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How do I shop for a home? Here are some suggestions

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of articles put together by the Park Rapids H.O.M.E. (Home Ownership Made Easy) group outlining the steps in buying a home. The articles will appear in the Park Rapids Enterprise over the next several ...

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of articles put together by the Park Rapids H.O.M.E. (Home Ownership Made Easy) group outlining the steps in buying a home. The articles will appear in the Park Rapids Enterprise over the next several weeks.

Last week we discussed how to work with one or more lenders to identify the financing package that is best for you. This week we'll discuss how to shop for your ideal home.

At this point you have found your finances are in order, you have been pre-approved by your lender and have decided that home ownership is right for you.

The next step is shopping for a home. The process involved in home buying can be a great experience. Quite possibly the most fun you will have is in the actual search for a home. Comparing features between unique properties and figuring out exactly what you are looking for can be lots of fun!

Home ownership will most likely be your single largest purchase - it can also be your number one investment. As with everything else in life, doing your homework in advance will likely save you lots of headaches and possibly thousands of dollars!

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The following tips are designed to help you get the ball rolling.

Create a 'wish list'

Making a "wish list" is a good first step. Sit down and evaluate your needs and jot down some notes.

What would you really like to have in a home? At this point you have probably figured out what your basic needs are, but what are the things you would really like to have as extra benefits?

Do you want the home to be close to town or way out in the country?

Do you need a double garage, garden space, lots of trees or an open view? There are so many things to consider and your lifestyle may be the most important factor in helping you determine your wants and needs.

Do you want to live 30 miles from your workplace? Commuting 60 miles per day can be costly with today's fuel prices. Would it make much more sense to try and live close to work?

Do you have children that will need to ride a school bus? Living too far from the school could cause them to be at the bus stop at 6:30 a.m. Do you want a home with a basement? Do you need lots of storage?

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Can you get by with two bedrooms or would you be better off with three?

How about access to high-speed Internet service? There are still rural areas that only have dial-up access.

Do you have time to mow 2 acres of manicured lawn? Do you want a home that is ready to move right in or do you have some carpentry skills to do a little fixing-up on an older home?

Remember to take your time to completely evaluate your lifestyle and your needs before rushing into a decision. You should never buy the first home you see.

Familiarize yourself with the market and with a good segment of comparable homes in your price range before making a decision to make an offer. Finding a competent, full-time Realtor with references from satisfied customers is the next step.

Choose a realtor

Buying a house can be a complicated task. A real estate professional will help guide you through the process and the paperwork involved in a purchase.

Your realtor will schedule homes to view, make sure all contracts and disclosure documents are present, write up your offer to purchase, negotiate on your behalf and schedule all necessary logistics for your closing.

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Your realtor will also be in contact with your financial institution to make sure that things are on schedule and they will maintain contact with the closing/title company to make sure details are being prepared in a timely manner.

Realtors are paid on a commission basis, which is determined as a percentage of the seller's final negotiated sales price. You can bet it is always in the best interest of your chosen realtor to see that you have a successful buying experience.

If you don't, they don't get paid! Realtors "earn" their commissions by providing outstanding service to their clients. If you don't feel you are being given excellent help and advice, find another realtor.

Attorneys

Do you really need to have an attorney in a real estate transaction? The answer is yes!

Real estate professionals are not qualified or licensed to give legal advice. An attorney will render a title opinion on the property that you are purchasing.

If the property has an "Abstract of Title" the attorney will inspect every entry in this legal document and make sure there are no problems with the chain of title. This can save you lots of grief in the future.

Many times the abstract document will go back over 100 years and there may be mistakes in the past that need to be fixed before you have clear title to your new home.

Purchasing a "title insurance" policy is also a good idea. There are companies that specialize in selling insurance policies that will cover you and your interest in your property should there ever be a problem in the future.

Next week we will talk about selecting the home you would like to purchase.

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