n Shop around for mortgage rates and terms. Even half a percentage point could make a difference over the course of a mortgage. Federal Housing Administration loan programs offer lower down payments and are a good option for first-time homebuyers.
n Get pre-approved for a mortgage before you make an offer.
n Make your offer contingent on a home inspection. An inspection will tell you about the condition of the home, and can help you avoid buying a home that needs major repairs. Ask your inspector to check for the presence of contaminated drywall imported from China.
n Talk to the neighbors in the area where you are thinking of buying.
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n Buying a home is confusing, and a real estate agent can help. Find an agent who you find easy to talk to.
n Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is a lot of paperwork and probably some terms you’ve never heard involved in buying a home.
n Be reasonable when making an offer. Banks and owners may be willing to bargain with serious buyers but putting in an offer extremely below market value is a waste of your time.
n If you are looking at short sale properties, it may take a while to get a response to your offer. Loss mitigation departments at banks are flooded with short sale requests. Although banks are improving their response times, you and your agent have to be persistent to get a timely response.