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House.com- Be Smarter when Buying Your Next House!

Houseownership is becoming a reality for more and more Americans. The US houseownership rate reached 67.7%, the highest rate ever. Yet many Americans don't realize that houseownership is within their grasp.


A house is a financial asset and more: it's a place to live and raise children; it's a plan for the future; it's an investment in your community. Knowledge is said to open doors. This is literally true when it comes to buying a house. To become a informed housebuyer, you need to know where and how to begin the housebuying process.


House Buying Tips

1. HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M READY TO BUY A HOUSE? You can find out by asking yourself some questions: Do I have a steady source of income (usually a job)? Have I been employed on a regular basis for the last 2-3 years? Is my current income reliable? Do I have a good record of paying my bills? Do I have few outstanding long-term debts, like car payments? Do I have money saved for a down payment? Do I have the ability to pay a mortgage every month, plus additional costs? If you can answer "yes" to these questions, you are probably ready to buy your own house.

2. HOW DO I BEGIN THE PROCESS OF BUYING A HOUSE? Start by thinking about your situation. Are you ready to buy a house? How much can you afford in a monthly mortgage payment (see Question 4 for help)? How much space do you need? What areas of town do you like?

3. HOW DOES PURCHASING A HOUSE COMPARE WITH RENTING? The two don't really compare at all. The one advantage of renting is being generally free of most maintenance responsibilities. But by renting, you lose the chance to build equity, take advantage of tax benefits, and protect yourself against rent increases. Also, you may not be free to decorate without permission and may be at the mercy of the landlord for housing.
Owning a house has many benefits. When you make a mortgage payment, you are building equity. And that's an investment. Owning a house also qualifies you for tax breaks that assist you in dealing with your new financial responsibilities- like insurance, real estate taxes, and upkeep- which can be substantial. But given the freedom, stability, and security of owning your own house, they are worth it.

4. HOW DOES THE LENDER DECIDE THE MAXIMUM LOAN AMOUNT THAT CAN AFFORD? The lender considers your debt-to-income ratio, which is a comparison of your gross (pre-tax) income to housing and non-housing expenses. Non-housing expenses include such long-term debts as car or student loan payments, alimony, or child support. According to the FHA,monthly mortgage payments should be no more than 29% of gross income, while the mortgage payment, combined with non-housing expenses, 4 should total no more than 41% of income. The lender also considers cash available for down payment and closing costs, credit history, etc. when determining your maximum loan amount.

5. HOW CAN I DETERMINE MY HOUSING NEEDS BEFORE I BEGIN THE SEARCH? Your house should fit way you live, with spaces and features that appeal to the whole family. Before you begin looking at houses, make a list of your priorities - things like location and size. Should the house be close to certain schools? your job? to public transportation? How large should the house be? What type of lot do you prefer? What kinds of amenities are you looking for? Establish a set of minimum requirements and a 'wish list." Minimum requirements are things that a house must have for you to consider it, while a "wish list" covers things that you'd like to have but aren't essential.

6. WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR WHEN DECIDING ON A COMMUNITY? Select a community that will allow you to best live your daily life. Many people choose communities based on schools. Do you want access to shopping and public transportation? Is access to local facilities like libraries and museums important to you? Or do you prefer the peace and quiet of a rural community? When you find places that you like, talk to people that live there. They know the most about the area and will be your future neighbors. More than anything, you want a neighborhood where you feel comfortable in.

7. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I'M FEELING EXCLUDED FROM CERTAIN NEIGHBORHOODS? Immediately contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) if you ever feel excluded from a neighborhood or particular house. Also, contact HUD if you believe you are being discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, nationality, familial status, or disability. HUD's Office of Fair Housing has a hotline for reporting incidents of discrimination: 1-800-669-9777 (and 1-800-927-9275 for the hearing impaired).

8. HOW CAN I FIND OUT ABOUT LOCAL SCHOOLS? You can get information about school systems by contacting the city or county school board or the local schools. Your real estate agent may also be knowledgeable about schools in the area.

9. HOW CAN I FIND OUT ABOUT COMMUNITY RESOURCES? Contact the local chamber of commerce for promotional literature or talk to your real estate agent about welcome kits, maps, and other information. You may also want to visit the local library. It can be an excellent source for information on local events and resources, and the librarians will probably be able to answer many of the questions you have.

10. HOW CAN I FIND OUT HOW MUCH house ARE SELLING FOR IN CERTAIN COMMUNITIES AND NEIGHBORHOODS? Your real estate agent can give you a ballpark figure by showing you comparable listings. If you are working with a real estate agent, they may have access to comparable sales maintained on a database.