Five things before purchasing a house

 

One of the main purchases you are going to make is buying a house. You have to think through all of your options before making the decision. Here are some of the things you need to know before you buy a house:

1) It is essential that you have good credit. You will most likely obtain a loan to buy a house. Thus, you should ensure that your credit is good for a smooth sailing application. It would be better to check your credit history frequently for your own security as well.

2) Prepare for long-term debts. Keep in mind that it will take years before you will be able to pay for the house completely. Ensure that you will be able to manage payment for the mortgage. Having a financial cushion is significant. Since the debt is long-term, anything can occur.

3) Most loans need a document from the appraiser so it is better to get their opinion when you see a potential house. The appraisers are experts in giving values to properties depending on the location, structure, features, and added extras to the house. This will stop any sales representative from over pricing the house.

4) It is very attractive to buy a beautiful house at a very cheap price. Before you decide on purchasing the beautiful house, ensure that it has a safe environment. Take note that one of the factors that make a house costly is good location. If you think that the price is much cheaper than it looks, the locations may not be that attractive. Ask the appraiser why the value is low. It could be that the neighborhood is not safe. These factors are very important in your decision-making.

5) Make sure that the house you choose suits your lifestyle. No matter how beautiful the house is, if it does not coincide with your behavior, you will not be comfortable in it. When you choose a house, make sure that it makes you feel at ease.

Your financial state is most important when planning to a buy a house. This makes it essential to monitor your credit on a regular basis. Finally, you have to learn as much as you can about the home before purchasing it.

by: Sheldon Kalnitsky

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_3792.shtml

With the right approach, former homeowners can get on the path to homeownership again

 

When the housing bubble burst, a staggering number of Americans were affected – 4.8 million borrowers lost a home to foreclosure while a further 2.2 million gave up their homes in short sales, according to national data by RealtyTrac. The recovery of the housing market has been slow, but the confidence of once-foreclosed-upon homeowners has grown along with it. Sixty-five percent of Americans in Fannie Mae's national monthly housing survey for April said they would rather buy a home rather than rent if they were going to move. With a new perspective on saving and making wise investments, many of those affected are now eager to get back to being homeowners.

Many former homeowners have learned difficult lessons, and their road back to homeownership will be signposted with challenges. However, it may be possible for them to regain their dreams. These tips from Wells Fargo, the nation's leading mortgage lender, may help set prospective buyers on the right path:

* Talk to a reputable lender about owning a home again. Having someone on your side to help you through the process is important, but it's essential that that person has the experience and knowledge to help you make an informed, affordable lending choice. An experienced lender can explain the time limits that affect buyers who faced foreclosure or short sale; there is generally a set amount of time that needs to pass before you're eligible to be considered again for mortgage approval. Wells Fargo has a mortgage presence in 2,358 locations including stand-alone mortgage stores and other business partner sites. Go to www.wellsfargo.com/mortgage to find a home mortgage consultant near you.

* Make an honest assessment of your credit situation. In the current mortgage approval environment, having a foreclosure or short sale on your financial record will affect what options you may have for loan approval. You can access your credit report from any of the three agencies by going to www.annualcreditreport.com; everyone is entitled to a free annual report. If you need help in making sense of your financial status and information on how to improve it, you can talk to a Wells Fargo Home Mortgage consultant about the My Home Roadmap(SM) service. Those enrolled in My Home Roadmap receive up to two hours of free, phone-based financial coaching from an accredited credit counseling agency, paid for by Wells Fargo. Enrollees also receive emails from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage consultants that provide useful tips and reminders on handling the financial responsibilities of homeownership.

* Prepare a down payment. Homebuyers re-entering the housing market after foreclosure or short sale typically need to have a down payment – in most cases 20 percent – ready before purchasing a home. In addition to those funds, think about additional expenses you might have to pay, such as closing costs. Showing the ability to handle the financial responsibilities of homeownership beyond the monthly mortgage payment like taxes, homeowner's insurance, utilities and other household expenses will be extremely important in achieving loan approval.

* Get preapproved. It's a good idea for prospective homebuyers, even those who are re-entering the market, to work with lenders who offer a pre-approval program. The preapproval process helps borrowers determine and understand their budget before diving into a home search, allowing them to shop more confidently.

Homeownership is still part of the American dream, even for those who've dealt with foreclosure. To ensure that your next home is your dream home, plan carefully, get help and take a proactive approach to answering the tough questions.

How to make your home stand out in a hot real estate market

 

(BPT) – The residential housing market is heating up, but before you post that for-sale sign, consider making upgrades that add style and value to your home. With many buyers seeking wood floors, kitchen upgrades and other add-ons, it's important for homeowners to highlight these features so their property stands out from the competition in today's market.

"It all comes down to dollars and 'sense,' " says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center. "In addition to warmth, beauty and durability, hardwood features increase your home's resale value. Even with a modest budget, if you take the time and price your options, updating worn floors, dated cabinetry, and lackluster walls will make a significant difference. And it's easier and less expensive than you think."

Survey says hardwood floors sell

When it's time to sell, hardwood floors not only add good looks, they increase the value of your home. According to a nationwide survey of real estate agents commissioned by the National Wood Flooring Association, 99 percent of respondents agreed that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell. In addition, 90 percent said these homes sell for more money.

"Absolutely true," says Bob Strader, a real estate agent with The NORTH Group of Keller Williams Realty in Atlanta. "Between two similar properties, buyers will gravitate toward the home with hardwood floors, and that home will sell in half the time."

Debbie Gartner, known as "The Flooring Girl" by customers at her New York-based flooring store, agrees and says quality increases value. "Hardwood sells," notes Gartner, adding that you're in luck if you already have a hardwood floor under a carpet. "Clients are shocked when I tell them it's almost always less expensive to refinish a hardwood floor than it is to re-carpet a room."

What about the kitchen?

Real estate agent Strader advises sellers to "upgrade their kitchens prior to going on the market because buyers see kitchen upgrades as being rather expensive." He adds that, "Homes without updated kitchens will take longer to sell, and will sell for less."

Gerry Henley, president of Kitchen Solvers, a national kitchen and bath remodeling franchise, suggests simple cabinetry updates that won't break the bank but will result in a higher return on your investment. And hardwood products offer plenty of options.

"Many homeowners overlook the low cost and high impact of re-facing their existing kitchen cabinets," he says. "By swapping out dated doors and drawer pulls, a homeowner can get the look of a newly updated kitchen and save up to 50 percent of the cost of a complete overhaul. Cabinet re-facing is a quick-moving project and the kitchen remains functional throughout installation."

Value in the details

Architectural details – hardwood crown moulding, baseboards and other millwork – add depth and character, provide a finished look, and change lackluster to extraordinary, so much so that according to the National Association of Home Builders' "What Home Buyers Really Want" study, crown moulding ranks higher than other luxury features such as fireplaces, kitchen seating and window seats.

Strader agrees. "From my experience, millwork adds the 'wow' factor that stays in a buyer's mind. And most sellers are unaware that a custom look can be obtained relatively inexpensively with off-the-shelf moulding patterns available at home improvement stores."

The American Hardwood Information Center offers some additional tips to keep costs low. For crown and other decorative ceiling mouldings, consider using a less expensive species such as poplar. Where durability is a must, such as baseboards, door casings and chair rails, consider a harder species, like white oak.

 

Smart home improvements for growing multi-generational households

 

(BPT) – The American family continues to evolve, with multiple generations living under the same roof in more households than any time since the Great Depression. Of America's 76 million households, 5.6 percent (4.3 million) were multi-generational, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Homeowners are finding it's more important than ever to ensure every home improvement project delivers benefits for every member of the family – children, parents and grandparents.

Whether your family grows with the birth of a child or because a grandparent has moved in with you, here are some home improvement projects that are multi-generational family-friendly:

Adding/updating a bathroom

Few household situations are as stressful as too many people sharing just one or two bathrooms. If your home population is growing, but you're still making do with too few bathrooms, adding a bath or upgrading an existing one can make life more pleasant for everyone. What's more, it's a smart investment of your renovation dollars. If you decide to sell your home down the road, you can expect to recoup about 53 percent of the construction cost for a modest bathroom addition, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report. And a modest bathroom remodel recoups about 64 percent of your investment.

Finishing a basement or an attic bonus room

If you're looking for more usable living space, finishing a basement or attic bonus room is almost always easier than adding square footage to your home. A finished existing area can be a versatile investment, affording you the space to add a bedroom, bathroom, recreational room, home office or even a second kitchen a la in-law suite style. Upstairs, finishing an attic bonus room can provide a well-lit and airy retreat with the inclusion of fresh air skylights. Downstairs, advances in basement finishing technology have compressed the time-frame of this once pricey and drawn-out home improvement. Remodeling Magazine says a basement renovation pays back more than 70 percent of its cost at the time of resale.

Healthful upgrades

The quality of light and ventilation in our home speaks directly to the safety and health of its occupants. Aging eyesight often needs better lighting, and poor indoor air quality can affect everyone's health, but especially that of young children with respiratory ailments such as asthma. One improvement that addresses both concerns, is a skylight. When opened, an Energy Star-qualified fresh-air skylight can help exhaust stale unhealthy indoor air and bring fresh air into your home. Skylights especially make sense if you'll be creating more inexpensive living space by finishing an attic.

Add remote controlled solar powered blinds to solar powered fresh air skylights in your home and the products, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. To learn more about no leak skylights that close automatically in case of rain and how they can help improve indoor air quality, search online.

Upgrading key appliances

Whether the hot water heater shudders when your teenager takes a shower or the furnace just can't work hard enough to keep Grandma's bones warm in winter, upgrading key appliances in your home can significantly improve the comfort of its occupants. What's more, replacing older appliances with new ones can help you save money on your utility bills over the life of the product. Replacing an old water heater, furnace or air conditioner with an Energy Star-certified product can trim utility bills significantly.

For example, according to EnergyStar.gov, replacing a central air conditioning unit that is 12 years old (or older) with an Energy Star-qualified one could reduce cooling costs by 30 percent, and switching to a solar water heater could cut your water heating bill in half. What's more certain energy-efficient home improvements may qualify you for a federal tax credit. If you install a residential solar water heating system, you could qualify for federal as well as state tax credits and other incentives. You can find a calculator to help tally the potential payback on a solar water heating system and a federal tax credit estimator to calculate your savings on new or replacement solar powered skylights online.

Creating the perfect porch can be simple and low-maintenance

 

(BPT) – Your porch should be a warm, welcoming outdoor living space that offers comfort and helps make a house a home. Whether you want to remodel your porch from the ground up, or just give it a refreshing new look and feel, it's easier than you think to create a perfect porch.

Start with a Kleer deck as enchanting flooring for your remodeled porch, choosing from the rich, nature-inspired color palettes available for the Sierra Series and Coastal Series Decking. Sierra offers deep, solid earth tones with wood grain textures such as Sequoia, plus streaked tropical wood looks, such as Golden Teak. The Coastal Series offers charming Cobblestone and serene Sand Dune hues, which give your porch a relaxing feel reminiscent of a seaside resort.

Framing your porch, like a picture for the world to see, is easy with Kleer Trimboard. Add elegant white or colorfully painted accent trim around the top, bottom and sides of the porch using durable cellular PVC trimboards in a variety of sizes. This trim can even be crafted into ornate gingerbread or curved using heat-bending to make soaring arches. Kleer Mouldings can be readily cut so that you can add eye-catching detail anywhere. Using Kleer Beaded Sheets, you can build a porch ceiling with great warmth and charm. For a picturesque porch, enclose columns in Kleer Post Wraps to protect them from the elements while adding wood's natural, finished look.

To complete your perfect porch, dress up nearby windows and doors with distinctive touches that complement the look and feel of your outdoor living space. High-impact, budget-friendly ideas include adding Mid-America Siding Components' richly-colored shutters with matching window headers to enhance your porch's warmth and curb appeal. The sophisticated Flat Panel and geometric-style Classic Dentil headers pair perfectly with decorative shutters like the classic Open Louver or Old World-style Board-n-Batten.

Another quick, easy upgrade is an inviting door surround in cream, white or another neutral color to enhance porch aesthetics. Adding a door surround is a natural way to create that "welcome home" feeling too.

Designed for easy living, Tapco's enduring Kleer and Mid-America brand solutions never require painting or wood's time-intensive upkeep. Whether you want to transform your porch into a cozy gathering spot or grand wrap-around retreat, Tapco's exterior products can put the perfect low-maintenance outdoor living space within your reach.

How to determine the true value of home improvements

 

(BPT) – As the U.S. housing industry continues to emerge from the Great Recession, signs are pointing toward positive recovery. In fact, a recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University states that the home improvement industry could see record spending this year. It's news like this that may have you contemplating an update to your house. Even if you plan to stay in your home for years to come, it's important to consider which home remodeling projects offer the potential for a positive return on investment.

"Research shows that more homeowners intend to remain in their homes after remodeling, however, resale value is still a major factor when planning renovations," says Susan Selle, chief marketing officer of exterior building products manufacturer Ply Gem Industries.

Before spending a significant amount of time and money on your next home improvement project, consider these tips.

Five home improvements with the highest ROI

The Remodeling Magazine Cost vs. Value report identifies these top five mid-range exterior home renovations as beneficial investments that allow homeowners to recoup a substantial percentage of their investment when they resell their homes:

* Replacing the front door (steel 101.8 percent)

* Adding manufactured stone veneer (92.2 percent)

* Replacing the garage door (88.4 percent)

* Replacing the siding (vinyl 80.7 percent)

* Adding a deck (wood 80.5 percent)

The cost-value ratio compares resale value to construction cost. The higher the percentage, the more of the job costs you are likely to recoup when selling your home.

"Homeowners want lasting value from their exterior renovation projects, so it's important to select the best materials for the job upfront," says Jerry Blais, senior vice president of marketing for Ply Gem Industries. "For example, when choosing siding for the home, vinyl siding provides overall better performance than wood, engineered wood and fiber cement and requires less maintenance both in the short and long term, allowing homeowners to complete their renovation and enjoy it, hassle-free, for years. In addition, vinyl siding provides the styles, textures and stylish colors homeowners want to create beautiful curb appeal."

Budgeting for success

Once you've decided which replacement and remodeling projects will offer the best ROI, develop a schedule and a budget to ensure the home makeover remains financially sound. The budget defines the project's scope, estimates overall costs, and helps to establish priorities. Generally, renovation costs should not exceed 30 percent of your home's value and should be consistent with housing trends in your neighborhood.

What should the budget include? To start, consider these likely-to-occur expenses:

* Contractor costs. These include labor and may incorporate employee benefits, professional fees, permit and inspection charges and, of course, profit. Get at least three contractor estimates to ensure your contractor is cost-effective and reputable.

* DIY costs. Should you forgo a contractor? Keep in mind you will need to rent or buy power tools and equipment and potentially learn new skills.

* Hidden costs. For example, bringing outdated electrical or plumbing installations to code, or removing lead paint.

* Site preparation costs. For exterior renovations, this may include tree trimming, clearing land, and renting a haul-away container.

* Interim housing costs. If you plan to relocate, you will need living expenses for the project's duration.

* Material cost. These include large expenses and small ones (ex. nails, trim) and could account for as much as half to 75 percent of the total cost. Factor in an extra 6-to-10 percent for waste for materials that are cut and fitted.

Bringing it home

If you're interested in near-term resale value, it's important to make sure that selling your home will at least recoup the cost of any completed projects. If you plan to stay in your home for many years, however, you'll not only benefit from an improved resale value down the road, but you're also more likely to appreciate the improved comfort and curb appeal in the meantime.

5 upgrades for under $5,000 to put your home at the top of every buyer’s list

 

(BPT) – It's a sobering truth of real estate that sellers often have to spend money to make money. Even if your home is relatively new, you still face costs associated with getting it ready to show, such as repainting interior rooms or hiring professional cleaners and stagers. If your home could use some TLC and updating, spending as little as $5,000 on key upgrades could improve its appeal for buyers – and ensure a speedier sale at a better price.

Here are five upgrades you can make for under $5,000 to help put your home at the top of every buyer's must-see list.

 1. Upgrade your entryway – Replacing an old, dated or worn entry door can be a cost-effective way to ensure buyers get a good first impression when they walk in your house. Whether you choose a fiberglass, wooden or steel model, installing a new entry door can cost a few thousand dollars, yet the return on investment at the time of resale can be significant. A fiberglass entry door returns about 72 percent of its investment, while a steel door recoups more than 100 percent of its value, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report.

Enhance your new door with attractive plantings, fresh paint and clean windows around the entryway to create a memorable, attractive entry for just a few thousand dollars.

2. Increase natural light – More buyers are becoming aware of the mood- and productivity-enhancing benefits of natural light, and homes with big, bright windows have always been in demand. Adding windows to a room can be a costly, time-consuming affair. Not so with adding a skylight. For well under $5,000 and in just a day or two, a professional can install an Energy Star qualified, solar powered no-leak fresh-air skylight, like those from Velux America. Professional installation costs nationally ranges from around $900 to $2,325, with an average of $1,400, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

The low installation cost will leave you plenty of budget to enhance the skylight upgrade even further with energy efficiency-boosting solar-powered blinds. The skylight and blinds are operated by remote control and the blinds are available in designer colors and patterns to enhance your décor. The products, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit to further reduce the cost of the improvement.

The most popular rooms in the home for fresh air skylights are baths, where they provide privacy in addition to natural light, and kitchens, where they vent cooking odors and humidity naturally while brightening this much-used workspace. Visit www.veluxusa.com to learn more.

3. Beautify a master bathroom – Bathrooms and kitchens sell homes. Making a few cosmetic upgrades to even a small master bath can help increase a home's appeal and value. For less than $5,000 you can easily repaint, upgrade faucets, replace old cabinet hardware and add decorative touches like designer towels.

If you've already done all that, take a look at the floor or countertops – two cost-effective upgrades that can wow buyers. Since counters don't make up that much square footage in most bathrooms, replacing them with granite can cost just a couple thousand dollars. Tile flooring is also a relatively inexpensive way to improve a bathroom's look and usability.

4. Heat things up in the kitchen – Kitchen remodels can offer high ROI for sellers, but a full remodel may be outside your budget. If you've already done the obvious – like repainting and decluttering – it's time to look for a few more cost-effective improvements that will appeal to buyers.

Just as in the bathroom, swapping old faucets and cabinet hardware with new designer options can enhance the appeal of a kitchen. Shabby, outdated appliances can hinder a speedy sale, so consider replacing them with new ones. You don't necessarily need to install top-of-the-line, high-priced appliances to make a good impression, either. Newer, Energy Star qualified appliances represent savings for buyers down the road.

5. Lavish landscaping – No single aspect of your home has a greater impact on a buyer's first impression than the landscaping. A great front yard sets the tone for the rest of the home, appealing to buyers on a number of levels, including beauty, practicality and savings.

With $5,000, you can accomplish a lot in terms of landscaping. You can sod a small front yard, add decorative planting beds to a lush lawn, or even install shade trees that will both beautify the yard and enhance the home's energy efficiency in summer. Decorative concrete stamping of walkways and driveways is another cost-effective way to improve a home's curb appeal.

Whether it's a buyer's market or a seller's market, no one wants to see their home linger long before selling. A few simple upgrades can help ensure your home gets plenty of attention this season.

To Do List for First-time Home Buyers

 

GET YOUR CREDIT SCORE AS HIGH AS YOU CAN
Pay off credit cards and only use 10% of your limit moving forward. You can sell large things, but don't make any major purchases (like a car). Don't cancel any lines of credit and don't open any new lines of credit. Stay current on all of your bills and remember, no major purchases!

SAVE
You'll need money for the down payment (if you need to), closing costs, and escrow for insurance and taxes

CHOOSE A REAL ESTATE AGENT
A good real estate agent will guide you through the next steps so that you don't make any errors. If you're reading this, it's because you got it from your local real estate agent, me! It's also important to have an understanding of how your real estate agent is going to market your property (i.e. email, social media, MLS, open houses, etc).

CHOOSE A LENDER
Your real estate agent should provide a list of preferred lenders. (Hey, that's me! I can help!) The lender runs your credit and gives you mortgage options and estimated rates. The lender also calculates how much you can spend on a house  based off of your debt to income ratio.

DECIDE WHAT FEATURES ARE IMPORTANT AND VISIT HOMES
Make a list of features most important to you before you start looking. Your real estate agent will book showing for houses that match your list. Visit the homes and take notes and photos.

NARROW CHOICES
Make sure to test the commute, consider resale value for the home, and finally make a decision!

MAKE AN OFFER
Offers are contingent on appraisals, home inspections and termite inspections (where applicable). Side note: you're not "stuck" with a house that wasn't built to code or has major structural damage that wasn't present at the time of showing.

FINAL WALK-THROUGH AND CLOSE
Make sure the house is the way that it should be, as this is your final moment to speak up if something is wrong. Bring your closing money to the table, and get ready to sign paperwork!

MOVE IN
Congrats and enjoy your new home!

How to Get a House Ready For Sale

 

CALL YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT
One mistake that home owners make when they are ready to sell their home is getting their home "ready" to sell before they call an agent. The home owners will make repairs or upgrades that have will little or no return on their investment. Your real estate agent (hey, that's me) will give you tips on what renovations are necessary to sell, if any. 

DE-CLUTTER
Remove everything but the essentials. Donate what you don't want and store the rest. Plenty of people prefer to use storage units for items they want to keep. Take a minute to organize kitchen cabinets, closets, bathrooms and the pantry. It if looks like a clothing store in your closet and a well-fronted grocery store, you're doing great.

DE-PERSONALIZE
Potential buyers want to be able to walk into your home and imagine themselves living there. They can't do that if you have pictures of your family up and decor like "Thomas Family. Established in 1988" hanging on the front door. Remove these items, and any built-in items that you'll be taking with you. Place personal items from your bathroom vanity in accessible boxes.

DEEP CLEAN
Wax the floors, dust everything, and polish metals. Get every single crack and crevice as clean as it can be and remove odd odors. If this seems like an overwhelming task, break it down into smaller tasks and put it on a calendar. 

REPAIR THE BASICS
If the door squeaks, get some WD-40. If the bathroom needs re-caulked, that's okay. Small projects are good, large ones are not (i.e. you do not need to replace all of the windows in your house). The biggest project you should tackle is painting bright colored walls. Bright colored walls says to potential buyers "this is going to take work." Try neutral colors, off whites and light grays. 

SPRUCE UP THE CURB APPEAL
Maintain the lawn, pressure wash the exterior, and clean up the shrubbery. Hire a professional or shell out a couple of bucks for flowers or seasonal plants for the garden!

How to be the buyer every seller wants to deal with

 

So how do you ensure you not only land the home of your dreams, but get the best possible price from the seller and the best possible mortgage deal from your lender? By becoming the buyer every homeowner wants to sell to a financially stable, credit-worthy, pre-approved purchaser.

"Just as lenders consider many factors beyond your credit score, when deciding whether to finance your home loan, sellers consider more than just the offering price when evaluating potential buyers," says Barrett Burns, president and CEO of credit score model developer VantageScore Solutions. "Buyers who can move quickly and decisively, who walk through the door with their financing lined up and their credit in good shape, are best positioned to stand above the competition this year."

Steps toward being a better buyer

You can be a better buyer – one that will appear attractive to both lenders and sellers – with some simple steps.

First, understand your credit score and the role it plays in the home buying process. While a good credit score can ease the borrowing process for home buyers, it's not the only factor lenders will use to gauge whether to approve you for a loan, Burns says.

"A credit score predicts the likelihood of whether a borrower might default in the first 24 months of a loan," he notes. "But lenders will also consider how much of a down payment you bring to the table as a percentage of the purchase price, your income and your debt-to-income ratio when considering a mortgage application."

Remember that lenders will pull your score from all three major credit bureaus, so it pays to check your credit report and score with all three. Reviewing your report and score allows you to catch and correct errors, and have a better idea of how potential lenders might view your credit worthiness, and rest assured that obtaining this information does not impact your credit score.

Understanding your credit score is a more complex process than you might expect. You can test your knowledge about credit scores at www.CreditScoreQuiz.org, a website created by VantageScore Solutions and its partner, Consumer Federation of America.

When you have a handle on your credit, consider other factors that can make you a better buyer, including how much you have to put down on a house.

The days of no-money down mortgages are virtually over, industry experts say. Today, even FHA borrowers will likely need to make a down payment. How much you need will depend on many factors, including the loan program you apply for and the price of the house you're buying. Generally, it's a good rule of thumb to save 20 percent of the purchase cost for a down payment.

Keep in mind, the more you put down, the more instant equity you'll have, the lower your monthly payment, and the better your chances of not needing private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly payment. If you're able to put down more than a lender requires, a mortgage company may be willing to give you a pass on other issues on your application, such as a less-than-stellar credit score.

"Lenders and sellers are all looking for buyers who are 'the complete package,'" Burns says. "While you should take care of your credit score, you shouldn't obsess over it. Instead, look at it as an important part of the overall package of assets that can make you the kind of buyer everyone wants to work with."