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Living Smart: Buying a House

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By Angie Hicks

buying_a_home_cutout(MCT)—Home may be where the heart is, but the house-buying process can easily become a headache.

To keep hassles to a minimum, take time to independently evaluate each professional you’ll need, from lender to real estate agent to home inspector to title agent. Choose client-focused, experienced pros who are appropriately licensed.

Here are additional tips, based on my team’s interviews with consumers and highly rated service providers:

Mortgage lender
Before you start looking at homes, find a reliable lender to preapprove you for financing. This is especially important now, given more stringent government regulation of home financing.

Seek a responsive bank or mortgage professional who keeps the terms of the agreement consistent, or gives fair warning of changes, and who communicates well so that paperwork flows in a timely way.

Real estate agent
Look for agents who’ll communicate with you promptly throughout the process.

Avoid an agent who steers you only to his or her own listings or those of the company. Make sure the agent you hire has the computer skills and web savvy to set up automated searches so you’re notified quickly of new listings.

Confirm that an agent is properly licensed and in good professional standing. All states require that real estate agents be licensed.

Home inspector
Look for inspectors who go beyond state regulatory requirements (though not all states require inspectors to be licensed), receive continued education and belong to a professional organization, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors.

ASHI requires that members adhere to a code of ethics that prohibits receipt of referral fees. Ethical inspectors don’t take kickbacks from contractors who repair problems an inspection uncovers, or receive money from real estate agents who refer their clients.

Be sure to schedule an inspection early enough in the process that there’s time to deal with repair issues or other problems.

To prevent last-minute problems at closing, closely monitor that the sellers take care of any agreed-upon repairs stemming.

Title agent
Lenders or real estate agents may recommend title companies, but to avoid hiring someone with a conflict of interest, be sure to ask about affiliations between parties. Also, inquire about licensing, which is required for title agents in all states, and request a full list of charges.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.

©2014, http://www.angieslist.com/
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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