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real estate: buying, selling, renting, etc.

Ready to find your first home, or in the market for an upgrade? You’re on the right track -- we’ve got plenty of real estate advice for how to handle the house hunt, manage your mortgage, and how to tackle new home to-do’s. Our easy-to-use tools and helpful tips will help ease your way into a new place. Looking for a place to live forever, or an opportunity for real estate investing? Search thousands of listings near you with our home finder tool. Once you spot a few you like, browse our local pages to find a real estate agent who can help make your home-owning dreams a reality. Want even more help than that? Don’t worry, we’ve got all the basics of buying your first home. Use our mortgage calculator to find out how much house you can really afford. We can help you sort out the pros and cons of condos and co-ops versus houses. Learn what all those real estate terms really mean, and how to find the best interest rate on your mortgage. There’s advice and tips for every step of the way, from hitting open houses to making an offer. You can also find tips on selling your home and on real estate investing. And when you need a pick-me-up or a space to vent, you can chat with other Nesties and share real estate advice, tales from the house hunt, and more. From your first phone calls to putting up the sold sign, we’re here for you!

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7 Steps to Buying a House

Find out how much you can afford.

Before your first steps to buying a new home, your mortgage lender will look at a couple different numbers to find out your spending limit. The first figure is your take-home pay. Banks like to follow the 28/36 rule: Your monthly mortgage payments should total no more than 28 percent of your net paycheck, and your total debts, including car payments and student loans, shouldn't inch over 36 percent.

Get preapproved for a loan.

For a small fee, a lender will contact your employer, bank, and others to verify your income, assets, debts, and credit history. You’ll then get a letter stating that your mortgage is approved for a certain amount (which will help you determine your price limit!) up until a certain date. This document is more for the home seller’s benefit to prove that you’re a serious buyer. There's no obligation on your part to actually get a mortgage.

Start searching for new digs.

A good way to start is to look at advertisements of homes located in neighborhoods you might want to check out. Then see who the listing agent is -- chances are that company does a decent amount of business in the neighborhoods you’re interested in. Also use our finding a home tool.

Make an offer.

Do your own research in your local paper, office of public records, or Zillow to find out what similar homes in the area have recently sold for. Choose a number for your initial offer. If it’s far below the asking price, be prepared to defend it with your research. Don’t let your real estate agent pressure you into making the first number any higher than you’re comfortable with.


Settle on a price.

The seller will respond in one of three ways: an acceptance, a counter-bid (giving you a number somewhere between your offer and the asking price), or declining by sticking to their original asking price. Find out why the sellers are digging in their heels. If you can agree on a number, you’ll sign a contract and be asked to put down a “binder” or “earnest money." Make sure the contract specifies that you can get this money back if you withdraw your offer.

Get an inspection.

Ask a realtor to recommend a certified inspector or check out the American Society of Home Inspectors. Have our home inspection checklist handy.


Close the deal.

Once the inspection is done, you’ll need to contact your lender and hire a lawyer to set up a closing date. Go buy some champagne and celebrate!

-- Betsy Wiesendanger

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