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Buying a home is among the biggest financial decisions you will make. Being educated about the homebuying process is the best way to ensure you are doing it right.

There are plenty of tools and articles available to help, but sometimes you need to see the steps laid out to fully grasp what you are getting into. (A smart preliminary step — before you even consider a price range or neighborhood — is to check your credit score, because that will affect whether you can get a mortgage and the interest rate you will pay. You can see your score for free on Credit.com, as well as get advice on how to improve it.) Check out the timeline below to see what you’ll need to do — and when you’ll need to do it — on the path to homeownership.

1. Choosing Your Agent

Many people work with a real estate agent to help find the right place to call home. When you are ready to begin, it’s important to first research real estate company and agent options in your area. You can do this by asking friends for recommendations and looking online.

It’s important to choose a real estate agent who listens to you and asks questions directed toward finding a property that fully addresses your needs. The more you know what you are looking for out of a home, the better he or she will be able to help meet those expectations. This includes things like number of bedrooms, yard space, garages, etc.

As you are securing your agent, this is also a great time to work on your pre-approval to get a better idea of what you can afford.

2. Finding a Property

Deciding how much home you can afford is a very important step in the process. You want to be able to comfortably make your monthly payments while genuinely liking the home you own. It can be a good idea to make a homeowner budget and try out living on it for a few months. Next you can start checking out properties in that price range.

This is also a good time to look at the neighborhoods to make sure they offer what you are looking for – good schools if you have children, or stores at a walkable distance if you don’t have a car.

3. Going From Buyer to Owner

Once you’ve found a home you like, you make an offer. This often results in some counteroffers or negotiation from the seller. Once you’ve both agreed to terms, it’s a good idea get a home inspection and sign the purchase and sale agreement. You then secure your financing (mortgage) and move into the closing process. You also want to start thinking about your moving preparations at this time and determine what you will need to get your new home ready for you. This may include small changes like painting or large-scale renovations.

Knowing what to do and when can make the homebuying process much simpler. Follow these guidelines and use your real estate knowledge to get the home you have been dreaming of for a price you can afford.

More on Mortgages and Homebuying:

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  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    So true! Thanks.

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