1. Get what you're after, not what they're selling you.
Spell out exactly what you need. Now spell out what you want. Make a list of matches. What's realistic in your price range?
2. Hit the road.
Give the house a test drive. Try your potential new commute in rush hour. How's the traffic?
3. Take the temperature.
Show up in the area at different times of day. Is it peaceful or is it hopping with activity?
4. Get the scoop.
Talk to the neighbors. How's the phone service? The power? The cable? The community?
5. Check the weather.
Ask the neighbors what happened in the last big storm. You can also check weather report archives online. How are the winter storms there? Does it ever flood?
6. Beware of financial gremlins.
Keep asking questions about items that could impact your bottom line. How much is the gas and electric? Are there homeowner's fees? How old is the roof? The air conditioner?
7. Call for reinforcements.
Bring a friend or relative to see it. Act like you're on the fence. Ask them to tell you what they think.
8. Put your budget to the test.
Estimate how much home you can afford. Now cut your household income in half. What does the emergency budget look like? Could you handle it?
9. Supersize it.
Imagine that you've moved in, and want to renovate. How much would that cost? When would you be able to afford it?
10. Take a time-out.
Sleep on it before making an offer. Decisions made in the heat of the moment may later lead to buyer's remorse.
11. Figure out what you'll need to buy after you move in.
Are you going to need new couches and a dining room table? What's your price range for furniture? No matter what you choose, make sure you never go beyond your budget.
Keep it up. You're getting smarter about home buying.
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