(I NEED 20% DOWN) Home-Buying Myths About Mortgages Explained

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By: Kelley Walters
Published: July 12, 2018

Tips for shopping around for a mortgage -- even if you think you don't qualify.

Think you're not ready to unlock home ownership yet? That the financial hurdles are too high? You may be short-changing yourself. Many of the things renters believe about home-buying are myths.

Here’s the real deal

Myth: I Have to Put Down 20%. 😢

Saving 20% of the price of a home in many places isn't just a challenge; it's a roadblock. And it's not a must-do. Roughly 60% of home buyers put down less than 6%. How can you become part of the {{ start_tip 115 }}less-than-20 club{{ end_tip }}?

  • FHA Loans: The Federal Housing Association (FHA) is an old friend to first-time buyers and others who are ready to become homeowners with less than a 20% down payment. If you qualify, you may be able to get a loan with as little as 3.5% down.

  • DownpaymentResource.com and NeighborWorks: Some local and state agencies sponsor down-payment assistance programs that help prospective home buyers in different ways. Follow the links to find out if any are available near you.

  • VA, USDA, and Navy Federal Credit Union loans: Three government-related lenders offer mortgages with as little as zero down. The VA is for veterans and family members; the USDA is for buyers in qualifying locations (typically rural); and Navy Federal Credit Union is for the military, family members, and some government employees.

  • Gift Funds: Sixteen percent of buyers ask friends or relatives to help jump-start their home ownership with a gift. Talk to your lender first, though. There may be limits to the amount of gifted funds they'll accept, and they may require your benefactor to sign some paperwork.

Myth: My Low Credit Score Means I Can't Buy a Home

So, your credit could use a tune-up. That doesn't mean you have to forgo your home-buying dreams. Here are some options for those with a less-than-stellar credit score.

  • FHA loan: With a credit score of 500, you can apply for an FHA loan, but you'll need a 10% down payment to offset the risk. If your score is a tick better (580), you can participate in their down-payment assistance program, requiring only 3.5%.

  • A higher down payment: On the off-chance you have enough cash on hand to put down more than 20%, the higher down payment can help those with lower credit scores be less risky for lenders.

  • A co-signer. Find someone with better credit to co-sign the loan – but understand that if you don't make the payments, the cosigner will be financially responsible (and their credit will also suffer).

  • Check your credit report. Maybe your credit isn't that low after all. Order a copy of your report from all three reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). If you find inaccurate or old information, ask the agencies to correct it. (You can order a free report from each of the bureaus once a year at annualcreditreport.com.

Myth: I Can't Afford the Agent's Commission

Here's one you can immediately mark off your worry list. Typically, the commission is paid from the proceeds of the sale via the seller.

This is one of many reasons to contract with a buyer's agent. The seller's agent doesn't work for you, and you need a pro in your corner.

Myth: My Bank Will Give Me the Best Mortgage

There are a lot of positive things to say about working with your local bank, but assuming they'll give you the best mortgage is a mistake.

Banks are only one type of home-loan lender. Others include credit unions and mortgage companies. Mortgage rates aren't the same across the board, so contact several institutions to ensure you're getting the best price.

Or, if you prefer to let the lenders come to you, consider getting a loan through a mortgage broker. Brokers have access to several lenders, and they'll shop their market, getting you a wider selection of loans. But unless you contract with one, brokers aren't obligated to find the best deal for you. So you'll want to shop around for a broker, just as you would for a lender.

Myth: I Was Pre-Approved. I Got The Loan!

Well . . . no. Don't order that couch from West Elm or pack away your tax documents just yet.

You don't get the loan until:

(a) The seller accepts your offer

(b) Your lender approves the loan (which you'll need those tax docs for)

(c) You sign the loan papers 

Between (a) and (c), the lender will have the home appraised to ensure its value is in line with the purchase price, check your credit again, and ask you for more documents than you ever knew existed.

So what does "pre-approved" mean for a loan? It tells sellers you're eligible for a loan and shows them you're a serious, qualified buyer. This gives them confidence in your offer, increasing your chances of (a), (b), and (c) actually happening.

Myth: The Interest Rate Is What Matters Most

A low interest rate is important, but it's not the only thing to consider. When shopping around for a loan, check the annual percentage rate (APR). It includes all loan costs, such as origination and processing fees that can vary widely from lender to lender, in addition to the interest rate.

One loan may have a lower interest rate, but the up-front fees cost more than you'd save in interest. The APR lets you compare apples to apples.

Before you sign the loan, your lender will give you a loan estimate, a line-by-line estimate of fees. You'll find the APR there. Use that rate to compare the loans you're considering.

How about that? You may be closer to home ownership than you thought. Happy house hunting!


Top 7 Home Preps to Tackle Before Fall Temps DROP

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Ahhhh, fall – the air turns crisp and cool, yellow patches of leaves appear to take over the treetops and you’re prepped for sweater weather. But, is your home ready for the season? Whether you do the dirty work yourself or hire out, RE/MAX put together a checklist to help you tackle fall home preps that can make a big difference of how your home handles the season.

  1. Get your mind in the gutter. If you’re not on top of clogged gutters, you’re just asking for water damage. Water with nowhere to go can lead to exterior and foundational damage and maybe even a flooded basement. It’s a dirty job, but you can do it-or hire it out.

  2. Check the chimney. While you’re up on the roof and the weather’s still calm-check your chimney for damage. Search for loose or broken joints and if the flue cap is still in place. Now’s the time to also attend to any damaged roof shingles or flashing.

  3. Let’s get physical. Once the temperatures begin to drop, you’ll crank up that furnace and put it through quite a workout. Make sure it’s ready to handle the workload by replacing the filter and keep all the vents open so heat can circulate throughout your home.

  4. Turn off outdoor plumbing. Blow out sprinkler systems, drain outdoor faucets and cover them to protect them from the freezing weather to come.

  5. Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools. Don’t let the harsh fall and winter weather get to your outdoor furniture and garden gadgets. Give them a quick clean up so they are ready for storage over the winter.

  6. Stay safe out there. Fall is as good reminder to perform an annual check of the safety features in your home. Make sure the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors get fresh batteries, check the fire extinguisher or replace if it’s six years or older and take this chance to update or practice your fire escape plans.

  7. Pre-plan for spring-blooms. Fall is the perfect time to plant bulbs for a big pay off in the spring. Set your sights on a spot in your yard that gets full sun and get digging.

Looking for that perfect home where you’re in charge of home preps and maintenance? Look no further than remax.com to help you find a local agent who can help make your dream of owning your own home a reality

How to Maintain a Swimming Pool Year-Round: Your To-Do List for Every Season

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By Teresa Traverse | Aug 29, 2018

As the seasons shift, swimming pool owners need to take special precautions to ensure their pool is in optimal shape. Caring for your pool is not as simple as putting the cover on for the winter and not thinking about it again until summer.

To keep your pool in pristine condition year-round—whether you're using it or not—requires regular upkeep, regardless of the season.

An ounce of prevention is worth the weeks of filter cleaning that comes in the spring if you don’t maintain your pool over the winter,” says Aly Goudy, manager at Goudy Pools based in Arnold, MD.

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Here's what you need to know about caring for your swimming pool throughout the year and the steps you need to take each season.

Fall
Bring out the sad violins: Pool time is fast fading in many parts of the country. But the good news is that, depending on where you live, you should still have quite a few swimming days left. Make sure your pool is up to the task.

Fall means trees will be shedding their leaves like crazy. During this time, Goudy recommends checking your skimmer basket frequently.

“Your skimmer baskets can clog very quickly and stop the flow of water and damage your pump if the water stops moving,” she says.

If you have an automatic pool cleaner, Goudy recommends emptying the bag more frequently to ensure it doesn’t become too full and break.

If you don't have an automatic pool cleaner, use a skimmer net to keep the leaves out.

Winter
Unless you have an enormous problem with leaves or other debris getting in your pool—or you live in an area where the temperatures plunge to 32 degrees Fahrenheit—experts don't advise keeping the pool covered all winter. It needs to aerate. If it’s covered for an extended period of time, the chemicals can build up and the chlorine smell can become overpowering.

If you prefer to keep your pool covered, Eric Stanton, owner of Stanton Pools in Westlake Village, CA, recommends airing it out at least once a week. If your pool remains open during the winter, it’s still important to keep it serviced weekly to ensure the plaster and the calcium don’t peel, among other problems.

If you live in a freezing climate, you should close your pool for the winter.

“Winterizing your pumping and equipment is very important to protect them from freeze damage,” says Goudy.

Have this service done before temperatures fall below freezing. Winterizing your pool includes adjusting the water levels, checking and fixing the water chemistry, draining and blowing out the equipment to prevent water from freezing inside, and placing a safety cover over the pool.

Goudy recommends cleaning your pool before closing it. If you close it when it’s dirty or the chemistry levels are off, it will cost more and take longer to bring it back up to speed.

Spring
To ensure your pool is ready to open in the summer, you'll want to take several measures during the spring. The first thing you should do is clean the filter, according to Stanton.

After that, check the level of cyanuric acid, or "conditioner," to ensure it’s in the appropriate range. This acid protects the chlorine from breaking up due to the sun’s powerful UV rays. The amount you add will depend on the size of your pool and the acid level that’s already present. If your pool isn’t serviced by a pro, take a water sample to your local pool store so the staff can check the chemical levels and tell you how much to add.

Make sure the heater’s working, too. If you need to fix it, have it taken care of before you throw a pool party.

If you closed your pool for the winter, Goudy suggests treating the pool once in March if you plan to open it in April or May. She recommends pulling back the cover and circulating algaecide to kill off any algae that might have bloomed. She also recommends adding a free and clear product to make your water clear.

Use a phosphate remover. Phosphate makes chlorine less effective and kills off algae.

If you have plenty of pollen on your pool cover, Goudy advises using a leaf blower to blow off the pollen. If pollen gets wet, it can stain your cover. 

Summer
During the summer, when your pool is open and in full use, Goudy advises weekly water testing to ensure the chemicals are all balanced.

Add algaecide at opening, depending on how long ago you treated it. Add a stain and scale prevention product to protect your plaster.

Goudy advises checking filter pressure, too. Follow the manufacturer’s suggested guidelines here. If you notice that your water is cloudy or has a green tint to it, it might mean the water is not pumping through the filter.

As for chlorinating your pool during the summer, Stanton recommends using chlorine tablets in a floating dispenser to keep your water clean. They should be replaced at least once a week during the warmer months.

Chlorine should also be tested and adjusted at least once a week and ideally two to three times a week, according to Stanton.

You should also "shock" the pool after a pool party, severe rainstorm, or other periods of heavy use. Shocking the pool means adding a large amount of chlorine and other chemicals to destroy the buildup of contaminants. You can add liquid chlorine, called sodium hypochlorite, which is basically bleach. The most common method is to pour it into the pool. Other methods include a granular type of chlorine, a salt system, and chlorine tablets, like the ones that sit in the floating dispenser.

If your area is prone to summer storms, check and clear out your pool skimmer basket to ensure debris doesn’t build up.

Teresa K. Traverse is a writer, editor, and traveler based in Phoenix. See more of her work at teresaktraverse.com.

Follow @teresaktraverse

The realtor.com® editorial team highlights a curated selection of product recommendations for your consideration; clicking a link to the retailer that sells the product may earn us a commission.

21 Quick & Easy Budget Upgrades

Improve the look and function of your home without spending an arm and a leg. If you're an avid DIYer, you're already on your way to saving money. But with the right planning, you can transform the feel of a whole room with a single project that only costs you a few hundred bucks. Pick from our round-up of value-boosting upgrades that all come in under the $500 mark—some well under. Not only will they be soft on your wallet now, but some of these will even save you money in the future. Check out our easy home upgrades below - Source

Refresh Your Rooms With Paint

You can give your drab, washed-out walls a burst of brilliant depth (or wash away your decorating sins with virgin white) just by picking up a paint can and having at them. That's the power of a coat of paint: It rearranges your reality. Which is why painting is the most oft-tackled DIY home-improvement upgrade. 

While you don't have to be a pro to learn how to paint like one, there is more to a good paint job than just slathering some color on the wall. See our how to instructions to coat your walls expertly in one weekend, from the first scratch of the pole sander to the final feather of the brush.
Cost: About $150
See How to Paint a Room for full step-by-step instructions.


Add Crown Molding the Easy Way

Crown molding makes it to the top of most remodeling lists because it adds charm and value to a home, not because people enjoy spending a Saturday try­ing to get the corners just right.

Luckily, there's a simple way to beat miter-saw frustration.
Trimroc molding from Canamould Extrusions is a lightweight polystyrene foam coated in hard plaster. It cuts smoothly with a handsaw and it goes up in a flash with joint compound. No coping, no tricky angles, and ragged joints disappear with a dab of mud. So in just a weekend, you can upgrade a plain room to an elegant space—and still leave plenty of time for the rest of your list.
Cost: About $120.
See How to Install Easy Crown Molding for full step-by-step instructions.


Install a Low-Cost Stair Runner

Want to get a good grip on slippery stairs? Try a DIY runner. After getting a quote of $2,500 to carpet her dangerously slick oak staircase, TOH reader Jaime Shackford took the project into her own hands.
Using just two off-the-shelf woven runners ($125 each) and supplies from a home center, she gave her stairs an non-slip upgrade.
Cost: About $300.
See How to Install a Low-Cost Stair Runner for full step-by-step instructions.


Install a Dishwasher to Conserve Water

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That old dishwasher could be wreaking havoc on your electric and water bills. Time to switch it out for a new Energy Star-qualified dishwasher, which can save you more than $30 a year on power and almost 500 gallons of water. If you don't have a dishwasher at all, you're using 40 percent more water washing by hand!

The biggest cost saver of all? You can install a dishwasher yourself in an afternoon. No plumber, no electrician—and no worries that you're squandering your retirement money on a load of clean dishes.

Cost: About $500
See How to Install a Dishwasher for full step-by-step instructions.


Rewire a Vintage Entry Lantern

Many hanging lanterns from the first half of the 20th century were humble by design, looking as if they'd been crafted by blacksmiths rather than machines.

Popularized by tastemakers of the time, such as Gustav Stickley and the Roycroft crafters, these rustic lanterns exemplified a back-to-basics design sensibility. If you've scored one such find at a yard sale or have one stashed in the attic, you can invite guests to "come on in" by putting back into service a vintage lantern. It's an easy, affordable job once you get the parts.
Cost: About $140.
See How to Rewire a Vintage Entry Lantern for full step-by-step instructions.

Renew Old Flooring With Paint

The burgundy red floor in the master bedroom of Sara and Andrew's Massachusetts farmhouse didn't fit the fresh and energetic personality of the newlyweds. But refinishing wasn't an option on a limited budget. So to update the space, they painted the floor in a light checked pattern, using beige and white to warm up their cool blue walls.

Here we show how a little measuring and a couple of coats of durable floor paint can add a lot of personality to a room for a small price.

Cost: About $75.
See How to Paint a Floor for full step-by-step instructions.


Make Shade and Add Privacy With Interior Shutters

Sunlight streaming through windows can be an annoying distraction. Not to mention the neighbors who have more evening hours to look into your brightly lit living room. You could install shades to foil prying eyes, but swinging wood shutters would definitely be more beautiful.

Interior shutters were the original "window treatments," commonly used in Southern and urban houses, and they're still a great way to add architectural and historical detail. They also help keep out winter's chilly winds or summer's oppressive heat. And they're easy to install on any window because they attach to a thin frame that either sits inside the window opening or around the outside of the casing.
Cost: About $150.
See How to Hang Interior Shutters for full step-by-step instructions. And check out How to Drape Away Drafts, too.


Give Kitchen Cabinets a Flawless, New Finish

Your cavelike kitchen feels that way because the dark cabinets have sucked all the light out of the room. But a brighter makeover doesn't necessarily mean replacing those gloomy boxes with all-new one. As long as the frames and doors are structurally sound, you can clean them up and brush on some new paint—and within a weekend take that kitchen from dreary to sunny. All you need is some strong cleaner, sandpaper, a paintbrush, and a little elbow grease. What you don't need is a whole lot of money, as the transformation will cost you a fraction of even the cheapest new cabinets.
Cost: About $200.
See How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets for full step-by-step instructions.


Get More Flowers Without Spending a Dime

Dividing perennials every three to six years is a great way to thin clump-forming varieties, like the daylily (shown here), which blooms from late spring to late summer. This technique can also be used to control plant size, invigorate growth, and multiply the number of specimens in a garden. A good rule of thumb is to split apart spring- and summer-blooming perennials in late summer or before the fall frost.
Cost: $0.
See How to Divide Perennials for sull step-by-step instructions. And don't forget to check out How to Propagate Plants at no cost for even more ways to multiply the plants you've already got.


Install a Water Filter and Ditch Expensive Bottles

Millions of households have switched to bottled drinking water because of concerns over the purity or taste of their tap water. Such problems exist across the country, regardless of whether the water comes from municipal pipeline or ground well. However, there's an easier, less expensive way to obtain clean drinking water: install an under-sink water-filtration system.
Cost: About $120.
See How to Install a Water Filter for full step-by-step instructions.


Lay an Eco-Friendly Layer of Insulation

It's bad enough to have to get up in the morning, let alone get up and experience the icy shock of a cold floor. What you need is some warmth underfoot, a little cushion as you pad across the house. Enter cork. Resilient yet durable, stylish yet earthy, a natural cork floor can turn any cool room into a cozy haven.

Cork is also a lot easier to install than traditional wood flooring. Manufacturers now offer products in engineered panels that snap together without glue or nails. These floating-floor systems sit well over plywood, concrete, or even existing flooring. In one afternoon you can turn a floor into a comfortable mat where your toes can roam free without fear of the big chill—or expensive area rugs.
Cost: About $6 a square foot.
See How to Lay a Cork Floor for full step-by-step instructions.


Refinish Your Home's Handsome Wood Door

The years and the elements hadn't been kind to the exterior of this 94-year-old, thick, cypress door. Flakes of varnish still clung to the wood in spots, while the rest of the surface was rough and dried out from the effects of water and sun. Wood entry doors everywhere suffer from the same assaults, and many end up in the trash, replaced by low-maintenance, mass-produced metal and fiberglass surrogates. But you can breathe new life into your old door with a few affordable supplies.
Cost: About $50.
See How to Refinish a Door for full step-by-step instructions.


Put Down a Fresh Bead of Bathroom Caulk

You've seen the ominous signs of aging caulk. First it was the brown tinge along the edges. Now its smooth and supple skin has turned brittle and cracked, opening the way for stubborn colonies of mildew to take hold, or for water to seep through and turn wallboard and framing mushy. Whether it's around your sink, between a tub and its tile surround, or covering the joints of your shower stall — it has got to go.

Fortunately, caulk is cheap, and applying it isn't difficult. All you need is an hour, a few common tools, and materials easily found at any hardware store. But as easy as it is, you still have to do it right, or you'll be caulking again next year, says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

Cost: About $10
See How to Caulk Around a Tub for full step-by-step instructions.


Revive Your Old Deck

By the time contractor Stephen Bonesteel arrived on the scene, the condition of this pine deck was bleak. Twenty years of harsh upstate New York weather without a lick of care had turned its once-bright boards a weatherbeaten gray, flecked with slimy algae and black leaf stains.
Still, even wood this neglected can be brought back to respectability. Over the course of a week, he power-washed and hand-scrubbed the deck back to a semblance of newness, then brushed on a protective coat of semitransparent stain to protect it from the elements.

Cost: About $80
See How to Spruce Up Your Deck for this pro's full step-by-step instructions. In addition, you'll want to make sure your structure is stable by doing a Deck Check.


Add Architectural Interest With Stair Brackets

The newel post and balusters get all the attention, while the exposed side of most staircases is largely ignored. But with the addition of decorative stair brackets, a bland stringer can become an elegant eye-catcher. Here we used simple-to-install, affordable wood brackets that go up with adhesive and nails.

Cost: About $150.
See How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets for full step-by-step instructions.


Lay Low-Cost Flooring in Laundries and Mudrooms

Long before the advent of resilient sheet flooring and plastic-laminate planks, there was vinyl tile. Originally produced as an alternative to linoleum, vinyl tile grew in popularity because it was colorful, easy to clean, and crack resistant. The 12x12-inch tiles come in dozens of colors, patterns and textures, making it easy to create checkerboard designs and floors with contrasting borders. Here we'll show you the right way to put in self-adhesive tiles for a professional-looking and durable floor.
Cost: About $2 a square foot.
See How to Lay a Vinyl Tile Floor for full step-by-step instructions.


Protect Walls With an Easy-to-Clean Backsplash

If installing a traditional tile backsplash feels a little out of your DIY league, putting up one made from a single sheet of solid surface material may just be your saving grace. Shaping, cutting, and gluing up this inexpensive stock material—available from companies such as Swanstone, which makes the beadboard backsplash shown here, in a variety of colors and patterns—is a weekend project most amateurs can conquer with confidence. And when you have your sleek backsplash in place, you'll think it such a stylish protector from splashes and splatters you'll wonder why you ever considered tile in the first place.
Cost: About $25 a square foot.
See How to Install a Solid-Surface Backsplash for full step-by-step instructions.


Prevent Mold Growth With a Bathroom Vent Fan

Installing a ventilating fan in your bath does more than just eliminate fogged-up windows, steamy mirrors and stale odors. It also helps prevent moisture-related problems, such as the growth of mold and mildew, that can be costly to remove and lead to health problems. Avoid all of that with this affordable upgrades. Here, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shows the proper way to install a bath vent fan. In this particular installation, Tom ran the exhaust duct into the attic and through a sidewall to the outdoors.
Cost: About $125.
See How to Install a Bathroom Vent Fan for full step-by-step instructions.


Build a Custom Tool Bench

Amy Paladino is a pro at juggling the demands of her job and family. But as with many of us, when it came to organizing tools for DIY projects, she needed a little assistance.
Here is a plan for a size-it-to-your-space tool-storage bench that doubles as a work surface. Though it may look complicated, the construction couldn't be simpler. And you'll be protecting your valuable tools in a custom chest, while saving on the outrageous cost of store-bought storage.

Cost: About $125.
See How to Build a Tool Bench for full step-by-step instructions.


Ceiling Fans for Summer (and Winter) Savings
 

The popularity of ceiling fans continues to grow as more and more homeowners discover dramatic, year-round energy savings. In summer, ceiling fans create cooling breezes, which reduce the strain on air conditioners. In winter, they circulate heated air to keep the room warm.

Installing a ceiling fan is relatively simple, especially if the space above is accessible from an attic. However, even when it isn't, the job is still quite doable. Here, we'll show how to replace an old light fixture with a new ceiling fan and light, in a room with no attic above. The advantage of this approach is that you don't have to run new wiring. The fan connects to the existing cable from the old light.

Cost: About $150.

See How to Install a Ceiling Fan for full step-by-step instructions.


Cut Costs With a Programmable Thermostat

Going digital with a model that automatically changes the indoor temperature setting is fairly easy, and it can trim about $180 off your annual heating and cooling costs. Simple models that only control heat are sold at home centers for around $25. But units like the one shown here can handle many more functions, including cooling and humidifying. Typically they're purchased through and installed by HVAC contractors, but you can get a good deal on one by buying online and install it yourself in no time.
Cost: About $475.
See How to Install a Programmable Thermostat for full step-by-step instructions.

First Time Home Buyer Vocabulary Cheat Sheet

First Time Home Buyer Vocabulary Cheat Sheet

OFFER: An agreement between a buyer and seller to purchase real estate. Also known as a purchase agreement.

COMPARATIVE MARKET ANALYSIS (CMA): Research of prices of similar properties in the same area that were recently sold to help determine a reasonable price to list. This is used when selling a home or a price to offer when buying a home.

CONTINGENT: Offer on a home has been accepted by both buyer & seller, but the finalized sale is contingent upon certain criteria,  Typically appraisal, homeowner's inspection, and mortgage approval

HOME INSPECTION: Buyer hires a home inspector to examine the property's condition. The home inspector is hired by the buyer specifically.

CLOSING COSTS: Fees paid at closing by either the seller, buyer or both. They include taxes, insurance, and lender expenses.

TITLE: The title company of the BUYERS choice will provide you with the preliminary title report for you to review before accepting the property.

EARNEST MONEY :Deposit made to a seller showing the buyers good faith in a transaction. Typically held in a trust or escrow account. When you are looking at home.
HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE : Choose your home owner's insurance and provide the info to your lender. Gather at least 3 quotes before making a decision. 

APPRAISAL: The estimated value of the property

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