Home Buying 101

So you want to buy a home in 1 year

Want to end up in a new home a year from now? Here's a look, month by month, at what you should be doing as you count down to buying a home.

buy a house

Month No. 1: March

1. Review your credit report.
2. Build and enhance credit.

Do you need to increase your score? Do you have enough credit? What can you do to solve both of these issues?

Before you contact a real-estate agent or mortgage lender, you need to know if your credit is good enough to qualify for a mortgage. This is when you should pull your credit report and take steps to ensure that you have built up sufficient credit history and that your score is as high as it can be. The higher your credit score, the better the mortgage rate you'll qualify for. This also will leave you plenty of time to correct any errors or inaccuracies on your report that may trip you up later.

Month No. 2: April

buy a houseWhat can you afford?
1. What's your income?
2. Assess your debts.
Tally up all debts, short and long term. Paying down your debts will improve your credit score.
3. How much savings do you have?
What can you do to increase your savings if necessary?
4. See if you prequalify for a mortgage.
Use a calculator to see how large a mortgage you qualify for. This is not the same as a preapproval. See Month No. 8 for that information.
5. What type of mortgage fits your needs?

Perhaps the most important question you need to answer honestly when you're thinking about buying a home is, "How much house can I afford?" Take inventory of your monthly income versus your monthly debts as well as your savings to figure out how much you can put toward a down payment and how much you can afford to pay each month. Also, this is a good time to assess your goals and plans to help you determine which loan product will best fit your needs.

buy a house

Month No. 3: May

What kind of home do you need?
1. Consider transportation options.
2. How are the schools rated?
3. What amenities do you want?

Think about your must-have items, including number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a multicar garage, pool, fireplace, eat-in kitchen or finished basement.

After you determine how much house you can afford, you need to figure out what kind of home you need. What is important to you? What amenities does your home need to have? Does your home need to be in an area with great schools? Do you need to live near transportation hubs? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Do you want a house with a pool, an eat-in kitchen, a fireplace, a finished basement? Once you decide what you need and want, it is time to start shopping.

buy a house

Month No. 4: June

Research housing stock
1. Check out neighborhoods where you would like to live.
2. What properties are available that fit your wants and needs?
3. Review the market's "price supports" — jobs, schools, shopping.

At this stage of the game, it's time to start researching the local housing stock. Cruise around the neighborhoods you're interested in and talk to other homeowners and store owners to see if a given neighborhood is right for you.

Viewing homes online is a good way to see what types of homes are available in a neighborhood, but remember that online pictures can be deceiving. Save yourself and your agent a lot of time by driving past the property before you agree to see it together.

Month No. 5: July

buy a houseFind a real-estate agent
1. Find an experienced agent you trust.
2. Discuss market conditions.
3. Check out neighborhoods.
4. Discuss your timeline.
5. Discuss what type of property you want to buy.
6. Determine whether you can afford what you want in that neighborhood.

Homebuyers still name agents as their greatest source of information during the homebuying process. It's important to find a motivated agent you can trust. Engage your agents with questions, ask them about current market conditions, let them know when and what you want to buy.

Also discuss what you're willing to sacrifice in terms of amenities.

Finding the right agent could make all the difference in your homebuying experience.

buy a house

Month No. 6: August

Research other professionals
1. Lawyers
2. Home inspectors
3. Insurers

Once you've chosen the right agent, your research isn't over. Other professionals such as lawyers, insurance agents and home inspectors will be involved in your homebuying process, and you'll need time to shop around to find ones who fit your needs. You won't necessarily need to hire them just yet, but you'll want to have a short list to work from once your transaction really gets rolling.

buy a house

Month No. 7: September

Organize your paperwork
1. Tax forms
You'll need at least two years of tax returns.
2. Asset statements
Get copies of your most recent savings accounts, stocks, bonds and so on. Be prepared to provide updates to these documents closer to closing.
3. Income statements
4. Gift letters, if applicable

Now it's time to get your paperwork organized. This may take some legwork on your part. Mortgage lenders are going to require that you prove your income and your assets. That means showing them income statements, at least two years' worth of tax returns and statements from your savings account(s) and any investments you might have.

If you're receiving money from a family member or friend -- for example, a down payment -- you'll be required to provide a letter from the person giving the gift stating that the recipient has no legal obligation to pay it back.

buy a house

Month No. 8: October

Mortgage-lender research and preapproval
1. Which lenders are in your area?
Start by researching local lenders, then expand the search if necessary.
2. Preapproval

This is where you will bring in your documentation. You cannot get an appraisal until you have executed a sales contract on a property. A preapproval will allow you to shop and negotiate with a seller because you can show that you can obtain financing and are a serious bidder. This is not a loan guarantee.

buy a house

Month No. 9: November

1. Sale contract
Reaching a sale contract may involve offers and counteroffers until you

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and the seller reach an agreement on the sale price and contingencies.
2. Mortgage-related paperwork
This is where that research into the other professionals comes into play.

  • Lawyer to help go over the sales contract (someone to represent your best interests)
  • Home inspector

Month No. 10: December

buy a houseLogistics of moving
1. Review your lease and give proper notice to your landlord.
2. Review your utility service. Do you need a new provider? Do you need to transfer or terminate your service?
3. Will you move yourself or hire a professional? Professional movers recommend one week per room if you're moving yourself.
4. Research moving (and possibly storage) costs.

As if the entire mortgage-approval process isn't stressful enough, you also need to worry about the logistics of moving. If you're a renter, now's the time to give your landlord the proper notice that you're moving out. You should contact your utility service providers to determine if you'll need to transfer or terminate your service.

For the move, you may want to hire a professional. You should also research storage costs if you can't move all of your items at once.

buy a house

Month No. 11: January 2014

Moving day preparation
1. Pack.
2. Prepare for your arrival in your new place.
3. What's your closing date?
4. Can you move right in or will there be a delay between moving out and moving in?
5. There may be no lights, heat, phone or cable when you move in.

It’s time to get packing. However, at this stage, packing won't be your only concern: You'll be given your closing date when you'll sign the final paperwork. You should also schedule your final walk-through of the house before you sign the papers.

If you're moving on closing day, be sure you've arranged for your utilities to be ready.

buy a house

Month No. 12: February

Contingency plan
1. Don't leave yourself without any options.
2. Don't leave yourself financially strapped if things don't go according to plan.

Last but not least, don't leave yourself without options. What if things don't go according to plan? What if, for some reason, you can't move in as planned — do you have money set aside or living arrangements and storage for all your things?

The homebuying process is hardly smooth sailing. However, if you follow this timeline and make sure you're organized, you can avoid any squalls that could wind up costing you money, or even your home.

This article was taken from realestate.msn.com

New Mortgage Rules


New mortgage rules have been unveiled to reduce risky lending and make it easier for borrowers to know exactly what they

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Read all about these new rules and how they will effect you: money.cnn.com

Short Sale Myths

Short Sale

A short sale can be an excellent solution for homeowners who must sell and owe more on their homes than they are worth. Unfortunately, a number of myths about short sales have developed, and it is important to understand the reality of this process should you find it meets your current needs.

Myth #1 – The Bank Would Rather Foreclose than Bother with a Short Sale

This is one of the most common misconceptions. The reality is that banks do not want to foreclose on your property because the foreclosure process is incredibly costly. Banks, investors, and even the federal government have all publicly stated that if a person is qualified for a short sale, the deal needs to be considered. Overwhelmingly, banks receive more on their investment through a short sale than a foreclosure.
The qualifications for a short sale include:

  1. Financial Hardship – There is a situation causing you to have trouble affording your mortgage.
  2. Monthly Income Shortfall "You have more month than money." A lender will want to see that you cannot afford, or soon will not be able to afford your mortgage.
  3. Insolvency – The lender will want to see that you do not have significant liquid assets that would allow you to pay down your mortgage.

Myth #2 – You Must Be Behind on Your Mortgage to Negotiate a Short Sale

While this may have previously been the case, today lenders are looking for verifiable hardship, monthly cash flow shortfall, or pending shortfall and insolvency.

If you meet these three requirements and believe that you soon may be unable to afford your mortgage, act immediately. Any delay could limit your options. Do not wait until

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the countdown clock to foreclosure has started and you have even less time left.

Short Sale

Myth #3 – There is Not Enough Time to Negotiate a Short Sale Before My Foreclosure

This is a myth that probably hurts homeowners the most. Many do not realize that foreclosure is a process, and that there is time to make decisions that may result in better outcomes.

The foreclosing party—in most cases a lender—can stall a foreclosure up to the final day of the process. Today, many lenders will stall a foreclosure with as little as a phone call from you explaining that you are trying to sell, and almost all lenders will stall a foreclosure with a legitimate contract. For real estate professionals who understand foreclosures and short sales, there is time available until the foreclosure process is complete.

Myth #4 – Listing My Home as a Short Sale is an Embarrassment

It is understandable to have reservations about letting the world know that you owe more on your home than it is worth. However, according to recent estimates, more than one out of eight homeowners in the U.S.

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is in the same situation. You are to be congratulated for admitting you need help, taking action, and finding a professional who can work with you toward a solution.

With recent estimates showing 40-60% of U.S. sales will be short sales or foreclosures, you are not alone.

Myth #5 – Short Sales are Impossible and Never Get Approved

This is a complete falsehood. Are short sales more difficult to execute? Yes. Do you, as a homeowner, need to learn about a new process? Yes. Are they impossible? Absolutely not.

For example, agents with the Certified Distressed Property Expert® (CDPE) Designation receive thousands of short sale approvals on a monthly basis. These professionals have undergone extensive training in methods to help homeowners in distress and process short sales. While there are no guarantees in any transaction, more and more short sales are being approved regularly. This is far from an impossible process.

Short Sale

Myth #6 – Banks are Waiting on a Bailout and Not Accepting Short Sales

You may have heard this, but the reality is that banks (and the U.S. government) are trying to do anything they can, within reason, to avoid foreclosing on properties. It is preposterous to believe they would deny a short sale in hopes that some future legislation would pass and pay them for losses.

Today, more banks are aggressively pursuing short sales and working with agents who understand how to process them. Freddie Mac recently hosted a national training Webinar for real estate agents where they expressly stated the organizational goal of "eliminating distressed assets through modification or short sale."

Myth #7 –

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Buyers are Not Interested in Short Sale Properties

This is a myth that potential sellers hear all the time. Thankfully, this is just not true. In fact, many agents are getting calls from buyers who say they only want to look at foreclosure and short sales.

For buyers, short sales and foreclosures have become synonymous with "good deals." More specifically, international buyers are targeting these properties. Listing with an experienced agent who is educated in the short sale process will provide you with a great chance of quickly seeing a contract on your property.

This article was taken from cdpe.com.

Buying Again After a Foreclosure or Short Sale

Storms never last.

And so it is with many families across America who have gone through either a short sale or a foreclosure in the past few years. Sure, going through a foreclosure or a short sale can be a little stormy, but after a period of time the storm will clear, and it will be time to buy a house again.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal popularized a catchy name for people who have gone through the storm of a foreclosure or short sale and are now ready to buy a house again — boomerang buyers. According to the WSJ, 729,000 foreclosed borrowers are now eligible to apply for an FHA mortgage, up from 285,000 in the same quarter in 2011. This number is expected to rise to 1.5 million by the first quarter of 2014.

Which means it is safe to say that millions of people in the next few years are going to ask the question: What is required in order for me to get a mortgage after a short sale or foreclosure?

Some lenders have special financing programs for people who fall into the boomerang buyer group, but the most common types of financing are FHA, VA and Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac conforming loans. Here are the requirements for these popular types of loans if you have been involved in a short sale or foreclosure:

Buying a house after a short sale

If you went through a short sale and are ready to buy a home again, there are different rules depending on which type of loan you are considering, how much you are planning to put down as a down payment and whether or not you had late payments on your old mortgage before the short sale was completed.

You may be wondering about the *Immediately part of this grid. Yes, it is possible for someone to buy a home with an FHA loan right away if they were current on their mortgage payment at the time of their short sale or if they went into default for reasons beyond their control.

While it is possible to buy again after a short sale immediately depending on the above circumstances, the more common scenario is to wait for two years and get a Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac loan with 20 percent down or waiting three years and getting an FHA loan with 3.5 percent down.

Buying a house after foreclosure

As with a short sale, the waiting periods are different when buying again after a foreclosure based on which type of financing you are seeking.

For most lenders, an extenuating circumstance is a non-recurring event that was beyond an applicant’s control that resulted in a sudden, significant and prolonged reduction in income or extreme increase in financial obligations. Such events are unpredictable, temporary in nature, out of the borrowers control and unlikely to happen again.

Using that definition as a guideline, it will be up to an underwriter to decide whether your particular situation qualifies as an extenuating circumstance.

Credit considerations

When it comes time to apply for a mortgage after a short sale or foreclosure, the waiting period required by FHA, VA or Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac guidelines is one thing — having the credit score to qualify is another, and you need to meet both requirements.

A short sale generally has less of an impact on someone’s credit score than a foreclosure. The biggest impact is caused by late payments, and the foreclosure process usually will take longer than a short sale — so there are more late payments for the credit bureaus to count. Also, how the foreclosure or short sale shows up on your credit report can make a difference. If your loan was “settled,” it will not be as harmful to your credit as if it was recorded as a “default.”

There are a few simple things you can do to clean up your credit after a foreclosure or short sale — including paying off your credit card debt, making all of your other monthly payments on time and keeping records of your on-time payments and monthly budgets showing that you have cut back on spending.

The good news is that

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storms never last, and depending on what kind of storm you have been through, there is a pathway to follow where you can buy a home again.

This article was taken from zillow.com and was written by Justin McHood

Big News in Real Estate!

HomeServices of America, Inc., which owns Prudential is merging with Berkshire Hathaway. This new franchise brand joins existing brands and affiliate networks of Prudential Real Estate and Real Living Real Estate. It will be known as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. Here is the official press release:

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, The Real Estate Industry

Game Changer!

HomeServices of America, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, and Brookfield Asset Management announced today that they have partnered to introduce Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – a new premium franchise brand that joins the existing brands and affiliate networks including Prudential Real Estate nationwide.

The announcement of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices signals a defining moment in real estate. It unites the strengths of two industry leaders, bringing together unparalleled operational excellence, innovation and integrity. With a vision to become the most respected and valued company in the real estate market, this powerful new network will exemplify the reputation of Berkshire Hathaway – among Fortune’s 2012 most admired companies – in the real estate space.


Prudential California Realty, a wholly owned company of HomeServices, is honored to be part of this game changing strategy. “The power of HomeServices and Berkshire Hathaway

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Adds Leeann Iacino, COO of Prudential California Realty, “This announcement represents an extraordinary opportunity for our clients, and our sales associates, that is second to none. We are so proud to be associated with the combined strength that Berkshire Hathaway and HomeServices represents in this real estate industry game changing announcement”.


Since the inception of HomeServices 15 years

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“Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices passion for our industry will redefine the future of real estate and the American Dream", said Iacino.

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It’s a new day for the housing market.
Prudential California Realty, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Real Estate

25 Biggest Real Estate Mistakes

Get insider secrets to avoid costly blunders on the most important investment of your life. Here is a list compiled by top real estate experts on the biggest mistakes we all make when buying and selling our homes.

25. Buying a House for Its Decor
Remember that you are buying the house, not the things inside it, so make sure you see beyond the decorations and look at the bones of the home. Focus on the floor plan and the square footage. You also might want to measure the dimensions and graph out how that's going to work with your belongings.

24. Not Providing Easy Access for Showings
Make your house easily accessible to potential buyers. If there's nowhere to park or it's difficult to get into, buyers may just skip it and look at someone else's property.

23. Not Researching the Neighborhood
It's absolutely critical that you research the neighborhood before you buy. Check out the area, amenities and the school system to be sure that your address corresponds with the correct school district. Also attend a community meeting,

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22. Losing Money With Auctions
While the starting bidding price for a house on auction might be a good deal, it doesn't mean the final price will be. Make sure that you are very strict with your budget when you are bidding; do not go over your final price because you got wrapped up in the excitement of a bidding war. Another thing to keep in mind is that when you buy a property at auction, you aren't able to get any of the warrantees or guarantees, and you are not able to do a home inspection. Find out if the auctioneer is going to add those charges on top of the sale price as well as if there are any liens on the property. You could be responsible for paying the property taxes on that house you just bought, which could make what looks like a good deal into a really bad deal.

21. Trying to Make the "Hard Sell" While Showing
If you are selling your house, you really shouldn't be around at the open house. You might want to try to sell the place on all the reasons you think the house is great, but that might not translate to the buyer. If you leave, you allow the buyers to give unbiased objective feedback to the agent, which is only going to help you in the end.

20. Waiting Until Spring to Sell Your House
Spring is the busiest real estate activity period, but that does not mean that people don't buy houses 365 days of the year. That doesn't mean you can't emphasize your home's seasonal amenities.

19. Treating Real Estate Like the Stock Market
When the real estate market is really hot and is appreciating really fast, people tend to look at it like it's the stock market. But playing real estate is nothing like the stock market; when you invest in real estate, you really need to take a long-term approach.

18. Failing to Market Your Home in Different Ways
Don't market your home with just a "for sale" sign. Explore other marketing tools as well. Talk to your real estate agent about the marketing that he or she will do. It's something that should be set up from the initial signing of a contract with an agent. Some homes have virtual tours and photographs online. If you choose to go that route, don't forget to include the floor plans. That way, people can see the layout of your home and know if it's right for them.

17. Not Thinking About Resale
When you are decorating and renovating your home, you need to think about what is going to appeal to a broad section of buyers when it comes time to sell it. Buying houses and being in the real estate market is like chess: You always want to look two or three steps ahead in the game.

16. Buying Without Actually Seeing the Property
It's really easy to buy a house without seeing it because of the Internet and virtual tours, but virtual tours can be deceiving. Plus, it's really hard to actually get a sense and feel of a home by only looking at it online. You need to actually walk through the place yourself. If that's just not possible, hire an inspector to go look at the property and provide you with an assessment.

15. Trusting Everything a Real Estate Advertisement Says
Don't assume every ad is fact. Learn to decipher real estate lingo. For example, "cozy" means small, and "as is" means it's a fixer-upper. If there are a lot of exclamation points in an ad, it's because there is so little to say about the place. Follow the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

14. Picking the Wrong Agent
Treat meetings with agents like a job interview because that's really how it works. Keep in mind that the person is going to be working for you. Talk to your friends who've sold houses and had good experiences with their particular agent, and go to open houses and observe how that agent interacts with other people. It's also a good idea to meet with the agent in their office. It allows you to see how organized he or she is, what kind of environment they work in and whether that's conducive to being able to do a good job for you.

13. Not Hiring an Agent
There's a lot more to selling a house than just putting a sign on the front lawn. If you don't have an agent, you will not get on the multiple-listing service (MLS). That means that other agents are not going to know that your property is for sale. Another thing to consider is if you are willing to show the house each time someone wants to come by and look at it. If you do plan to sell your house on your own, be sure to have a lawyer present at the closing. It's really important to have someone on your side who understands all the complexities.

12. Buying the Most Expensive Home on the Block
The most expensive house will only depreciate in value over time, rather than appreciate, which is what you want. Also, those houses are often not the first house to sell because they are usually overbuilt to the neighborhood. It's absolutely critical that you research the neighborhood before you buy to find out what the price point should be.

11. Not Setting a Realistic Budget
Just because the bank prequalifies you for a loan amount of $400,000 doesn't mean you can afford to make that payment every month. Before hitting the streets for a house hunt, you should sit down and make a monthly budget of what you spend every month. Come up with a number that you are comfortable spending on your mortgage payment, aside from those other expenditures. An easy way to do this is to take a third of your gross income and have that figure be the number you spend on the house. It is also a good idea to have six to nine months of mortgage payments in the bank, plus a little extra if you have any repairs that you might need to do.

10. Visiting the House Only Once
It's important to visit a house more than once because the neighborhood itself may be very different, depending on the day of the week and the time of day. It's also a good idea to go home and think about it, even sleep on it, before you go back again.

9. Not Being Pro-Active at Closing
The best thing to do when going into a closing is to get all the paperwork ahead of time. All that information should come from a mortgage broker or banker. They have what they call a HUD (Housing and Urban Development) One form that lists all the charges, and you can legally get it in your hands 24 hours before closing. Schedule the closing for in the morning, so you have a fresh mind and plenty of time to go over everything and to ask questions. The final walk-through is another imperative part of the process. You may want to have a home inspector accompany you.

8. Doing Major Renovations/Remodeling Before Selling
Minor upgrades usually

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have a higher return on your money than tackling major renovations before placing a home on the market. The main reason? Huge construction projects always cost more than you think they will, and they also take longer than you expect. The best place to spend money is outside. Research shows that increasing the curb appeal often returns the most value on your money. It's what gets buyers inside the house.

7. Skipping the Loan Pre-Approval Step
When you are pre-approved, the bank is saying, "we will give you a mortgage of up to this amount, so now all you have to do is find your home." Some sellers only allow real estate agents to show their house if someone

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has a pre-approved letter. That indicates that the shopper really is serious about buying a home.

6. Falling in Love With the First Property You See
Many homebuyers, particularly first-time homebuyers, fall into the trap of falling in love with the very first house that they see. You need to at least look at three more houses in the area to get an idea of what the comparables are in that price range. You want your real estate agent to show you homes comparable to what you saw. At the end of the day, re-evaluate.

5. Buying a Home Without a Professional Inspection
There are a lot of things a home inspection can reveal about a property that are not visible to the naked eye. Be sure to hire someone who comes with a good referral basis, who's been in the business a while and knows what to look for. Look up the American Society of Home Inspectors and get a list of qualified home inspectors in your area. Once you find an inspector, insist that they compile a written report, complete with photos. Photographs are important because there are areas a home inspector will go that you might not look at.

4. Overlooking the Extra and Hidden Costs
Buying a home is not just about the money that you spend upfront; it's about all the rest of the money you have to spend beyond that. Find out what the property taxes are, what your water bill might be and what a standard electric bill is in that home, especially if you have electric heat instead of gas heat. You also need to factor in furnishings you may need to purchase before you can move in.

3. Buying What You Want, Not What You Need
Look at the space that you are already living in. It will help you to realize what you have been missing and what you need in your next home. Make a list of those needs and then ask your agent to start shopping based on those needs. On average, Americans live in a house for about nine years. Remember, you can always trade up a few times before you find the ultimate home.

2. Setting Too High of a Sale Price
As a seller, it's really important to do your research. To come up with your sale price, look up what comparable homes in your neighborhood have sold for. Figure out what the going price is and try to put yours right in the middle of that, unless you have something extra-special to offer. It's always better to price a home that way than to start too high and have to reduce. Once you reduce, it always looks like something is wrong with the home.

1. Failing to Showcase Your Home and Making Small Cosmetic Changes
When you are selling your house, you have to really look at it objectively and think about it from the viewpoint of the house hunter. Make minor enhancements to the house and maybe hire a professional stager to come and arrange your furniture. Staging is about decorating your house for the buyers' taste, not yours. A great place to start is with the front of the home and the main entryway. Home staging is designed to increase the potential selling price and reduce the amount of time the house stays on the market.

This article was taken from hgtv.com.

Everything You Need to Know About Mortgages

A mortgage is a loan that allows you to borrow enough money to purchase a home. You'll need a mortgage to buy a home, unless you are planning on paying in cash.

Check out this helpful mortgage guide that is designed to answer frequently asked questions about mortgages and teach you the ins and outs so you are fully prepared when you

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