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Making the decision to buy versus rent is a big step. A home will likely be the largest single purchase you make. Summer is often the big season for real estate; many families with children hope to be settled by the time school starts. In particularly hot real estate markets, houses can sell very quickly, so it’s a good idea to get prepared now for the homebuying process.

1. Know Your Price Point

The most important factor in buying a home is affordability. Considering your marital status, salary, job security, debt and credit situation, it’s important to calculate how much house you can truly afford. Try to get all your financial ducks in a row before you begin your hunt. Look over your credit report (you can get a free annual report), research loan options and get a pre-approved for a mortgage. From there, you can determine how much money to use for your down payment and how much mortgage you can afford in your monthly budget. (You can also get a free credit report summary once a month on Credit.com if you want to improve your credit and track your progress before you apply for the loan.)

2. Find a Real Estate Agent

Even in the age of online listings, it’s often beneficial to have the help of a seasoned expert. Real estate agents can provide useful market knowledge that comes from first-hand experience. They can also provide serious help when it comes to the mounds of paperwork involved in the homebuying process. There are a different types of real estate experts so be sure you find one who fits your needs.

3. Location, Location, Location

When you are looking for your next property, it’s important to have an idea of where you want to live. Whether it is based on your job, school districts or proximity to friends and family, it’s a good idea to figure out what is specifically important to you and base your search on that information. Location is one of the most important things when it comes to resale value and buyer satisfaction.

4. Close the Deal

Once you have found the home that’s right for you, you can get to work on negotiating the terms and the price. It’s important to learn how to make an offer as well as the process of closing on a home. If you thought down payment and mortgage payments were the only costs involved, know now that this is not the case. Between lender charges, settlement services and escrow, closing can be an expensive and lengthy process. It’s important to know what you are paying for and whether you can reduce the costs. Then, get excited — this is the last step in becoming a homeowner.

Buying a new home can be exciting and stressful, but if you plan ahead and take calculated step towards ownership, you can have an easier and more successful experience. If you are hoping to pull the trigger on a home purchase this summer, good luck!

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