Before you begin seriously shopping for a home, there is some groundwork that you need to do, if you will pardon the pun. A little preparation before you buy can put you in a great negotiating position. Start Now Hire a real estate professional. Communicate your wants and needs and let him or her start looking for the right home to meet your needs. Yes, you can look at homes on sites such as Realtor.com and Zillow.com, but your real estate professional has access to homes as soon as they come on the market. He or She can also network with other professionals to be on the lookout for you. He or She might hear about the perfect home before it hits the market, giving you – his or her client – the advantage. Check and Repair Your Credit If you have not already been approved by a lender, you need to make certain your credit is in order. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that the three nationwide consumer credit report companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) must provide you with a free copy of your credit report and FICO scores once a year, upon request. You can order the reports by visiting annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. This organization is authorized to give free credit reports and scores, with no contingencies. If you find a ding or an error on your credit report, take care of it immediately. Dispute an inaccurate item on the report by contacting the consumer reporting company and the information provider in writing. Do not Inadvertently Raise Your Credit Scores Lenders look at more than how much credit you use. They also take into consideration how much credit you have available (debt-to-income ratio). Now is not the time to be opening any new accounts or closing any accounts. Do not purchase furniture or a new car or any big-ticket item before buying a home. Get Loan Pre-Approval Don't start house hunting without knowing how much home you can buy. In order to determine how much you can buy, you must apply for a loan. In doing so, you will have to share information concerning income, work history, debts and other personal information with the lender. A preapproval letter will open doors with sellers because it demonstrates that you are serious and prepared to buy. Do not Expect Perfection Have realistic expectations about the home you may purchase. If you are shopping for an older home, expect to do some cosmetic work. Ignore the wallpaper and carpet color, and instead, take a good look at the bones of the house. Does the floorplan work for you? Is it spacious enough? Does it have the amenities you want? Can you fix what does not work reasonably? Most cosmetic changes are relatively inexpensive. In some case, you can even pay for the cost of remodeling with your mortgage loan. It is important that you communicate remodeling possibilities this with your lender.