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Singles in the housing market; Ten points for prospective home purchasers

Kristelle Petersen's prime 10 points for a single to think about in buying a home are these: * Since buying a home is a high-stakes purchase, take the time to learn the real estate process and the specific place and purpose of each professional who takes part in the transaction -- broker, builder, lawyer, insurance agent, etc., so you will not lurch from crisis to crisis or make major decisions based on impulse, emotion, or hard-sell techniques. Single people, the author has found, often fail to grasp the complexities of the deal, and feel confused by the terminology.

* Chart a very rational course for scouting for a home. Think through very carefully what your life style is, what your values are, and what your basic needs may be. (Do you entertain a lot? Require guest bedrooms? Want a maintenance-free home? Insist on a fireplace, basement, or attic?) then make a list of those things that you consider absolutely essential to your complete sense of home, and those things on which you feel you could compromise. Keep this list with you at all times and stick to your priorities as you evaluate properties.

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* Educate yourself to your local housing market without the pressure of a broker or salesperson at your elbow. Familiarize yourself with all the types and locations of homes available in your price range. Read real estate sections of newspapers, shopper publications, and community real estate booklets. Let friends, relatives, and work associates know the type of housing you are looking for. Look at model homes and go to open houses to see the range of going prices. Cruise through neighborhoods, and when you find one you are comfortable in, stop and chat with few residents and inquire how and why they like it.

* Figure out your home-buying budget well in davnace, because home ownership requries most singles to make a sacrifice and often to trade off some travel and other leisure-time pleasures for the joys of "a place of my own." Since monthly housing costs will probably double when you buy a home, it is important to calculate how much of your income you can allocate to housing. On the average, single buyers who paid rents between $260 and $390 make monthly house payments ranging from $500 to $640. If you would feel trapped by our own house, don't buy.

* Examine all types of housing including co-ops, condominiums, town houses, patio or zero-lot-line homes, single-family houses, and less expensive older homes that could be rehabilitated. Check out advantages and disadvantages of each. Check mechanical and electrical systems. find out if there is consumer-protection legislation in your area. Consider the energy efficiency of each prospect, find out if it is well insulated and constructed, what utility bills may average, what the taxes might be, and how stable the surrounding neighborhood is. All these factors will affect your pocketbook and the manner in which you live.

* When you find a house that pleases you, hire a good home inspector to check it out and give you a report. Engineers, architects, and members of the American Society of Home inspectors are usually qualified to do this job, and charges may run from $50, or less, to $200, depending on the time involved and whether written reports are required. Join the expert on his inspection tour over the property, if possible, so you can see and understand what is good and bad about the wiring, plumbing, structure, etc. Do not, the author warns, depends on well-meaning friends and family members for adequate inspections.

* Consider transportation costs ver carfully, since gasoline and public transport commuting costs have risen steeply and can add greatly to living expenses and to frayed dispositions when a lot of time and wearand tear is involved.

* Really think about whether you have the time or inclination to do yard work , or the money to hire it done. Lawns and gardens have proved a defeating aspect to some single homeowners who did not rightly reckon with the requirements of upkeep. Assess, too, how handy you are with tools and a paintbrush, and how willing you may be to make minor household repairs.

* Hiring all those unending upkeep chores done by outside labor can quickly drain a lot of cash from the till.

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* If you use a broker, get all the professional guidance, counseling, and information that thye are able to give, so you have a full and complete picture of the housing possibilities in your price range and understand how you can best finance your choice of home.

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