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How to Choose a Home
by Ruby Bayan

Choose the home of your dreams Choosing a home is almost like choosing a partner in life. Homes are meant to be keepers, and choosing a keeper requires serious thought and hours of searching. It doesn't have to be tedious, though, if you follow a few simple steps. Here are some tips on how to choose the home of your dreams.

What you'll need:

Access to the Internet
Time to drive around
Pen and paper

What to do:

1. Start with a budget. Having a price range to work with will help you narrow down your search for a new home. Determine how much mortgage you can afford by doing a spreadsheet on your income, basic expenses, credit card payments, etc. Find online interactive spreadsheets for calculating mortgage payments by searching for "mortgage calculator." Consider factors that influence your buying power like your credit rating and ability to make a down payment.

2. Decide on whether you want to own a newly built home or an existing home. Pre-owned homes are significantly lower priced compared to brand new homes of the same size. However, newly built homes don't have "old home" issues like termites, wood rot or poorly maintained fixtures and appliances. Do you want it move-in ready or are you inclined to tackle some handyman projects? Think about what is more important to you: the new house smell or the low mortgage payments.

3. List down your dream home criteria. Include your preferences for the number of rooms and bathrooms, total floor area, garage size, type of flooring, yard area and house location (Water view? Cul de sac? Conservation area?). You might also want to list nice-to-haves like walk-in closets, bay windows, a breakfast nook, a jetted garden tub, stainless steel appliances, or a built-in alarm system. Knowing what features you want will help you determine which house gives you the most bang for your buck.

4. Visit your target neighborhoods. Drive around and observe the neighborhoods you will potentially become a part of. Are the houses and surroundings reasonably maintained? Are the streets clean and well lit? Is the traffic around and within the locality light or heavy? Is it close to where you and your family frequent like schools, malls, parks and recreation centers? Do you want to live in a gated community (which is more secure but where homes are usually more expensive and Home Owners Association fees are higher)?

5. Check real estate vendor listings. Read the newspaper classified ads; pick up real estate magazines at the supermarket; go online and search for homes for sale in your target areas.

6. Look for the "Open House" sign. Drive around your target neighborhoods and visit open houses. They will give you an idea of the types of homes and price ranges in the neighborhood. Take as many pictures as you can for reference.

7. Work with a real estate agent. You can do your own research and visit open houses by yourself, but a professional real estate agent can tap into listings not always available to the public (like foreclosures and short sales). Give him your dream home criteria and let him find a good deal for you. A real estate agent will be a great help with the paperwork when preparing offers and closing the deal.

8. Rank the houses according to your dream home criteria. Use positives and negatives to weigh the pros and cons of each house. When you've narrowed down your choices to the Top 3, visit the houses again. Choose the one you will call your own, then make your offer.

Helpful Tips:

Keep a list of all the places you've checked and all the houses you've seen. Note down your reactions and observations. Take pictures. When you've seen numerous houses already, these notes and photos will help you remember what you've seen and determine your Top 3 choices.

Be patient. Do not rush to buy a house just because you've already seen a dozen. If you're not completely happy with any of the houses you've seen, don't settle; keep looking. You will know you have found your new home when it meets most, if not all, of the dream home criteria you've listed.

Take a second look. After you've checked out several houses, go back to the ones you felt good about, the ones you thought you liked, and see how they stack up against the others. Sometimes a second look lets you see the house in a different light.


Bankrate.com: Mortgage Calculator

Contributed to eHow.com by Ruby Bayan, Home & Garden Topic Expert 2007-2010

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