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Excellence in Real Estate

Understand the process.

Buying real estate is a complex matter and can be especially confusing for the first-time homebuyer. Do yourself a favor and learn as much about the process as you can before you begin. There are plenty of resources on the Internet, and most real estate offices will have pamphlets to explain things in plain language. You may also be able to research the real estate process by attending community-sponsored classes, or you can take a look at books like Home Buying For Dummies by Eric Tyson and Ray Brown, (IDG Books Worldwide, Inc.)

Use a REALTOR(R).

As a buyer, it usually costs nothing to hire a real estate professional to help you find and purchase a home--your Realtor will likely get a portion of the commission the seller pays to his Realtor. When choosing an agent, get referrals from friends, relatives, and co-workers, and then interview as many agents as possible. Pick an agent that works in the neighborhoods you're interested in. Listen to your agent, but make your own decision.

Identify suitable neighborhoods.

If it's not located in a neighborhood you like, your new house will never feel like home no matter how nice it is. There are several factors that go into making a "good" neighborhood for most people. It should be safe, close to things that are important to you, and should offer the services you depend on, such as healthcare and convenient shopping. Ambiance and curb appeal may be particularly important to you. Whatever your criteria, once you have a better idea of the areas you are interested in, find out as much as you can about each area's demographics, crime rate, schools, traffic, etc. Check out the county and state records for this information, or you can use Yahoo!'s "Get Local" online service. You can even try the local Chambers of Commerce, but bear in mind that they are in the business of attracting new residents to their neighborhood.