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It takes time, patience, and energy to buy a home, and at times, the process can seem overwhelming. When you hire a knowledgeable real estate agent, you invest in a trusted source that works on your behalf and guides you through the entire sales transaction. Here’s what you should know before you begin the search.

Know Your Price Range. The first step to buying home is setting a realistic price range. Online mortgage calculators are an easy way to get an idea of what you can afford after taking into account current interest rates, a down payment, and the cost of the home.

Get pre-qualified for a loan. Once you have a general idea of your price range, it’s time to get pre-approved from a certified lender. This lets sellers know you?re a serious buyer and also prevents you from being disappointed should a loan not go through after you’ve put an offer on a property. To get pre-approved, the buyer applies for a mortgage and receives a commitment from a lender in writing. Costs for pre-approvals are minimal. Some lenders will even accept payment after the loan is closed.

Make a list of your needs and wants. Your Needs List should include features you must have (i.e. the number of bedrooms, one-story vs. two-story, good school district, etc.). Your Wish List should include things you would like to have, but are not deal breakers (i.e. pool, den, large yard, etc.).

Hire a buyer?s real estate agent. You may want to consider hiring your own real estate agent that keeps your best interests in mind, not the seller’s.

Stay organized. Searching for a home can be frustrating at times, especially in an area you are unfamiliar with. Keep the following items on hand to help stay organized throughout the home-buying process.

  • A detailed map with your areas of interest highlighted.
  • A file of the different properties you have seen with an agent, along with ads you’ve seen in real estate publications.
  • Note pad and pen to take notes as you search.
  • Cell phone to take pictures or videos to refresh your memory of special features at individual properties, especially if you are going to multiple showings in one day.

Location, Location, Location. Always look at a potential property as if you are a seller. Ask yourself, Would a prospective buyer find it appealing based on the school district, crime rate, proximity to points of interest (i.e. shopping, parks, restaurants, highways), and proximity to negative areas (i.e. abandoned properties, garbage dump, sources of noise, etc.)

Visualize an empty house with your decor. Ask yourself, Do the room lay-outs fit our needs? Will my furniture fit to scale?

Stay calm and carry on. Keep in mind, there are many houses on the market, so take your time and carefully review each property of interest. Instead of making a decision with your heart, think with your head. It’s too big a decision to rush, and one you don’t want to regret later.

Invest in being thorough. Spending a little extra money during the contract process can end up saving money in the long run. Remember to do the following:

  • Include inspection and mortgage contingencies in your written offer.
  • Hire a professional inspector.
  • Request a second walk-through to take place within 24 hours of the closing. This walk-through keeps the seller in check, and prevents last minute changes that were not agreed upon in the contract, i.e. changing light fixtures out, removing window treatments, etc.