Housing Needs

Your home should fit the way you live, with spaces and features that appeal to the whole family. Before you begin looking at homes, make a list of your priorities - things like location and size. Should the house be close to certain schools? your job? to public transportation? How large should the house be? What type of lot do you prefer? What kinds of amenities are you looking for? Establish a set of minimum requirements and a "wish list." Minimum requirements are things that a house must have for you to consider it, while a "wish list" covers things that you'd like to have but aren't essential.
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Loan Payoff

By sending in extra money each month or making an extra payment at the end of the year, you can accelerate the process of paying off the loan. When you send extra money, be sure to indicate that the excess payment is to be applied to the principal. Most lenders allow loan prepayment, though you may have to pay a prepayment penalty to do so. Ask your lender for details.
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Choosing a Loan Program

Your personal situation will determine the best kind of loan for you. By asking yourself a few questions, you can help narrow your search among the many options available and discover which loan suits you best. Do you expect your finances to changeover the next few years? Are you planning to live in this home for a long period of time? Are you comfortable with the idea of a changing mortgage payment amount? Do you wish to be free of mortgage debt as your children approach college age or as you prepare for retirement? Your lender can help you use your answers to questions such as these to decide which loan best fits your needs.
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Mortgage Insurance

Mortgage insurance is a policy that protects lenders against some or most of the losses that result from defaults on home mortgages. It's required primarily for borrowers making a down payment of less than 20%.
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Direct Buy Escrow

If you buy a house directly from a seller, without brokers, have an attorney keep your deposit in and escrow account. Too often, money held by the seller is spent prematurely. If the sale doesn't go though it's important that you can recover your funds.
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Stale Listing Syndrome

Buyers sometimes ignore houses that have remained unsold for a long period, assuming, often incorrectly, that they must have serious flaws. One way to avoid the stale-listing syndrome if your house isn't attracting buyer interest is to withdraw it from the market temporarily and then relist it, so it will appear fresh to brokers and to buyers, who won't be put off by the old listing date.
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House Buying Season

Because many buyers prefer to move in the spring or summer, the real estate market starts to heat up as early as February. Families with children are anxious to buy so they can move during summer vacation, before the new school year begins. The market slows down in late summer before picking up again briefly in the fall. November and December have traditionally been slow months, although some astute buyers look for bargains during this period.
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Disaster Damage

Homeowners should contact their insurance carrier as soon as possible to begin the claims process; however standard homeowner policies do not cover flood damage.

FEMA provides housing assistance for qualifying disaster victims. Homeowners within a designated federal disaster area may call toll-free 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to register for assistance. Applicants should be prepared to describe losses and provide their Social Security number, financial information, and directions to the damaged property.
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Deciding on a Community

Select a community that will allow you to best live your daily life. Many people choose communities based on schools. Do you want access to shopping and public transportation? Is access to local facilities like libraries and museums important to you? Or do you prefer the peace and quiet of a rural community? When you find places that you like, talk to people that live there. They know the most about the area and will be your future neighbors. More than anything, you want a neighborhood where you feel comfortable in.
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