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There are probably few things in life that are as exciting--or as nerve- racking--as the search for a house. All the good emotions and the bad emotions seem to converge when the house hunting begins due to the choices to be made. Don't worry, this is a normal reaction, and is found in seasoned home buyers as well as those who are looking for their first home. One of the first decisions you need to make is whether you want to do your house hunting on your own, or by using an Agent. If you decide to go it on your own, you will be able to see (and buy) those houses that are For Sale by Owner (known as FSBO's). Depending on your area and the overall market, this will be around 20% or so of the total homes available (the other 80% are the "listed" properties--being sold through an Agent. Those homes you can't buy--or even see--on your own). For more background, see the sections devoted to Agents and buying on your own.

With an organized house buying plan, you can minimize a great deal of the emotional impact. By determining your buying power, your wants and needs, and having an organized search plan, your chances of a stress-free experience are much better.

TIPS ON FINDING THE RIGHT HOUSE

   

Once the decision to buy a home has been made, take the time to prepare before you go on your home search. For example, much of the information on this Web Site should be very familiar to you before you go looking for homes. Yes, it is very tempting to rush out and actually look at houses, but to do so without full preparation can be both disastrous and expensive. If you review the checklist you will find that "house hunting" is about halfway down the list.

Get your financial house in order first! We can't stress this enough--it will save you an enormous amount of time, aggravation and heartache.

If this is going to be your first home, see the section that is devoted to that topic.

Determine what your budget will comfortably allow and stick to it. Don't spend yourself into a "house poor" situation.

Get preapproved for a mortgage. This will not only give you a clear idea of how much a lender will approve for you, it will make your homebuying process a great deal easier (and save a lot of time later).

Get familiar with the different housing types available to narrow your search.

Determine your minimum requirements as well as any desired additional features--your needs and wants.

Take note of any items that you don't want in a house. This can be just as important as knowing what it is you want in a home.

Determine the desired location (schools, work, public transportation, etc.)

Familiarize yourself with the mortgage process.

Choose an Agent that you feel comfortable with and who understands your needs. Be completely aware of the Agency issue. If you look for houses before you have your own Agent, you may not have the representation you want. If you are looking to find an Agent in the area in which you are interested, click here to compare Agents. (You can compare backgrounds, experience and more.)

If you don't already have an Agent screening homes for you, you can check listings and prices throughout the U.S. on our interactive map.

Use all resources available in looking for homes: Friends, relatives, a good Real Estate Agent, advertisements. If you are considering purchasing a foreclosure, check out For foreclosure listings, check RealtyTrac: your destination for housing foreclosures which has a free trial period with access to their database.. You may want to consider a source such as Realty Bargains, which maintains a database of foreclosures and othr bargain properties. They offer a free trial membership. Click here for more information. Check out our article on the subject of buying fixer-uppers as well. In addition, HomeGain.com can point you in the direction of thousands of homes located in every state in the United States.

Don't just buy a home for your present needs. Make sure to take into account future considerations.

 

As you are looking, use a scorecard to compare homes. A scorecard is a great tool when it comes time for comparisons (and for remembering which home had which features!)

Get familiar with the inspection process--especially the personal inspection aspect, so that you can weed out unacceptable houses quickly

Maintain your perspective--and your cool! You may find an acceptable house on the first day--or the tenth. The important thing is to get the home that is best for you!

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