I’m assuming a few things here. I’m assuming you have a good income, you have great credit, you have a solid down payment (20% or more is ideal) and plan on living in your home for at least five years. If you don’t fit this criteria, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a San Francisco home, but you need to discuss your desire to buy a home with a professional that works in SF. (I’m a professional that works in SF and if you’d like, you can ask me. :-))
So, assuming you have all of the above criteria, or have discussed your special circumstances with a professional if not, let’s talk about what to expect in our new mortgage climate.
Don’t think you can wait till the last minute to get pre-approved for a loan. Get the necessary paperwork to your lender in a timely fashion, especially if you think you will be buying a place quickly. (Yes, some buyers buy quickly… it just happens that way. I just had a client buy a home after looking at 8 properties at the most.)
Underwriting guidelines are changing rapidly these days. If you have been looking for a property for a long time, you need to check on your pre-approvals periodically. (Of topic, but if you’ve been looking for more than six months, you should re-examine your home search to see if your expectations are in line with reality – for example, you want a bay view and a level lot, or a 3 bedroom condo in Noe Valley for $600K – then you need to revisit your expectations, and how serious you are about buying a home.)
Be prepared to pay for 2 appraisals. Appraisals are being scrutinized more closely by lenders. Some lenders have begun to require second appraisals even for loans under $1 MM. Each appraisal will cost you about $500.
Be prepared for a longer close of escrow. Loan processing time is taking longer. For now, the average time frame is 30 days to close. But that’s average, and the last 2 escrows that I had closed quickly – one in 21 days, and one in 15 days.
Now… that doesn’t sound that bad does it? You can still get a loan, and even with scenarios that are outside of “normal” parameters, you can get a loan. But it’ll be harder, might require creativity on the lender’s part (I’m not advocating anything illegal here – occasionally a letter to the underwriters from the mortgage broker can work wonders) and may cost you more money.
But if you are looking to buy a home for the sake of buying a home, and you’re not looking to “flip” a home or make a quick buck, interest rates are still at historical lows, and you can still get yourself into a home of your own!