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Step 3: Assemble Your Team

When you're ready to begin your search, talk with people who have already been through the process and ask them for recommendations on who you should hire as your Realtor, lawyer, mortgage broker and insurance agent.

"Remember you'll look out for yourself better than anyone else will," Amanda says. "Sellers' agents are probably very nice people, but they're working for the seller. Understand who works for you and in your best interest."

What to do:

  • Pat says that if you're unable to get a real estate agent or Realtor recommendation from a friend or an acquaintance, or if you're moving to a new town, sites such as Realtor.com have a nationwide searchable database. If you have trouble finding a lawyer or a mortgage broker, ask your agent or Realtor if he has any recommendations.
  • While the Internet is a popular resource for buyers, Pat warns against using any online-based lending company. "People get prequalified online, and then we find that they almost always can't get [the home purchase] closed," she says. "They have real troubles with appraisals, and there are so many things that happen during the transaction that buyers can't get their questions answered."
  • To find a lender in your area, visit HSH Associates.
  • Look for Realtors with extra education, which signals longevity in the industry and a commitment to becoming educated in their fields. Designations after a Realtor's name, such as Accredited Buyers Realtor (ABR) and Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), indicate additional training and certification.
Step 4: Know Where You Want to Live

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