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Urban and rural property
After Dismal Year, Homebuilders See Hope in 2012
Home Sales Rise to 11-Month High
Report: Foreclosures Down, But Discounts Abound
Home Sales Sunnier as Spring Buying Season Approaches
New Home Sales Dip, But Beat Expectations
Fannie Mae, Facing Deficit, Asks Fed for Another $4.5 Billion
Home Values Build for 3rd Consecutive Month
Real Home Price Recovery Not Expected Until Spring
Home Sales: Rise Reflects Steady Improvement
Economists: Housing Recovery Finally Here
Home Prices Increase in Most Major U.S. Cities
Pending Home Sales Near 6-Year High
Home Prices Rise 6.3% in October, Most in 6 Years
Housing Market 2013: Predictions of What's to Come
Housing Recovery Officially in Full Swing, Data Suggests
Can't Get a Mortgage? Here's Why
Trulia Housing Barometer: Housing Market 52% Back to Normal
Home Prices Post Best Yearly Increase Since 2006
Tom Roeser Buys Up Town's Foreclosure Stock to Keep It Thriving
Housing Is Back! Best Moves for Homebuyers
Trulia: Housing Recovery Marches on in March
Are Real Estate Commercials Skirting Realities of Homebuying?
Trulia: Housing in 'Early Stages' of Multiyear Recovery
Obama Proposes Fundamental Overhaul of U.S. Mortgage System
The Art of House Hunting
Armed with your down payment and your pre-approval letter for a mortgage loan, the next step is finding the house that will best meet your family's needs. With realistic expectations, patience and plenty of research, you'll be well on your way.

Once you narrow the search to neighborhoods you like, you'll want to determine the maximum house price you can afford. Even though you're pre-approved for a set loan amount, it doesn't mean you can afford it. You'll want to factor in other expenses, including retirement and college savings, vacations, and home maintenance and repairs, when you calculate how much you can afford for a monthly payment. And don't forget to budget for homeowners insurance and property taxes. There's also homeowner's assocation fees, especially in newer developments.

Next, differentiate your needs versus your wants. You need three bedrooms, but a fourth room would be nice for a play room or guest room. You need a two-car garage, but a larger one would be nice for storage. You need a functional kitchen but want hardwood floors. You need two bathrooms but want a luxurious master suite. You get the picture.

As you begin your house-hunting venture, prepare a checklist. Break it down between exterior and interior characteristics. Make notes on each feature and make notes. Some people give each a 1 to 10 score, which is fine, but the first few houses you see will score differently than the last few because you have many more to compare against. Also, after viewing many homes, the numbers begin to lose meaning.

Some of the exterior features to rate might include size of yard, quality of fence, paint condition, roof condition, window conditions, garage, back yard. When it comes to interior, think about square footage; the floor plan; condition of walls; the size, quality, and functionality of the various rooms and closet and storage space.

Your checklist should also include any other factors you deem important—the amount of traffic, the appearance of the neighborhood, safety in the area, the reputation of local schools, etc.

Here are some other suggestions from industry experts:

Take a camera with you to capture an image of each house you look at that makes it to the "maybe" list.

Don't make a hasty decision, especially if you feel yourself becoming guided by emotion. Selecting a home takes time, thought and analysis. You should carefully weigh the pros and cons of each house you like.

Review your checklist and notes and compare it against your needs, wants and budget.

Bring your spouse, friend or family member with you to get a second opinion. They may notice a shortcoming that you've overlooked.

Find out how much utilities and maintenance cost.

Stay on top of newly listed houses via a Multiple Listing Service on the Internet.

Remain in close contact with your agent. This is extremely important if you're in a strong seller's market and/or in which homes that are priced right go fast. You want a good agent who will alert you of new listings and who will show you the houses as soon as they're listed.

Be prepared to look at the potential of a house rather than what you see in front of you. Set your priorities and decide what can be sacrificed. It's more important that the layout of the house and the number of bedrooms you need fit your needs and that all major systems are functional versus your dislike for the avocado green carpet or the lack of landscaping. Those types of cosmetic shortcomings can be easily remedied once you buy the house.

If you find a house you like, offer a competitive bid. Keep in mind you'll likely be competing against other offers—especially if interest rates are low and the spring buying season is in full bloom.

And don't forget—once you make an offer, make it contingent upon the findings of a professional home inspection. If any major defects surface, you'll want to have the leverage to renegotiate or back out of the deal completely.

  
Shopping for a Home in Winter
Secrets to a Successful Move
Saving the Best for Last
Renting to Own
New House or an Old One?
Make Them An Offer They Can't Refuse
Lifestyle Choices Affect Bottom Line
Inspecting Your Home Inspector
In Love With Two Houses?
How to Track Down Foreclosure Properties
Home-buying With Others
Five Keys to Successful Negotiation
Five Key Areas to Pay Attention to When Buying a Home
Finding a Good Home Inspector
Find the Perfect Neighborhood
Don't Overlook a Home's Potential
Do You Have Buyer's Paralysis?
Debt Reduction Not Required to Buy
Debating Between a Condo or a House
Contingencies Your Home Offer Should Include
Can You Afford to Buy a House?
Buying a Home With Loans from Family and Friends
Buyers, Get an Edge During The Busy Spring Season
Affordability Options for First-time Home Buyers
14 Things to Consider Before Buying a Home
12 Red Flags That Should Raise Concern
10 Summer Moving Tips
Experts Predict Annual Home Value Appreciation to Exceed 6 Percent in 2013
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Housing Starts Rise in July but Fall Short of Forecasts
Giants Masking Billions in Losses for Overdue Mortgages
Home Sales in July Rise to Levels Last Seen in 2009
Rise in Rates Reduces Demand for New Mortgages
Mortgage Rates Rise to Their Highest Levels in 2 Years
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Foreclosures Fall 25% in July from a Year Ago
Home Prices Climbed 12.4 Percent in July
Mortgage Applications Rise, as Interest Rates Slip a Bit
Mortgage Rates Edge Up to Near Yearly Highs
What You Should Look for When House Hunting
What is PMI?
Trying to Buy A Diamond In The Rough?
Trouble Pulling the Trigger on Your First Home?
Title Insurance: Who Needs It?
Title Insurance
The Hidden Costs of Homeownership
The Art of House Hunting
The Appraisal Contingency
Sometimes Smaller Is Better
Signs That You're Ready to Buy
Should You Pay Discount Points?
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