Finding the right neighborhood is as important as finding the right home. You should make a list of things you want in a neighborhood before you start looking for homes. Some criteria to think about include schools; commute time; walking distance to amenities; look, feel and sound of the area; and tourist attractions. Here are some things to consider.

  1. The time of day when you first lay eyes on a prospective house can affect your impression of the neighborhood, so visit at various hours. Everything always looks pretty in the sunshine.
  2. Don’t forget to factor in commuting costs to the home price. Also, think about the costs to get to things you like to do and proximity to basic services such as a grocery store, post office, freeway or train station. Gas isn’t cheap, neither is inconvenience.
  3. Consider the area’s amenities. Just because an area is safe and the homes are pretty doesn’t mean it has what you are looking for culturally. Are schools important to you or medical facilities or parks or museums? Figure out what type of lifestyle you are living and what your personal future holds.
  4. Research the future of the neighborhood such as future developments that could increase taxes or traffic. Also, look at property value over time.
  5. Characteristic of the neighborhood are important because you will want to “fit in” in your new neighborhood. Research the demographics, types of housing and neighbor values to see if they match yours.

There are some great tools on the web to help you choose the perfect neighborhood. Try Walk Score to see if you can learn something about your current neighborhood.

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the rise in existing home sales and the rise in new home construction. This, coupled with the record-low interest rates, has made the market ideal for potential home sellers.

Nearly 10% more existing homes were sold in May than in the same month a year earlier, many purchased by investors who plan to rent them for now and sell them later, an important sign of an inflection point. In something of a surprise, the inventory of existing homes for sale has fallen close to the normal level of six months’ worth despite all the foreclosed homes that lenders own. The fraction of homes that are vacant is at its lowest level since 2006.

Builders began work on 26% more single-family homes in May 2012 than the depressed levels of May 2011. The stock of unsold newly built homes is back to 2005 levels. In each of the past four quarters, housing construction has added to economic growth. In the first quarter, it accounted for 0.4 percentage points of the meager 1.9% growth rate.

As the buyer-seller playing field begins to level out, it’s important to understand SMART buying. Start with the basics and don’t get ahead of yourself.

  1. Get your credit score up.
  2. Save for at least a 20% down payment.
  3. Create a household budget.

There are many advantages to home ownership and just because there are more buyers out there doesn’t mean you can’t still get a great deal.

Mortgage interest rates continue to fall, making homes even more affordable and more attractive. However, qualifying for a mortgage can be the biggest road block to cashing in on these low interest rates.

Freddie Mac reports the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, the most popular mortgage product, dropped to 3.62 percent from 3.66 percent last week.

As the mortgage rate drops, so does a buyer’s monthly payment. So if you narrowly missed getting a loan the first time around, you should think about trying again. With the lower rate and lower monthly payment, the home you want to buy might now be in your price range.

Of course there are other factors to consider such as credit scores and down payment options.

If you aren’t in a position to buy a new home, you can still take advantage of the record low interest rates by refinancing. While refinancing does not come without its own hurdles, you could end up saving thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your loan.

Finally, if you really want to take advantage of low interest rates and see significant cost savings with your loan, repay it early. Check out how here.


Deciding where to spend your golden years is just as important as deciding where to raise your kids. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered when choosing a town and a home for your retirement. Some of those factors include weather, serious crime rates, taxes and availability of doctors. It is also important to take into consideration what you want to spend your free time doing. Some states offer incentives for active retirement and unemployment rates and economic growth should also be looked at (in case you want a part time job).

Forbes Magazine recently released the top 25 cities to retire in for 2012. The list takes into consideration the average home price, overall taxes and taxes on retirees, air quality, weather, crime and more.

Before you invest in your retirement home and town, check out the cities on this list.

  1. Albuquerque, New Mexico – average home price $166,000
  2. Alexandria, Louisiana – average home price $148,000
  3. Asheville, North Carolina – average home price $198,000
  4. Atlanta, Georgia – average home price $96,000
  5. Austin, Texas – average home price $188,000
  6. Bloomington, Indiana – average home price $144,000
  7. Boise, Idaho – average home price $118,000
  8. Cape Coral, Florida – average home price $108,000
  9. Columbia, Missouri – average home price – $152,000
  10. Columbia, South Carolina – average home price $141,000
  11. Corpus Christie, Texas – average home price $136,000
  12. Fargo, North Dakota – average home price $154,000
  13. Fort Myers, Florida – average home price $119,000
  14. Huntsville, Alabama – average home price $170,000
  15. Knoxville, Tennessee – average home price $137,000
  16. Las Cruces, New Mexico – average home price $116,000
  17. Lynchburg, Virginia – average home price $134,000
  18. Pensacola, Florida – average home price $134,000
  19. Phoenix, Arizona – average home price $119,000
  20. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – average home price $121,000
  21. Salt Lake City, Utah – average home price $183,000
  22. San Antonio, Texas – average home price $150,000
  23. Savannah, Georgia – average home price $137,000
  24. Tuscon, Arizona – average home price $131,000
  25. Tulsa, Oklahoma – average home price $129,000

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