It was a mixed bag for home affordability in early 2024. See the income you need to buy a median-priced home in the top 50 metro areas for details.

It was a mixed bag for home affordability in early 2024. See the income you need to buy a median-priced home in the top 50 metro areas for details.

Home Buying and Selling Guide

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No. 1: Home buyer assistance programs by state

HSH.com has compiled a list of home-buying-assistance programs in each state in order to inform borrowers of what mortgage, down payment and closing cost help might be available to them.

Each state offers a different number of programs, and each state offers varying levels of buyer assistance. For this project, HSH.com collected information on programs that were available statewide. Although we focused on programs for first-time home buyers, we've also included programs available to repeat buyers as well.

To qualify for one of these statewide home buyer assistance programs, which can offer anything from below-market mortgage rates, downpayment assistance and even special programs for police and firefighters, borrowers must almost always attend a home buyer education course. Statewide assistance programs must be acquired through a participating lender.

No. 2: Essential steps to successful home buying

Buying a home means making choices and compromises, and knowing what you want and what you need (and don't want or need, too.) Making decisions beforehand and preparing yourself in advance for what's to come is the best way to ensure a hassle-free process.

Knowing how to approach your real estate search, how to get your mortgage process started and the timing of getting a bunch of moving parts in place will help you along your path to owning a home.

No. 3: 12 things I learned when buying my first home

Believe it or not, you could be like HSH's former managing editor, up to your eyeballs everyday in mortgage and real estate information and still be surprised and humbled by the home-buying process.

Start to finish, how long does buying a home take? Are you prepared for a multiple-offer situation? Is a home inspection your one-stop shop to learning everything about your home? Are you prepared to pay for your closing costs?

Find out the answers to these and other questions from a first-person perspective.

No. 4: 3 reasons a mortgage prequalification isn't enough to buy a home

Homebuyers are often told they need to prequalify for a mortgage. That's good advice, up to a point; a prequalification is only a baby step toward getting a loan. What's better -- by far -- is being not just prequalified, but preapproved.

It's no wonder buyers confuse these two terms -- even lenders use them in different ways to mean different things. The important point is that a preapproval outranks a prequalification.

No. 5: World's most confusing mortgage terms

Do you know the difference between a conforming loan and a non-conforming loan? Is conforming and conventional the same thing? And what’s the difference between private mortgage insurance and just plain mortgage insurance?

If you think mortgage jargon is confusing, you're not alone. And it's not only novice homebuyers who are stumped. Some of these terms are so tricky even the experts don't agree about exactly what they mean.

We’ve documented a list of some of the world’s most confusing mortgage terms. If you think you're up to speed on mortgage language, you might take our Mortgage Know-it-All Quiz, too.

No. 6: Homebuyer education courses: A secret weapon for first-time buyers

A lack of savings for a down payment, credit problems, or uncertainty about the home-buying process -- such as where to find the best mortgage lender -- can all make it seem impossible to go from renter to homeowner.

Fortunately, though, there's a secret weapon that can help you surmount all these hurdles. That secret is taking a homebuyer education course, a move that can have huge financial and practical benefits.

"Buying a home is a huge decision and a long term commitment," says Keosha Burns, spokesperson for Fannie Mae in Washington, D.C. "When new homebuyers complete pre-purchase homebuyer education they can be better prepared for what to expect during the purchase transaction as well as the ongoing responsibilities of homeownership."

Housing education and counseling can save you thousands of dollars and help you get a home sooner rather than later. So if you're thinking of buying a home in the not-too-distant future, here's what you need to know about homebuyer education courses.

No. 7: Contingencies: Buying your next home -- before you've sold yours

In competitive housing markets it can be difficult to buy the next home you want before you've sold the one you already own.

There are a number of ways to approach the issue, and timing is everything. Flexibility matters, for both potential buyers of your home and on the part of the sellers of the home you want to buy. As well, you'll need to be prepared for any number of contingencies that can have legal and financial implications.

Learn some of the ins and out of the buying-while-selling process.

No. 8: Ten reasons why your home isn't selling

Most real estate agents have probably been asked the question “Why isn’t my home selling?” The answer in some circumstances may not be abundantly clear. In other cases, there is no doubt why the house isn’t selling. Bill Gassett, a Realtor with ReMax Executive Realty in Massachusetts provides perspective of the reasons homes don't sell as quickly or easily as they should, and gives expert advice as to how to fix this problem.

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