Step 1: Are You Ready? Knowledge and experience are the keys to successful real estate transactions. REALTOR.com® contains an enormous amount of valuable information, and such data -- combined with the expertise, experience and training of local REALTORS® -- can be the essential keys to your success. One of the keys to making the homebuying process easier and more understandable is planning. In doing so, you'll be able to anticipate requests from lenders, lawyers and a host of other professionals. Furthermore, planning will help you discover valuable shortcuts in the homebuying process. Do You Know What You Want? Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or entering the marketplace as a repeat buyer, you need to ask why you want to buy. Are you planning to move to a new community due to a lifestyle change or is buying an option and not a requirement? What would you like in terms of real estate that you do not now have? Do you have a purchasing timeframe? Whatever your answers, the more you know about the real estate marketplace, the more likely you are to effectively define your goals. As an interesting exercise, it can be worthwhile to look at the questions above and to then discuss them in detail when meeting with local REALTORS®. Do You Have The Money? Homes and financing are closely intertwined. (Financing is the difference between the purchase price and the downpayment, commonly referred to as debt or the mortgage.) The good news is that over the years new and innovative loan programs have evolved which require a 5 percent downpayment or less. In fact, a number of programs now allow purchasers to buy real estate with nothing down. In addition to a down payment, purchasers also need cash for closing costs (the final costs associated with closing the loan). Several newly emerging loan programs not only allow the purchase of a home with no money down, but also underwrite closing costs. Not everyone, however, elects to purchase with little or no money down. Less money down means higher monthly mortgage payments, so most homebuyers choose to buy with some cash up front. As to closing costs, in markets where buyers have leverage, it may be possible to negotiate an offer for a home that requires the owner to pay some or all of your settlement expenses. Speak with local REALTORS® for details. Is Your Financial House in Order? Those great loans with little or nothing down are not available to everyone: You need good credit. For at least one year prior to purchasing a home, you should assure that every credit card bill, rent check, car payment and other debt is paid in full and on time. Next Step 2: Get a REALTOR® The Home Buyers Guide The home-buying process doesn't need to be scary. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process and answer your questions on what you should expect from your REALTOR®, where to look for loans, and what to watch out for when closing the deal. Step 1: Are you Ready? Step 2: Get a REALTOR® Step 3: Get Loan Preapproval Step 4: Look at Homes Step 5: Choose a Home Step 6: Get Funding Step 7: Make an Offer Step 8: Get Insurance Step 9: Closing Step 10: What's Next?