Local Buying Tips

1. Check the selling prices of comparable homes in your area. Web sites such as Zillow and Homegain can give you a general idea of what you should expect to pay. You can also do a quick search of actual MLS listings in your area on a number of Web sites, including the site of the National Association of Realtors.

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2. See what you can afford. (get pre-qualified)

3. Find out what your total monthly housing cost would be, including taxes and homeowners insurance.

4. Find out how much you'll likely pay in closing costs. The upfront cost of settling on your home shouldn't be overlooked.

5. Look at your budget and determine how a house fits into it. Fannie Mae recommends that buyers spend no more than 28% of their income on housing costs. Go much past 30% and you risk becoming house poor.

6. Remember to look at the big picture. While buying a house is a great way to build wealth, maintaining your investment can be labor-intensive and expensive.