Research facts when shopping for house

Your Money

March 19, 2006|By CAROLYN BIGDA | CAROLYN BIGDA,TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

Finding your dream home is exciting, especially if you're a first-time buyer. But in today's real estate market, it pays to shelve your emotions and look hard at the facts.

Although the feverish pace of home buying has eased, it's not a buyer's market just yet.

To find the best value, you need to know the fair price. "If you go in unarmed, you're going to overpay," said Mark Nash, author of 1,001 Tips for Buying and Selling A Home.

Here's what to do:

Research home values

Home prices depend on the neighborhood (location, location, location) and sometimes vary from street to street.

To get a feel for which areas you can afford, go online. Web sites allow you to investigate what individual homes are worth. Compare those values with the sale price of homes recently sold. Your broker can pull this information for you.

Time your search

Spring is the busiest season for home sales, thanks to warmer weather and families trying to move before the start of the next school year.

Some brokers argue that a mild winter has led buyers to start their search early, which will help alleviate demand over the next few months. At the same time, more houses are on the market than in previous years.

Gauge seller's motivation

Even during the spring, you can snag a deal if a seller is itching to move. Divorce and job transfers often indicate that sellers want out fast.

Carolyn Bigda writes for Tribune Media Services.

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