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You don’t want to throw money away on rent anymore, do you? Instead, you can build an asset that can grow large if you handle your money wisely. Your best strategy? Prepare financially—now.

Down-payments. Small down-payments spell risk for lenders. You’ll pay a higher interest rate and you’ll have to get private mortgage insurance, about 0.5 to 1.0 percent of your mortgage. That’s about $2,000 a year on a $200,000 mortgage, which will add about $167 to your monthly bills.   

While 20 percent down is ideal, paying PMI allows you to get into a home faster with less money down. You’ll benefit in a desirable housing market where home equity is rising.

The costs of homeownership. According to The Motley Fool, you should prepare to pay about two to five percent of the transaction in closing costs. Afterwards, expect to pay for maintenance and repairs, which average about one percent of your home’s annual value. 

Property taxes can be reassessed annually by multiplying your home’s value by the mill rate (percentage) for your county. Prepare for utilities to rise in winter and summer.

Debt management. Money guru Dave Ramsey says buying a home when you’re in debt is like running a marathon with weights chained to your legs.

Rutgers University economists suggest your monthly consumer debt service should be no higher than 10 percent of your net income. At 20 percent or more, you’re in the danger zone. Divide your monthly consumer debt payments by your total net income to find your percentage.

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