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Robert M. Wright; Author, Freelance Writer, Realtor

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Although the current media says otherwise, this is the perfect time to buy a house. Prices are at the lowest they have been in decades and interest rates are at unheard of lows. Buying a house is always a scary proposition because of the many unknowns that accompany home ownership. The biggest unknown in this current economy is what will your house be worth in a year or two? The reality is your house will eventually be worth more than you purchased it for. Real Estate is a cyclical industry, there are highs and lows in real estate, and currently we are in a lowcalled a buyers market.

What this means is that there are more houses on the market than buyers. And there is no need for you as a buyer to be saddled with buying the first house you come across. You can pick and choose among a plethora of homes.

So what are the things, you as a potential buyer, need do to ensure you get the house you want.

1) Realtors and Real Estate agents.

Getting the right real estate agent. This is the first thing you should do. Finding and choosing the right Realtor for you is an important business decision. That's right business decision, because you are entering into a partnership between you and your agent and their broker. You need to trust and believe that your agent is working in your best interest. As Realtors we are expected to do that, we are expected to act in your best interest. But what can you do to make sure you get the best agent for you and for your needs?

Trust. Trust is the first point in developing a great relationship with your agent. These are tough times for us real estate agents as well, we have bills and worry about our families like you do, and to ensure you aren't just getting someone whose looking to pay their bills do some research. Talk to family and friends about Realtors they have used in the past, but don't be swayed by the number of years or experience an agent may have. There are many newer agents who will be more invested in their clients than older, more experienced agents might be. These agents are working on building their business and will go the extra mile to ensure you as their client get the best service they can provide rather than rely on their reputations. Interview the agents, at least three, and base your decision on your feeling from those conversations.

Those interviews lead to the next point, communication. You want a Realtor who is easy to communicate with, someone who listens to your needs, wants and fears and can answer those concerns. You want an agent who is accessible and when they are with you, makes you their absolute priority. Buying a house is a stressful time, and you need someone who can be a rock in this hustle and bustle of activity. With the housing market the way it is currently, having an agent who listens to you and works to find your needs first then addresses the wants is valuable because it means they took the time to ask the right questions. It means they are not just looking for a sale now, but looking to establish a long term business relationship with you and through you, your friends and family.

The last point in finding an agent is their knowledge. You want to know what they know. If they are new to the industry what are they going to do to make themselves stand out. What is their sales philosophy and what services will they provide you? If they are an older agent how much time and what will they do to find the right house for you? How well do they know the listing agents and will they look at houses personally before asking you to view them? These are legitimate questions you should ask. And ultimately in the end, it comes down to combining the three areas into finding the agent you feel most comfortable with. The one you feel will provide you the best service, and the one you trust to help you the most.

2) What are your needs?

To best determine the house you should buy you have to have firm grasp of your needs. You should have a list of needs to present to the agent you choose. This should include, the number of bedrooms you need and why. If you have children what kinds of schools do you need? Elementary? Middle or High school? Do you need to be close enough so you children can walk? Do you need access to a freeway or commuter transports such as bus or train stations? The more of these needs you can nail down the more targeted and focused your agent can become when looking at listings.

After your needs are your wants. What do you want in a house? Do you want a swimming pool? Do you want a fenced yard? Do you want a custom kitchen? Do you want hardwood floors? Fireplaces? Do you like to shop? Is being close to a mall or shopping center important? Are parks for you or for your animals important? Do you like fine dining? If so would a location that is close to downtown be more suited to you? These wants are usually secondary to your absolute needs, but once your agent can get the basic needs down, they can start addressing these wants.

So make a list of needs and wants and meet with your agent with them and go over the list. This way both you and your agent are on the same page on what you are looking for. Trust me this is a huge help to everyone involved.

3) What can you afford and getting a mortgage pre-approval.

These are absolutes before you can make an offer, and some advocate you get this done before even getting a Realtor. I prefer that you find an agent first then get the financing. While it seems like common sense, you would be surprised at how often buyers fail to do this.

First of all review your credit report. You get a free one every year, so contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to get your report. This will help you see what your financial picture is and what you can realistically afford.

Take your credit report and get a pre-approval for a loan. It helps the mortgage agent examine the options available to you. Having a pre-approval makes it easier for your agent to make a serious offer on the house you want. A pre-approval places you in a stronger position than someone who still needs to get approved. When talking to the mortgage people, be honest and realistic in your expenses and bills, they are trying to help you so don't hide anything from them, it could comeback and haunt you later if you do.

Getting pre-approved creates a better situation for you as a buyer. The seller and their agent will take you seriously because you went through the process to qualify for a loan before making an offer. It shows you are in a position to buy the house, they can believe your offer and that the transaction can close relativity smoothly.

4) Making an offer and cash down.

Making an offer. This is a tricky issue for a lot of people because they are afraid of handing a check over with the offer. But the more you put down with the offer, the more seriously the seller will take you. And if they do decide to go with another buyer, you get the check back. So if you have $10 or $20,000 to put down, put it down. You don't lose the money, the check is safe with your agent and their broker. Besides if it helps you secure the house you want, why would you only offer a paltry $1,000 or $2,000? Be earnest in your offering and the house you want will more times than not, become your new home.

These are things you can do, and should do when preparing to buy a new home. These are all important and should begin right away when you become serious about buying a home. Other parts of the process such as inspections, insurance and taxes as well as any contingencies that will be in the contracts will be part of your agents job to recommend and to advise you upon.