Buying a Home

This guide provides an overview of the home buying process. We include some questions and issues for you to consider at each stage of the process, as you narrow your search down to particular neighborhoods and then to specific homes. We invite you to browse through this guide and call us to discuss any questions you have. The home buying process can be complicated, but our goal is simple: to help you find the right home and pay the right price.

For a flowchart summary of the home buying process, click the button below:


I’m interested in buying a home. Where do I start?

Start by thinking about the area you’d like to live in. Consider these questions:

  • What do you and your family like to do?
  • How do you spend your free time?
  • Where do you work/what will your commute look like?
  • Are you moving somewhere for the school district, perhaps because you’re looking for a school with good API scores? Or is it important for your children to stay in their current school?

Try to think about not only what your life looks like today, but what it may look like a few years down the road. Don’t underestimate the importance of living close to work, schools, and the things that you like to do — minimizing the amount of time you spend in a car not only frees up time for other activities, but works wonders do reduce your stress level.

Next, look at the cost realities of your favorite locations. For example, let’s say you’d like to live in Palo Alto because you want your kids to go to great public schools — is that financially feasible? A single-family home on the lower end in Palo Alto costs well over $1,000.000. You may want to consider nearby locations based on your needs. For example, if you’re looking for good schools, take a look at Los Altos, whose elementary schools have higher API scores than the schools in Palo Alto.

There are many resources available that can help you take stock of your financial situation (e.g., a home affordability calculator). You can take advantage of such readily‑available resources, or talk to a mortgage professional who can give you more specific guidance based on your particular circumstances. We can put you in touch with good mortgage, investment, or tax professionals if you’re interested.

I know the city I want to live in. What should I do next?

We strongly urge you to learn about the neighborhoods in the city where you’d like to live. Each neighborhood has a special feel. Browse through neighborhood guides to learn about the different neighborhoods (we can provide you with such guides), then take some time to explore your favorite neighborhoods. Strolling through a neighborhood at different times of the day and talking to people is the best way to pick up on the neighborhood’s vibe.

Here are some specific questions to think about as you investigate different neighborhoods:

  • Does the neighborhood have a good feel?
  • Is there a certain school or park that you want to be within walking distance of?
  • Is there a neighborhood association?
  • Are there rules that limit what you can do with your property? For example, a neighborhood may have Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) with a single story overlay that prohibits the addition of a second story to homes.
  • Is the neighborhood in a flood zone?

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few specific neighborhoods, sign up to receive notifications of new property listings in those neighborhoods (we can set you up for such notifications). Staying on top of the market in the neighborhoods that you’re interested in is by far the best way to prepare yourself to make a successful offer when you find the home that you want. Knowing how many houses are available in those neighborhoods, how their prices and features compare, how long the houses stay on the market, how many offers they get, and how their list price compares to their sale price can help you prepare an offer with confidence that you’re putting forth a fair price and not overpaying. We monitor the market at the neighborhood level in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, and Menlo Park, and can discuss trends in your favorite neighborhoods with you.

How do I pick a specific home?

Once you have an idea about which neighborhoods you want to live in, it’s time to find a specific home. Start by figuring out what features are important to you. Take some time to distinguish between “needs” and “wants.” Here are a few questions to think about beyond the basics (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage):

  • What are your storage requirements?
  • How do you plan to use your yard? If you have pets or children, or if you like to entertain, it may be important to you to find a home with a large backyard.
  • Do the lot and the home provide adequate privacy for your family?
  • Does the orientation of the home have good feng shui?
  • Does the home have “green” features to assure good indoor air quality, comfort, and energy savings?

Other items to consider include skylights, new windows, and updated countertops.

Often times you’ll find a home that lacks some features you want (e.g., an upgraded kitchen or hardwood floors), but that has “good bones” (a pleasant layout and floor plan, solid construction, etc.). We can discuss the cost of modifying the home to suit you, and put you in touch with skilled contractors who can help you customize the home for you and your family.

Of course, you must also look at your finances and determine an appropriate price range for your home. Take advantage of tools like mortgage calculators and home affordability calculators to determine what your monthly mortgage payments will be and how far you can stretch when you’re house hunting. If you’re currently renting, figure out what your cash flow will look like after you buy a home (we can run scenarios to let you compare your rent‑versus‑buy cash flow). We can also put you in touch with mortgage professionals and financial planners who can help you evaluate of your financial situation and model various scenarios. As you narrow down your search, you’ll ultimately want to get a pre‑approval letter from a lender to make your offer as strong as possible.

As for the mechanics of searching, there are many online services that you can use to browse through the available inventory of homes. These services are straightforward to use and widely available, particularly in tech‑savvy Silicon Valley. If you’d prefer, we can set up searches for you on the Multiple Listings Service (MLS), with filters for your personal criteria, and let you scan through new homes as they come on the market. You can browse through listings from these searches at your convenience and on your own schedule.

When you narrow your search down to a few likely candidates, you’ll want to visit those homes. Newly listed homes are frequently held open on weekends — you can visit them on your own, or we can visit the homes with you and give you our candid advice about their pros and cons and whether we think they’re a good value in the current market. If a specific home appeals to you and you’re eager to see the home before it’s held open, we can call the listing agent and set up an appointment for you to see it. As we get to know you and develop an understanding of what features work for you and what features don’t work, we can also pre‑screen homes for you to save you time.

When you find a particular home that suits you, you’ll probably want to visit the home multiple times. We can work with the listing agent and the seller to set up appointments for you to see the home, or take you to see it directly if it’s vacant. We recommend that you visit the home at different times of the day. Check out the light and the noise level; walk through the neighborhood; drive or bike between the home and your office at rush hour to get a feel for what your commute will be like. Visualize what your day will look like living in the home. Take the time and make sure the home is right for you.

I found a home I want. What’s next?

Once you find the home you want, that’s when the intense work begins — and that’s where we shine. Making a successful offer and closing a home purchase transaction can be a long and strenuous process that includes the following steps, among others:

  • researching the local market and deciding on a fair price point;
  • putting together an offer that balances your needs with making the offer as attractive as possible for the sellers;
  • writing and presenting your offer persuasively;
  • receiving one or more counter-offers and negotiating with the sellers;
  • securing financing;
  • researching disclosures;
  • completing a home inspection and any necessary repairs;
  • removing contingencies; and
  • working with an escrow agent to close the transaction.

If that seems like a lot work, it is. Be prepared to spend significant time and energy as you put in offers on multiple homes and go through the closing process. At the same time, take comfort in the expert advice and service that we provide — we can guide you through every step of the process efficiently and professionally. We can help you:

  • Pick a good price point and tailor your offer for a specific home.

    • With our knowledge of the market, we can help you determine whether a home is a good value, and tailor your offer for that home. If the home is not a perfect fit and there are multiple alternatives available, you may want to put in an offer at the low end of the home’s price range in order to leave yourself resources to modify the home so that it’s suitable for you and your family. On the other hand, if the home is a really good fit compared to the alternatives that are available, you may want to put in a strong offer (an offer at the asking price or higher, and with few or no contingencies) in order to maximize the likelihood that the sellers will accept your offer.
  • Modify the purchase contract to fit your needs.

    • We have extensive experience drafting agreements. We can help you understand the purchase agreement and modify it to fit your needs.
  • Create a polished and persuasive offer.

    • Smart sellers price their home to attract multiple offers. We craft your offer package so that it’s complete, clearly organized, and easy to understand, and we highlight its strengths persuasively so that sellers will find it attractive even if it’s not the strongest offer. Moreover, we stake our personal reputation on being honest, diligent, and resourceful; this reputation may influence a home’s listing agent to recommend your offer over others because they trust us to deliver a high-quality offer (an offer that is fair and that can close smoothly and quickly) from our clients.
  • Negotiate with the sellers.

    • We have formal training in negotiation techniques and extensive experience applying those techniques. We pride ourselves on coming up with creative solutions to address issues that arise in the course of your purchase. We can help you understand counter-offers put forth by the sellers, and respond with counter-offers of your own that meet both your goals and those of the sellers.
  • Follow through on your purchase transaction so that it closes smoothly and efficiently.
    • The closing process can be long and complicated. We pay close attention to the details of your transaction (completing necessary repairs, removing contract contingencies, etc.) so that there are no surprises and the closing proceeds on schedule. We’ll discuss any issues that come up, research options with you, and provide recommendations about how to resolve the issues. Our goal is to help you choose effective solutions and reach an outcome that’s right for you.

How much do you charge?

In real estate transactions, buyers don’t pay their agent directly. Buyers pay a home’s purchase price to the sellers, the sellers pay a commission to their listing agent, and the listing agent customarily splits the commission with the buyers’ agent.

Do both brokers at Orion Partners represent me?

Absolutely! When you retain us to help you purchase a home, we both dedicate our full attention and resources to you. Our strengths are complementary and they enable us to represent you in a much more comprehensive and effective manner than a single agent could. Whether you like to crunch numbers or talk things through until you’re comfortable at an emotional level, we can address your needs and guide you through the home buying process in a way that works for you. You really do have two professionals in your corner.

Give us a call to get started.

Call us today to start a conversation about your real estate goals. The home buying process is very exciting but it can also be quite stressful. We can help you find the right home, pay the right price, and navigate the process smoothly.

Andy & Lori Orion