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Get Preapproved: Even before you start looking for a house, you should get preapproved for a mortgage. This will make you a stronger buyer, because sellers will know you have the financing in place to move forward.

In addition, getting preapproved for a mortgage amount “sets boundaries around what you can afford. Those boundaries dictate what your price range is,” said McBride.

Choose Between Rates: The standard loan offers a fixed interest rate for 30 years. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) offer a fixed rate for, typically, the first five or seven years; after that, the rates can rise every year. In exchange for accepting the risk that interest rates will rise, borrowers get a lower initial rate on ARMs. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, ARMs make up about 7 percent of the current market.

But ARMs make sense only for people who know for sure that they’re going to be in the house for a limited time.

“Forget about adjustable rates altogether unless you have sufficient financial stability that you could absorb a higher monthly payment if your timetable doesn’t pan out,” McBride said.

“For example, you can take a seven-year adjustable rate mortgage and shave (0.75) percent off your rate. But you’ve got to be able to handle a higher monthly payment in Year 8 without financial distress.”

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