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Buying a home is a big decision!  By considering the items below, you can help ensure that you make the best decision possible:

Determine what you need from your home
From its location and schools to the number of bedrooms and square footage, create a prioritized checklist of what is important to you.  This checklist should be shared with your real estate agent and used to evaluate homes when viewing them.  Your focus here is to make sure that the home is right for you.  The evaluation of the homes structural integrity will come later.

Get pre-qualified or pre-approved
If you receive pre-qualification or pre-approval from a reputable lender, your negotiating position is strengthened. It shows agents and sellers you are serious about buying a home.

Do not choose a real estate agent haphazardly
Don’t jump from agent to agent just because you saw their name on a sign outside of a house you like. Interview at least three agents and choose the one you feel most comfortable with and who will focus on your needs.

Check out every nook and cranny before purchasing
Go through the house with a fine-tooth comb. You don’t want to find out after you’ve bought the house that the roof is leaking. Open cabinets, turn on every switch, notice details, move stuff away from the walls, look in the attic, turn on faucets. It is generally a good idea to hire an inspector that has been trained to properly inspect the house.  In most cases it is advisable to make your offer contingent on the house passing an inspection.

Look at enough houses
The more you see, the more you’ll learn about what you want and what each house is worth.

Check out the surrounding area as it looks today and may look tomorrow
Be sure and look at the houses and land surrounding the home.  Are the homes kept up?  Is there anything that prohibits someone from building on the greenbelt behind the home or on the building across the street that is in direct line with the view you paid so dearly for?  Is the traffic you are observing going by the home representative of its potential peak volumes? 

Understand the market value
Don’t assess the value of a house only on the asking price. Your real estate agent should compile reports that reflect and compare the selling price of similar houses recently sold.

Calculate all the costs
When calculating the maximum price you can afford, don’t forget to include all costs associated with buying a home.  In addition, be sure to determine any additional ongoing and periodic costs such as taxes, association dues, yard and home maintenance, etc.  

Ask lots of questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You’re not supposed to know everything about buying a home. Remember, this is potentially the biggest purchase you will make in your life.

Don't get too enamored with a specific house
Don’t fall in love with the first home you see. New listings come onto the market all the time. The best deal may still be around the corner.

Try making a low offer
Pay only what you can afford. The seller can always make a counter-offer, and you can counter-offer again until you settle on a suitable price, or you can simply walk away.  You need to work with your real estate agent when contemplating this approach, but remember that unless you are using a buyer's agent, the agent always represents the seller.  Even in the case of a buyer's agent, they may be biased since they are generally paid based on the selling price of the home.