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Buying a home doesn't have to be an overwhelming experience.  Below are some general guidelines to consider when finding a home that's right for you:

  1. Do your homework first. Evaluate your tastes, lifestyle, the school district, and preferred commuting distance. Then do a lot of research about the neighborhoods you are considering. Read local papers. Walk and drive around.

  2. Determine how much you can afford to spend on your home.  As a general rule of thumb, your mortgage payments should not exceed 28 to 30% of your gross income and your total payments on all debts, including your mortgage, should not exceed 40% of your gross income. 

  3. Make sure you are pre-approved for a mortgage loan as early as possible so you can concentrate on selecting your home and be in a better negotiating position.

  4. Find a good real estate agent that specializes in locations where you are thinking of buying. Meet potential real estate agents individually before selecting one to ensure that your personalities mesh well.  Agents have access to a multiple listing of available homes, condominiums, and co-ops, so they are an excellent resource for narrowing your shopping to the best prospects. Remember, real estate agents and brokers collect commissions, around 6% or more, which are paid by the seller.

  5. Define what features you want to have in your new home and prioritize them with your family.  Are you looking for a new or old house?  How many bedrooms do you need and is the size of the bedrooms important?  Is it important to have a family room off the kitchen?  How big of a garage do you need?   Is the size of usable yard important to you?Take the time to really analyze the homes you are considering against your priorities.  Get the whole family involved and don’t compromise what you need in a house.  Who knows how long you may be there!