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October 5, 2009

My Turn: Now is the time to buy a house

(Continued)

According to Realtor.com, an average first-time buyer takes at least four months to find a home. So if you are just starting your home search, you may not be able to take advantage of the tax credit unless it is extended.

There are several ways that you can speed up your home-buying process:

Be employed. Before you buy a home, you should have a good track record of employment (at least six months) or be able to demonstrate a continuity of employment. If you do not feel confident about your job, you should put off your decision to purchase.

Get prequalified. Meet with a reputable, experienced (preferably local) lender and find a price range you are comfortable with. Many times you are qualified for a payment that is higher than you are comfortable with. Make sure you collect and provide pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns to demonstrate acceptable income.

Get good credit. Make sure that you have acceptable credit. If you have not paid your bills on time or have not met your financial obligations, you may not be able to purchase a home. You can check your credit score online for free by going to annualcreditreport.com. Also, it is critical that you make no major purchases on credit between the time you apply for your mortgage and closing.

Use a Realtor. Select a realtor to represent you in your purchase. Remember, not all real estate agents are Realtors.

Realtors are licensed professionals who abide by a national code of ethics, belong to a local board of Realtors and usually subscribe to a database listing all participating agencies' properties for sale in the area _ not just theirs. Don't be afraid to ask your agent if these criteria are met.

There has rarely been a better time to begin investing in your future. Interest rates remain at historic lows, prices are affordable and the federal government is providing a powerful incentive to become a homeowner now.

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