10 Simple Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Here’s some basic information that can help people who are purchasing their first home.

These tips come from Cindy Chandler, president of the North Carolina Association of REALTORS®; syndicated columnist Ilyce Glink, author of "100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask"; the book "1,001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home," by Mark Nash; and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

  • Know what you can afford to spend. Calculators on calculations include Bankrate.com and E-Loan.com can help.

  • Find out if you qualify for home-buying help. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example, has programs to help teachers, firefighters and others buy affordable homes. Federal Housing Administration loan programs offer lower down payments to help first-time buyers. Go to HUD's Web Site for details.

  • Get pre-qualified for a loan. First, get a copy of your credit history (free copies are available through AnnualCreditReport.com), then find a reputable lender.

  • Make a list of must-haves in a new home and another of would-like-to-haves. Prioritize both lists and be realistic.

  • Don’t spend a lot of time looking at homes you can’t afford. This reduces the temptation to overextend your budget.

  • Realize the neighborhood you choose is at least as important as the house. Make sure you are comfortable there. You can fix a house; a neighborhood is what it is.

  • Think about resale value. When you spot a home you like, consider how it will look to future buyers. For instance, proximity to a busy street can turn off some buyers.

  • Find out and calculate on-going maintenance costs and other factors like taxes, insurance and utilities.

  • Have the house inspected and carefully review the report. Come up with a negotiation strategy, remembering that the seller is obligated to fix a leaking roof but not a hole in the carpet.

  • Examine the preclosing statement provided by your agent or lender and ensure that you have enough cash to swing the deal when you go to settlement.