider Property Types


Do you want a single-family home, condo, townhouse, or loft?  While single-family homes typically provide more space, condos usually offer extra amenities and less maintenance. However, you’ll have to pay a homeowners association (HOA) fee with a condo.

Do you prefer certain architectural styles like Spanish or Craftsman? Or perhaps something a little more modern?

Research San Diego Neighborhoods

The old saying “location, location, location” is still as true as ever. San Diego offers a variety of neighborhoods, each with their own unique vibe, culture, and pros and cons. When looking for your target neighborhoods, do research on the school districts (even if you don’t have kids), crime rates, and traffic and zoning. What are the local hotspots, such as restaurants, shops, and parks? Walk and drive around the neighborhood at different times of the day to get a feel for the area. Don’t forget to calculate how living there will affect your work commute.

Choose the Right Buyer’s Agent


Choosing a skilled, motivated, and knowledgeable real estate agent is more important than ever in San Diego’s competitive real estate market. It’s to your benefit to work with a buyer’s agent, as buyer’s agents typically work for free for a buyer and only get paid by the seller when a home is purchased. The right realtor also has connections beyond the MLS (multiple listing service) and often know about upcoming properties in San Diego County before they even get listed. A good buyer’s agents is also a skilled negotiator and will help ensure you get the best deal possible.

REALTOR® team Mary Beth Kellee and Philip Fredricksen have been in the business for many years. They are members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and live by the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, which requires REALTORS® to cooperate with each other in furthering clients’ best interests.

In addition to being a real estate agent and broker, Philip Fredricksen is also an attorney with over 28 years of experience. He is a skilled negotiator, especially when it comes to real estate contracts and ensuring his clients are protected. Mary Beth Kellee is also known for her savvy real estate negotiating. In fact, Team Fredricksen & Kellee ranked in the Top 10 in Sales Volume in 2017 for their brokerage of over 200 agents.

Interview REALTOR® Team Fredricksen & Kellee

Whether you’re a first-time or tenth-time home buyer in San Diego County, you’ll want Philip Fredricksen and Mary Beth Kellee on your team. View some of their client testimonials to learn more about their concierge REALTOR® services.

SAVE THE DATE: Free First-Time Home Buyer Seminar

Want to learn more tips and tricks for buying your first home? We’ll be hosting a FREE seminar for first-time homebuyers on October 20, 2018.


  • When: Saturday, October 20, 2018 from 9am to 11am
  • Where: Ascent Real Estate, Inc.’s Conference Center in Banker’s Hill at 410 Kalmia St., San Diego, CA 92101
  • RSVP: Please RSVP to Mary Beth Kellee @ 858-442-8002 or email: mbk@mbkassociates.com
Posted on May 5, 2018 at 7:26 pm
Mary Beth Kellee & Philip Fredricksen | Category: Uncategorized

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