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Spring has sprung, as they say, and with it comes another strong season for buying and selling real estate.

With the economy showing some improvement and mortgage rates edging down despite the Federal Reserve's continued hikes in short-term rates, buyers will be out in throngs and sellers will be licking their lips in anticipation of huge profits.

Whether you're purchasing or selling, a first-time home buyer or a seasoned investor, this guide is aimed at helping you achieve your real estate goals.

So grab hold of your mouse and click your way through the neighborhood we call Bankrate's 2005 Real Estate Guide.

Buying your new home

Get your credit fixed first -- Making sure your credit score is as high as it can possibly be gives you your best shot at your lowest possible rate.

FSBO-assist firms can help buyers, too -- Firms geared to help sellers can also be a big boon to buyers going it alone.

The truth about foreclosures -- Everyone wants to buy a foreclosure for a song. But they're not that easy to find and there's no guarantee it's a good investment.

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'05 Real Estate Guide
 
Home
 
 
Buying
 
   
   
 
30 yr fixed mtg 4.22%
15 yr fixed mtg 3.32%
5/1 jumbo ARM 3.78%
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Selling your home

10 biggest mistakes sellers make -- It's easier to be a seller than a buyer, but there are still plenty of bumps in the road.

7-step plan to sell your home -- Selling your house is a big move and requires lots of activity on your part. Here are seven important steps in the process.

Discount brokers: do you get what you pay for? -- The traditional 6 percent fee has been slashed to 2 percent by some, but is this being penny wise and pound foolish?

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Financing your new home

Cash down payment is the biggest roadblock to sale -- Having a sizable down payment is the key to getting the best mortgage terms. The lack of adequate cash blocks more buyers than any other factor.

Alternative ways to finance your home -- There's a mortgage designed to fit almost every need, from jumbos to balloons.

When good appraisals go bad -- The seller can set the price and the buyer can agree to it. But if the appraiser nixes it, the deal is likely to fail.

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Investing in real estate

Flippers and rehabbers are getting squeezed by lenders -- Stricter lending rules on homes that are bought and quickly resold are having a negative effect on both the investors who renovated them to sell and the buyers who want to call them home..

10 mistakes novice investors make -- Real estate has become the investment everyone sees as their ticket to easy wealth. It's not that easy.

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Real estate calculators

Estimate your FICO score -- Take this quick quiz and get a close estimate of your credit score.

How much house can you afford? -- Add up your debts and compare it to income to find your price range.

Monthly payment and amortization calculator -- This handy tool computes any loan and shows how extra payments could impact your mortgage.

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