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Are you thinking about buying a new home?  Whether you are looking forward to your dream home or are still in the starter home phase, finding a house that suits your needs is easy if you follow a few simple steps.

The first thing you should consider is your budget!  Work with your financial planner or a bank to determine how much of a home you can afford.  You'll need to factor in things like down payment, salary, debt, as well as the cost of utilities and any homeowners' fees.  As a general rule of thumb, your housing needs should not exceed more than 25% of your monthly gross income.

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home buyers - dream home Now that you have a budget, it's time to narrow the playing field.  Is there a particular area or areas that you would like to focus on?  If not, it's time to do some homework.  You'll need to decide whether you prefer to live in the country, city, or suburbs, and how long a commute you are willing to endure each day.  If you have children, you will also want to determine whether the school system fits your needs.  The best way to find the answers to these questions is to talk to your realtor, as well as friends, family, and acquaintances who live in and around the community.

Now that you've picked an area, it's time to get specific about your home!  First, determine how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need to support the size of your family, and come up with a rough estimate of square footage that will suit your needs.  These are the basics, and you'll have to take care of these before you consider the extras.  If you have specific needs — for example, if health reasons require one-level living or an in-home business requires office space — those should be listed as priorities as well.

single family homes in suburban neighborhood Once you've made a list of things that are necessary, it's time for the fun stuff.  Make a wish list of features you would like your home to have, and put them in order of importance.  For example, if you entertain or cook frequently for family or friends, a gourmet kitchen may be on your wish list.  Or perhaps you have active, younger children so would appreciate a home with a large, unfinished basement.

After your realtor knows your price range, area you would like to live in, size of the home your are looking for, as well as features that appeal to you, she will narrow the list down of available homes.  While it's tempting to pass certain homes by because you don't like the way they look on the outside, try to avoid this tendency.  Otherwise, you may miss a real gem!

Victorian style houses Once you've found a home that suits your needs, it's time to make an offer.  The home will have a listing price.  Depending upon the market, you may offer asking price or significantly less.  You will give the amount of your offer to the realtor, and she will haggle with the seller's realtor.  Sometimes buyer and seller go back and forth several times before agreeing on a price.

After you have agreed to an offer, you will fill out a purchase and sales agreement and put down a deposit.  This agreement states that you will not back out of the sale unless certain circumstances occur.  Generally, these circumstances include things like not getting bank approval or the home not passing inspection.

Speaking of inspection, this is a critical phase of the home buying experience.  During the inspection, a neutral party inspector will inspect the home and note whether anything is wrong.  If things are found, the seller has the option to fix them or reduce the price of the home.  If they refuse to do either, you can back out of the sales agreement.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website has a helpful section about buying a home, and the Realtor.com website has some good home buyer tips, whether you are working with a Realtor® or buying a home directly from its owner.  Following the right steps can help ensure that you move into a home you will enjoy for many years to come.

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Home Buying Guide - Buying A Home