As any daredevil, extreme sports addict or adrenaline junkie knows, well-grounded preparation for the specific task at hand is what takes the fear out of trying.
Those who've suffered the agony of defeat in what's likely the most dangerous consumer game, learned the hard way that sheer fearlessness isn't enough to become and remain a homeowner -- through good times and bad.
With the rules of the housing game changed forever, preparing to just squeak by the home buying ordeal isn't enough to achieve a decisive and lasting victory.
The idea isn't just to buy a home. The goal is to keep your own roof over your head.
Create a wish list. Write down housing wants and needs. Include all the physical characteristics you want or need. Include style, size, layout and room configuration. Look at the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the basic amenities you must have. Include critical features such as location and services and a home's proximity to good schools or public transportation lines.
Browse for housing. Realtor.com and other Web sites offer home valuation features and neighborhood data on trends in local markets. Use features to determine how a listing compares with nearby, comparable properties in terms of value, actual sales prices, home features, neighborhood characteristics, and more.
Work with an expert. Finding a professional real estate agent who will represent your best interests can make the difference in location, negotiating the best offer, and closing the home of your dreams. Look for a full time real estate agent, who has uploaded telling photos and videos of their listings and look for agents with good Web sites to market your listing.
Get the complete picture before you visit. You can't know everything about a community from an online listing. Schools, crime, and proximity to shopping and work all impact property values. NAR says talk to a Realtor and go to Realtor.com to explore communities.
Make sure the property details are reliable. Buyers need know when a listing has experienced a price change. Look for Web sites like Realtor.com that updates listings frequently, including price changes. Fresh and reliable information is critical.