Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home

Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home

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There’s no place like home!

The number of homes for sale is on the rise and mortgage rates remain near historic lows. That makes now a great time to say goodbye to your landlord. With Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home , you’ll not only find the right house for you, you’ll have fun doing it.

This book provides everything you need to:

  • research the local market and listings
  • decide between a house, condo, co-op, or townhouse
  • create a realistic budget
  • qualify for a loan you can truly afford
  • borrow a down payment from friends or family
  • protect yourself with inspections and insurance, and
  • negotiate and close the deal successfully.

You’ll find insights from 15 real estate professionals—brokers, attorneys, mortgage specialists, a home inspector, a neighborhood researcher, and more. It’s like having a team of experts by your side! Plus, read real-life stories of over 20 first-time homebuyers.

Dozens of downloadable forms and podcasts that will help you find your dream home, crunch the numbers, interview real estate professionals, inspect the house thoroughly, and more.

Are you a California resident? Check out How to Buy a House in California

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781413323450
Publisher: NOLO
Publication date: 12/30/2016
Edition description: Sixth Edition
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 143,763
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 4.00(d)

About the Author

Ilona Bray, J.D. is an award-winning author and legal editor at Nolo, specializing in real estate, immigration law, workplace wellness, and nonprofit fundraising. Many of her books are consistent Nolo bestsellers, among them Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits, U.S. Immigration Made Easy and Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home. Her latest book is entitled Selling Your House: Nolo’s Essential Guide. She particularly enjoys interviewing people and weaving their stories into her books.

Bray's working background includes solo practice, nonprofit, and corporate stints, as well as long periods of volunteering, including an internship at Amnesty International's main legal office in London. She received her law degree and a Master's degree in East Asian (Chinese) Studies from the University of Washington School of Law and Jackson School of International Studies, and an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, going to open houses, and gardening.

Bray also blogs on on topics such as nonprofit fundraising, real estate, and immigration matters. She's the winner of the 2012 "Best Blog" award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE).

Ann O’Connell is a legal editor at Nolo specializing in landlord-tenant and real estate law. Before joining Nolo as an editor, Ann was a freelance writer for Nolo and other publications and law firms. She has passed the bar exams in California, Nevada, and Colorado, where she is both an active attorney and a real estate broker. Ann practiced civil litigation in California and Colorado, and had her own firm in Colorado. At her firm, she focused on real estate, landlord-tenant, and small business cases. Ann earned her B.A. from Boston College and her J.D. from UC Berkeley Law.

Marcia Stewart writes and edits for Nolo on landlord-tenant law, real estate, and other consumer issues. She is the coauthor of Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home, Every Landlord's Legal Guide, First-Time Landlord, Every Tenant's Legal Guide, Leases and Rental Agreements, Renters' Rights, and The Legal Answer Book for Families.

Table of Contents

1. What’s So Great About Buying a House? 2. What Do You Want? Figuring Out Your Homebuying Needs 3. Does This Mean I Have to Balance My Checkbook? Figuring Out What You Can Afford 4. Stepping Out: What’s on the Market and at What Price 5. Select Your Players: Your Real Estate Team 6. Bring Home the Bacon: Getting a Mortgage 7. Mom and Dad? The Seller? Uncle Sam? Loan Alternatives 8. I Love It! It’s Perfect! Looking for the Right House 9. Plan B: Fixer-Uppers, FSBOs, Foreclosures, and More 10. Show Them the Money: From Offer to Purchase Agreement 11. Toward the Finish Line: Tasks Before Closing 12. Send in the Big Guns: Professional Property Inspectors 13. Who’s Got Your Back? Homeowners’ Insurance and Home Warranties 14. Seal the Deal: Finalizing Your Homebuying Dreams 15. Settling Into Your New Home Index


I wrote this book to bridge a gap, between the knowledge that industry insiders have about the legal and financial details of buying a home and the need for average consumers to basically download all of that into their brain—while under time pressure and stress, no less. This book helps home buyers make sure they aren’t taken advantage of and don’t make a major mistake. If you know what you’re doing, buying a house can be fun—a realization of dreams about your lifestyle and future.

Customer Reviews

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Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Joyachiever More than 1 year ago
“ Nolo’s Essential Guide To Buying Your First Home” by Ilona Bray, J.D., Alayna Schroeder, J.D. & Marcia Stewart includes detailed information on making first time home purchases. There is also a Cd-rom attached to the end of the book. This was one of the books to catch my interest because my husband and I intend to purchase our first home within the next eight years. We are giving ourselves plenty of time to look around because we actually plan to permanently reside in the home for the long-term. The following are some of the informative details included in the book: Pages 25-27: Pinpointing personal preferences choice in the neighborhood of the home purchase Pages 90-97: Essential details on real estate agents Pages 275-303: Items to take care of before closing in on a house deal. “Nolo’s Essential Guide To Buying Your First Home” by Illona Bray, J.D., Alana Schroeder, J.D., & Marcia Stewart is good for first time home buyers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is well organized by chapter to help you find the information you need. The entire thing was helpful for me during the home-buying process to help me understand the steps and what to expect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unlike most how-to books, I read this one cover to cover. It covers every step in the home buying process, in order from start to finish. It includes detailed information on topics such as finding the right house, finding a loan, getting a good real estate agent, figuring out what to offer, the closing process, inspections, homeowners insurance and more. I bought a small army of how-to books to help me buy my first home, but I really only needed this one.
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am in the middle of home buying when I received this book, including mortgages, looking for a home, etc. I'm at the stage where I just have to find one...Anyway, I paged through this book. The advice was solid, the writing easy to understand. I think this is an excellent book for first time home buyers. And it spurred me into really pursuing a house (I'm a bit scared about buying a home...)Highly Recommended.
jaimelesmaths on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This guide is a must for every first-time homebuyer. It has information on every step of the process, and it provides links to resources where individuals can find information more specific to their particular situations. The CD-ROM of forms is an added bonus. As someone who will be looking to buy a home in the next 3 years, I know I will be referring to this book frequently!
bell7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was really excited to see this offered as a LibraryThing Early Reviewer option since I have begun to consider the possibility of buying a house, but have felt at a complete loss of where to start. Then, after I won it and received the book, I put off starting it feeling a little intimidated and afraid that it might be boring and difficult.Nothing could be further from the truth. While some parts certainly interested me more than others, the writing was accessible and the explanations clear. Two of the authors are lawyers, and they do a good job of explaining general law in layman's terms, even while stressing differences by state. Of course, since the subject matter is so broad, no one chapter can cover every option or every situation; furthermore, since laws are different from state to state, there are going to be individual differences. But this book lays excellent general groundwork for the ins and outs of home buying. The authors primarily focus on the purchase of a single-family home, though from time to time special situations like a new home from a developer or a co-op is considered. Each chapter introduces one aspect of purchasing a house, such as creating your wishlist, how to assemble your "team" (real estate agent, attorney, mortgage broker, etc.) and what each of them do, and how to finance your purchase. What could become dry facts and figures is broken up by real life stories, tips, worksheets (there are a few short examples in the text, with directions to look at the complete one on the CD-ROM included), and more. I especially enjoyed the "Best Thing We Ever Did" features in which something that could have been abstract, like getting a home inspection, translated into something practical by showing how someone truly benefited from it. As a result of reading, I'm feeling more comfortable understanding such things as what a mortgage broker does, and what I might need to do to see if I'm in a position to buy now or later. I will be able to ask more intelligent questions and not feel completely lost. Though the earlier chapters have much more relevance to my current situation, I'm sure that I will refer to the book as I come closer to truly be in a position to buy.
Unreachableshelf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I requested this book because I hope to be able to make use of it in the next couple of years, and found it to be a useful tool. It's filled with instructions for every stage of buying a house from deciding if it would be a worthwhile purchase to rebuilding your finances afterward, along with sample forms, worksheets, and interview questions for the various professionals you deal with when buying a house. These are duplicated on the included CD. The tone is lightened with sidebars such as real-estate fiction and house themed music with which to celebrate your purchase. I'm sure this book will make the process much easier when the time comes.
melissajoy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nolo¿s Essential Guide for Buying Your First home was extremely helpful. I did not know where to begin that was accessible. Overall it will make my first home buying experience much easier.attention many things I would not have thought to look for. It was user friendly with language and it gave guidelines, forms, and the pros and cons of different options. It also brought to
carlym on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The promotion of this book through the ER program was very timely for me, because I'm in the middle of my first home purchase. The book sets out all the steps of home-buying, from deciding what you want through settling in. Some parts are more helpful than others; I didn't need assistance deciding what I wanted, for example, but I can see where for some people the book might raise issues they hadn't thought of. I liked that the book explained the steps of financing, inspection, and other nitty-gritty details in clear language but with enough specificity to be useful. I don't think this should be a home-buyer's sole resource because too many things vary by state law and local practice, but overall, I found the book's description of the whole process to be very consistent with my experience. The book includes a number of checklists to use when going to open houses, looking for an agent, going to the inspection, etc. This is a good idea, but I think the checklists could be more detailed and contain more information. The included disk has all the checklists, which is a nice feature, because then you can print them to take with you rather than having to try to copy pages out of the book.
Spiceca on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This isn't the type of book that you would sit down and read cover to cover. When buying a house there are scenarios that are not applicable and can be perused and other areas in which one would read completely for full comprehension. Since my husband and I are looking into buying hopefully within the next year we found the book to be very useful and easy to understand. It is basically a step by step guide for those who know very little about buying a home. It would be the ideal reference book if you are just starting out. The only criticism we had on the book was that it didn't go into the types of mortgages as deeply as it could have. That being said- it is well worth a starter read and to keep on hand for reference as well as the toolkit of forms and worksheets.
silentq on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this book out of the early review offerings because I was about to get my permanent residency in the USA. My green card and this book arrived at my apartment in the same week, and I've been happy with both. I've always resisted buying a house (not wanting to be tied down), but recent conversations have convinced me that it's not an iron chain. This book is continuing the reassurances, and demystifying the process. The language is plain and easy to understand, many experts were consulted on the various steps of home buying, it's very logically ordered, and it has very useful lists of questions to ask of the people with whom you'll work on your house purchase. It comes with a CD filled with forms and extra material as well. My only quibble is that they don't go into a lot of specific details regarding the differences in the process between states, that would have made for some perfect footnotes.
reconditereader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers, and I recommend it to others. I'm not in the market for a house right this minute, but I have been considering it and beginning to do research. This book was a big help. It has a few details about many topics. Some of these topics were totally irrelevant to me (I don't live in a place with co-ops; I don't want a condo or a house that isn't built yet), but others were right on point. Note: I didn't try out the CD of forms and interviews that comes with the book, but I can see how some of them (not all) might be useful.The book did a decent job of balancing perspectives on whether you should even buy a house right now or not -- considering that it is, indeed, a guide to buying. I think it could have had a stronger message that buying isn't right in all circumstances, but given the type of book it is, it was pretty good. It talked about different strategies for cold and hot markets, too.The book emphasizes the importance of choosing a good team of pros to assist you: your realtor, mortgage broker, attorney, inspector, etc. I wish it had had more details on HOW to choose such people, especially in an area where you don't know people to get referrals from. There could have been more details on short sales and bank-owned homes, given how common they are these days, but there was certainly sufficient information to get started understanding these topics and know what more to ask about.I think some of the extraneous stuff could've been cut: decorating your new home on a budget? Really? But again, I think this book has just enough information to let someone like me know which parts of the home-buying process they do understand, and which parts one might need to find more resources to really get a handle on. I will absolutely use this book when I am actively searching for my first house!
chsbellboy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book before buying my first home and found it generally useful in understanding the process and legal aspects of home ownership. If you've already bought homes before, this is probably a good reminder of the process if it's been a while.
lorax on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the sort of book you dip into, not the sort of book you read straight through, but it's still well worth the money. Some of the material at the beginning of the book (about figuring out how much house you can afford) was too basic and simplistic for me, but I suppose in a book like this it's better to be overly simplistic than to assume your readers know anything.We found the "questions to ask a buyer's agent / home inspector / mortgage lender" to be extremely useful, as well as the explanation of all the complicated terminology and the many steps in the process. The little "smartest thing we ever did" anecdotes were amusing -- especially because they frequently contradicted each other, emphasizing that every home purchase is different.My wife and I selected this book out of the shelf of homebuying books because it was recent (post-bubble) and because it specifically mentions domestic partners in several places. (The hypothetical homebuyers in the little explanatory bits include same-sex couples and single people, which was a nice touch -- it's nice to not have to see George and Mary over and over and over again as the people everyone is supposed to identify with!)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago