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Buyers' Corner - Buying a Home

For most of us, buying a home is the largest purchase decision we will make. Keep these factors in mind as you shop:

4Find out your price range; in addition to a down payment, purchasers also need cash for closing costs (the final costs associated with closing the loan). Several newly emerging loan programs not only allow the purchase of a home with no money down, but also underwrite closing costs. Not everyone, however, elects to purchase with little or no money down. Less money down means higher monthly mortgage payments, so most homebuyers choose to buy with some cash up front.

4Pre-qualify for the mortgage. This can give you advantage during the negotiating process; "Preapproval" means you have met with a loan officer, your credit files have been reviewed and the loan officer believes you can readily qualify for a given loan amount with one or more specific mortgage programs. Based on this information, the lender will provide a preapproval letter, which shows your borrowing power; This information is important to owners since they do not want to accept an offer that is likely to fail because financing cannot be obtained.

4Find a lawyer that can help you speed up finalizing the deal.

4Consider the location. Is it close to services important to you? For example, schools, shopping, parks. All neighborhoods and communities have a special nature that gives them identity and value. One community may be well known for historic homes while another offers both suburban living as well as easy access to downtown office areas.

4Visit the property at various times in the day (early morning, noon, late afternoon and late at night on both weekdays and weekends).

4Have the property inspected (by your own choice of inspector).

4Walk or bike around the neighborhood. This will give you better feel for the location and surroundings.

4Consider the house in other seasons. For example, how bright will various rooms be in the winter?

4Consider the neighbors. Are yards neat and cared for?

4Bring a friend and ask them to play "devil's advocate". An impartial 3rd party removed from the stress of making a large decision can point out factors you hadn't considered.

4Check for external sources of noise e.g. heat pumps, highways, neighbor's dog, industrial buildings.

4Consider potential changes to the neighborhood e.g. planned roads, highways, apartment blocks, parks, other housing developments. A visit to the city planner in the local municipal hall is often helpful.

4Structural inspections are particularly important. During these examinations, an inspector comes to the property to determine if there are material physical defects and whether expensive repairs and replacements are likely to be required in the next few years. Such inspections for a single-family home often require two or three hours, and buyers should attend. This is an opportunity to examine the property's mechanics and structure, ask questions and learn far more about the property than is possible with an informal walk-through.