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Save for down payment, closing costs
Depending on your credit and financing, you'll typically need to save enough money for a down payment -- somewhere between 3 and 20 percent of the home's price.
To get an FHA loan, you need a credit score of 580 or higher.
One exception: Veterans Affairs loans, which require no down payment.
Comparison shop for a VA loan today on Bankrate.com.
Another cash expense: closing costs. Whatever your loan source, you'll also need money to pay closing costs. For a $200,000 mortgage, closing costs run (depending on where you live) from $2,300 to $4,000. Get the average closing costs in your state at Bankrate's closing costs map.
Improve your chances by: banking your own money and seeking down payment assistance. Often, it's location-based or tagged to a certain type of buyer, like first-timers. Search online with the city name, then the county name, along with word combinations such as "down payment assistance," "first-time homebuyers" and "homebuyer's assistance."
In a buyer's market, you can also negotiate to have the seller pay a portion of the closing costs.