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If you were to ask 100 women “What would you like to achieve financially?” Buying a home or apartment is usually one of the answers. Some women think that they can never own a home – which is not true! In fact, there are so many success stories of home buyers who never thought they would get there. In addition, homeowners tend to have greater financial success in the other areas of their finances life. I’ve seen it over and over.

The benefits of owning a home include: building equity, saving money on taxes and an integral step towards building wealth. With interest rates so low, this is a great environment to buy a home. This article is a checklist with tips and guidelines to buying a home. If you already own a home, some of these tips will be helpful for refinancing your home. Real estate is not a substitute for stocks but it plays a big part in your financial fitness.

1) CHECK YOUR CREDIT. Get a recent a copy of your credit report, especially your FICO score (the score lenders use to determine your interest rate). Check out


2)> HOW MUCH HOME CAN YOU AFFORD? Start with your monthly payment and plug it into a mortgage calculator. (Great one on Affordability Calculator). This site tells you how much home you can afford assuming certain numbers. For example, if you make $6,000 per month before taxes, you can afford anywhere from $125,000 to $345,000 assuming $25,000 as a down payment. There are different choices with the actual monthly payments. If you dont have enough saved for a down payment, create a separate savings account and come up with a savings schedule. Only borrow what you can afford!!!

3) ORGANIZE YOUR DOCUMENTS. Get together the following documentation: past 3 years of tax returns, recent paychecks, bank statements, investment statements and all other financial statements.

4) WHICH MORTGAGE IS THE BEST FOR YOU? Understand the different mortgage options. Most are based on a 30-year amortization cycle: fixed-rate, adjustable and a hybrid. Hybrids are very popular now; fixed rate for a certain amount of time and then they adjust annually. Consider a 15- or 20-year fixed rate mortgage. The payments will be a bit higher, but you will end up paying much less interest over the course of the mortgage and be debt-free much sooner!

5) SHOULD YOU PAY POINTS? A point is equal to 1% of your loan amount. You pay a point to receive a lower interest rate on your loan. If you get a low enough rate, paying points can be worth it.

6) SHOP AROUND. Work with a mortgage broker or check out a few mortgage websites:


7)> PRE-APPROVAL 6 MONTHS BEFORE BUYING A HOME. Get pre-approved for a loan from the bank or your mortgage broker. It gets the process going faster and in a competitive market, it gives you the edge.

8) MINIMIZE YOUR DEBT. Avoid big-ticket purchases so not to add to your debt load.

9) SAVE MONEY ON TAXES. Points paid for a first-time home (not for refinancing) can be deducted in the year your home was closed.

10) BE CAREFUL OF COSTS. Don’t ignore transaction costs and watch closing costs very carefully. There are also many hidden costs of home buying: moving, minor renovations (especially if you are buying an older home). Make sure you are prepared.

11) DIVERSIFY, DIVERSIFY, DIVERSIFY. Dont tie up all your assets in your home.

12) PAY YOUR MORTGAGE AUTOMATICALLY. Get it taken from bank account automatically every month. You don’t ruin your credit and don’t forget to pay every month on time.

13) REFINANCING? · Shop around for interest rates. · Start with the bank that currently holds your mortgage. It may give you a good deal just to keep your business. · Avoid paying points. When you refinance, you can deduct only a portion of the points each year, so its usually not a good deal. · Dont try to outsmart the market and wait for interest rates to hit their low point. If the numbers make sense for you, go for it.

14) PMI INSURANCE. You will have to pay monthly PMI insurance if you put down a down-payment less than 20%. Once you are paying your mortgage for more than a year, ask your lender to reconsider.

15) BAD CREDIT? DONT HAVE ENOUGH FOR A DOWN-PAYMENT? · You can use your investments or securities as collateral for buying a home. · Consider a low-documentation, no documentation or sub-prime mortgage. You will pay a higher interest rate but it will help build your credit and equity. · Also, check out these government agencies: · Freddie Mac · Fannie Mae ·


16)> OTHER MORTGAGE OPTIONS: · Bi-weekly mortgages, · Customized mortgages – usually offered by local banks, · Use investment portfolio as collateral and a smaller cash down-payment.

17) HOME INSPECTION. Have an inspection done by someone with accreditation (


18)> REMODELING? If you remodel, be diligent about keeping records. The right improvements can decrease your taxable gains when you sell.

19) CANT AFFORD TO BUY NOW? But want to get into real estate? Check out REIT stocks or REIT mutual funds,


Galia> Gichon is the Founder of Down-to-Earth Finance, which offers Unbiased Financial Education. She has worked with thousands of people, has an MBA in Finance and over 13 years financial experience. Please visit You can subscribe to her bi-monthly e-mail newsletter for tips to add fun to your finances, spending smarter and understanding investing at DownToEarthFinance-on@zines.webvalence.

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This Financial Services article was written by Galia Gichon on 8/19/2005

If you were to ask 100 women “What would you like to achieve financially?” Buying a home or apartment is usually one of the answers. Some women think that they can never own a home – which is not true