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Start at the Beginning

What’s the first question you ask yourself when you’re ready to buy a home?  It should be, “How much can I afford?”  Without that crucial piece of information, you can’t even begin your search.  Figure your monthly income and debt payments, order your credit reports, and determine how much you can put down.

Now, apply for pre-approval from a number of lenders, to shop for the best interest rate and terms.  You can choose fixed or adjustable rate, and a conventional or government or jumbo loan, among the most common types of mortgages.

Now, what do you want out of your new home?  Want a location within the city, right downtown, in the suburbs, or a rural setting?  How many bedrooms and bathrooms, in a single family home or townhouse or condo?

Now that you’ve figured out what you’re looking for and what you can afford, locate the neighborhoods that satisfy your requirements.  An area real estate agent can give you information about schools, your work commute, and proximity to shopping and recreation.  Find your agent through referrals and interviews to get the right “chemistry.”

You can browse listings online, but the agent should be able to provide a list of suitable properties right away.  Make appointments for tours and attend open houses if available.  My upcoming column will guide you through the next steps!