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What to do during the search for your new home

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Chances are you’ve considered buying a home — you've probably even attended open houses and looked into the numbers, but once you get serious there are a few things you should consider before jumping in:

Buying a home takes more time and research than it would buying a couch or a table. Before diving in, it’s important to understand the process. Every home buyer’s journey happens on a slightly different timeline, but here are some steps every prospective buyer should take.

1. Search for your new home

The home buying process may begin a year or more before the actual buy. You’ll get started by searching for online listings and discover what types of homes you can get in different price ranges.

Use this time to make a list of priorities for your dream home, this often prompts buyers to take the next step. Look at homes in your favorite neighborhoods, and review statistics and reports on home values.

2. Find out what you can afford

Most would-be home buyers need a mortgage to purchase a home. While the process has gotten easier as we’ve moved farther away from the financial and lending crisis, it can still be challenging if you’re not prepared.

You need to know what you can afford, the types of loans available. What you can afford will affect your home search. Check out your credit report, and understand your financial situation. Then you can get pre-approved.

Many buyers need to repair their credit score, save more money or allow cash to season for some time before buying. Use the next few months to address any financial issues.

3. Dive in and have fun

At some point along the way, you should find and connect with a local real estate agent. These relationships form early, and having that person beside you during your search should be invaluable.

Go to open houses, make appointments and see as many homes as possible. Before making an offer, you’ll need to know the market inside and out. The more homes you see, the more you will know about your local real estate market, and the more confidence you will have when that dream house comes along.

And if you miss out on a deal or two, it’s okay. It’s all part of the process. Don’t feel rushed, and realize that the home search often becomes a part-time job. Have fun with it.

If you find yourself in the real estate market prior to doing significant research, you may be jumping the gun. Unlike a tablet, smartphone or even a car, a home is a long-term investment — and a special one at that. It’s where your life will happen. Move too quickly and buyer’s remorse can creep in.

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