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The steps to buying a home

Step 1: The Housing and Urban Development recommends to first figure out how much you can afford. What you can afford depends on your income, credit rating, monthly expenses, the down payment you plan to make, and the interest rate.

Step 2: Get pre-qualified for a loan with the lender. Go shopping for a mortgage to know what you can afford and for a monthly payment with which you are comfortable.

Step 3: Consult the help of an attorney to help wade through the paperwork.

Step 4: Find an agent. The agent will be your liaison through the process and explain the type of sales currently on the market, such as foreclosures, short sales, traditional sales and corporate-owned sales.

It's important to understand the differences because some can take a lot longer to close than others.

"The problem with a short sale is you can wait six to nine months and the bank will say no [to the offer]," Coldwell Banker Realtor Susie Covey said. "... So you have to start all over again."

Step 5: Find your new home.

Step 6: Make an offer on the property. An offer includes the price but also can be negotiated closing dates, moving dates and other conditions and contingencies. This is a legal document and where the assistance of a lawyer comes in handy. Patience is recommended during what can be a stressful time.

Step 7: Once the contract is accepted by the bank or the seller, it's time for the home inspection by a certified inspector. The home inspection is needed to find any major deficiencies that are health and safety hazards.

"If there's anything we did not visually see when we walked through [the house], it gives us the opportunity to back out of the [contract]," Covey said.

Step 8: Banks order appraisals to tell the value of a home at that time. If the home appraises for lower than what it sells, it is often a deal killer.

"It's very hard to do an appraisal with so many short sales and foreclosures to factor into the value of the neighborhood," Re/Max Plaza Realtor Kim Keefe said.

Step 9: Submit your mortgage application. Review all fees before signing the mortgage contract.

Step 10: Once given the clear to close, a final walk-through is done, again to make sure that there isn't any major damage other than normal wear-and-tear.

Step 11: Closing, which usually is done at a title company and coordinated by an attorney, the buyer and the seller. The buyer will be asked to sign all documents, the biggest of which is the loan document.

"It can be a pile a half an inch thick," Covey said.

How long these steps take vary from house to house, sale to sale. Short sales and foreclosures take a lot longer than traditional or corporate-owned homes.

"It's a whole different market today," Covey said. "Five years ago, we closed in 30 to 60 days. Now a quick closing is in 60 days."

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