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Get a map of the maze -- Buying a house can be a major life-altering experience. It can be the day your dreams come true or it can be the day your nightmares begin. The difference, say experts, is in the preparation. Determining if buying a house is the right thing for you, then going through the process by following a realistic and sensible map can lead you along the often labyrinthine path to a successful closing.

Home Buyer's Guide
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First steps

Is it time for you to buy?
Is real estate season the best time to buy? -- There's a distinct home buying season. Whether you're a buyer or a seller, knowing what the season is can help you plot your strategy.

Who should not be looking to buy? -- Sure, everyone says to buy a house as soon as you can. But you might want to stop and think whether that advice really applies to you before handing over that down payment.

Tax breaks for homeowners -- There are lots of tax reasons to own a home. Here's how to make the most of them and avoid the pitfalls.

A timeline for buying a home -- You've got plenty to do. We'll help you keep track of what and when you need to do it.

Get your ducks in a row
How much house can you afford? -- Let us help you do the math by figuring your housing expenses against your income.

Get pre-approved, not pre-qualified -- It makes things easier for both you and the seller.

For Sale by Owner or use an agent? -- Can you avoid using a real estate agent? Yes, but it might not be a good idea.

Good news about good-faith estimates -- Your lender is required by the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act to provide you with a good faith estimate of the fees due at closing within three days of applying for a loan.

When the going gets rough
Best and worst real estate markets in America -- A strong 2004 real estate season will help keep prices moving upward.

7 things never to do when thinking about a new home -- Starting to think about buying a house? Here are seven things you should never do -- and some may surprise you.

Cash down top roadblock to homebuying -- The lack of a sufficient down payment is most often the most difficult obstacle to overcome in the effort to buy a home.

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