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"If you’re going through the process of buying a home, chances are there are questions you desperately need answers to -- right away! Luckily, The Home Buyer’s Question and Answer Book gives you all the crucial information you need, in an easy-to-flip-to format you can easily consult on the run.

Featuring more than 150 questions, as well as sample loan applications and other valuable resources, the book provides simple answers to fundamental (yet often daunting) questions such as:

• How do I start the homebuying process?

• What if I have blemishes on my credit report?

• What are the different types of real estate agents and how much do they charge?

• How can I ensure an accurate, productive home inspection?

• What can I do to ensure a smooth closing?

Taking you through the entire process, all the way from the decision to buy to post-sale responsibilities, The Home Buyer’s Question and Answer Book is an essential guidebook no first-time home buyer should be without."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Black Men magazine: "Organized in an easy-to-flip format readers can easily consult on the run, the book tells home buyers all they need to know about most any question they might have about this crucial process."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814472361
  • Publisher: AMACOM Books
  • Publication date: 1/1/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Bridget McCrea is a former Century 21 real estate agent who now covers real estate as a journalist for a variety of publications, including Realtor Magazine, The Wall Street Journal’s RealEstateJournal.com, and Florida Realtor. A winner of the Florida Magazine Association’s 2002 Best Feature Award and a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, she is also the author of The Real Estate Agent’s Field Guide. She lives in Dunedin, Florida.

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Table of Contents


PART I: Home Buying 101

Chapter 1: Common Questions about the Homebuying Process

1. Why should I buy a home?

2. How difficult are the financial aspects of purchasing a home?

3. What's the process for buying a new home?

4. What's the market like for first-time home buyers?

5. How can I determine my local market conditions?

6. How do I determine my housing needs?

7. How can emotions affect the homebuying process?

8. What is a REALTOR®?

9. What is the difference between a buyer's agent and a seller's agent?

10. How are REALTORS paid?

11. How do I choose a buyer's agent?

12. Can I find my home on the Internet?

13. How do I start my Internet home search?

14. How long should I plan to live in my new home to make the investment worthwhile?

15. What is a starter home?

16. What should I consider when looking at starter homes?

17. How important is location in the homebuying process?

18. How do I determine whether a neighborhood is right for me?

19. How much home can I afford?

20. What if I can't find the home of my dreams?

Chapter 2: Nailing Down the Finances

21. How much do homes cost?

22. What is a mortgage?

23. How do I determine how long the term of my mortgage should be?

24. Should I get a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage?

25. What is a prequalification letter?

26. What is a preapproval?

27. What is a loan application?

28. What are lenders looking for?

29. What should I ask my mortgage lender?

30. What is a credit report?

31. What does a low credit score mean?

32. How do I improve my credit score?

33. What are my down payment options?

34. What mortgage programs are available if I don't have the down payment?

35. What should I keep in mind when looking for a subprime loan?

36. What are closing costs?

37. How can I reduce my closing costs?

38. Can I get a mortgage online?

39. What information must I give to obtain a mortgage online?

40. What government resources are available for home buyers?

41. What is a Veterans Administration Loan?

42. What is Fannie Mae's Community Home Buyer's Program?

44. What home buyer programs are available in my region?

45. What is seller financing?

46. Is seller financing a good thing?

47. What is PITI?

Chapter 3: The House Hunt

48. What should I do before searching for a home?

49. How do I start the house-hunting process?

50. What resources can I tap to help with my house hunt?

51. What should I keep track of when looking at homes?

52. What is the Multiple Listing Service?

53. How can I access the MLS?

54. What is a virtual office website (VOW)?

55. Are MLS posting accurate and updated?

56. What are the different types of real estate agents?

57. How do I decide which type of agent to use?

58. What should I look for when previewing homes?

59. What should I ask if the house needs work?

60. What should I look for in a newly constructed home?

61. What is an open house?

62. What is a second showing?

63. What should I look for during the second showing?

64. How long will it take to find my home?

PART II: The Homebuying Process

Chapter 4: Multifamily Housing Options

65. What is a townhouse?

66. What is a condominium?

67. What are the pros and cons of condo ownership?

68. How do I finance a condo or townhouse?

69. How do I insure a condo or townhouse?

70. What is a homeowners association?

71. What is a condo conversion?

72. What is a co-op?

73. Why is co-op ownership unique?

74. What should I consider before purchasing a co-op?

75. How do I finance the purchase of co-op shares?

Chapter 5: Make Your Offer and Negotiate Contract Terms

76. What is an offer?

77. How do I make sure my offer is appropriate?

78. What is earnest money?

79. How much earnest money do I need?

80. What is a counteroffer?

81. How do I make an offer?

82. What does a real estate contract include?

83. What contingencies should be included in an offer?

84. Do I need an attorney?

85. Why set an exact closing date?

86. Does it matter what time of the month I chose to close?

87. How can I come out a winner in the negotiation process?

88. What other items are negotiable?

89. Why would a seller pay my closing costs?

90. What is a seller disclosure?

91. What does ""as is"" mean?

Chapter 6: Put the Home Buying Gears in Motion

92. I've signed a contract. What now?

93. What documents will a lender ask for?

94. What is a home appraisal?

95. How is a home appraised?

96. How can an appraisal affect my ability to obtain a mortgage?

97. The appraisal was very different from the asking price--why?

98. What is a property survey?

99. Do I need a professional home inspector?

100. What's generally included in an inspection report?

101. How can I ensure an accurate, productive home inspection?

102. What is a termite inspection?

103. What is radon?

104. Should I have the house tested for radon?

105. What are lead-based paint hazards?

106. What disclosure requirements exist concerning lead-paint hazards?

107. What is clear title?

108. What does a title report include?

109. What kinds of things can ""cloud"" a title?

110. What is title insurance?

PART III: Sealing the Deal

Chapter 7: Securing Your Mortgage Loan

111. What's the first step in securing a mortgage?

112. How do I choose my loan type?

113. How can I best compare loans?

114. How do I apply for a home loan?

115. What documentation will I need to apply for a loan?

116. What is a mortgage broker?

117. Should I use a mortgage broker?

118. Besides funding, what else does my lender have to provide?

119. What authorizations and approvals will my lender request?

120. Should I sign IRS Form 4506?

121. What factors affect my interest rate?

122. When is an ARM the best choice?

123. What should I know about points?

124. Are there tax advantages to paying points?

125. What does it mean to ""lock in a rate""?

126. Should I lock in a rate?

127. Do I need private mortgage insurance (PMI)?

128. What is a good faith estimate?

129. What is homeowners insurance?

130. How much homeowners insurance do I need?

Chapter 8: The Home Buyer's Legal Rights

131. What is the Fair Housing Act?

132. What should I do if I suspect that I am a victim of discrimination?

133. What is RESPA?

134. What are illegal kickbacks and referral fees?

135. What should I do if I suspect a fee is illegal?

136. What is the Truth in Lending Act?

137. What is the Equal Credit Opportunity Act?

138. What should I do if I suspect a lender has discriminated against me?

139. What rights do I have concerning my mortgage application?

140. What is predatory lending?

141. How can I tell if my lender is using predatory lending tactics?

142. What if there are termites in the home?

143. What if there is radon in the home?

144. What if there is mold in the home?

145. What if a home inspector finds other defects in the home?

146. Do I need a home warranty?

Chapter 9: The Closing Process

147. What happens at the closing table?

148. What should I bring to closing?

149. How does the closing typically unfold?

150. What is a closing statement?

151. What are prorated fees?

152. What fees am I responsible for?

153. What is a walk-through?

154. What should I look for during the walk-through?

155. What can I do to ensure a smooth closing?

156. What if I can't be at the closing?

157. Can the transaction get held up at the closing table?

158. How can a lawyer help ensure a smooth closing?

159. Should I hire an attorney?

160. What should I take away from the closing table?

Chapter 10: Postsale Concerns

161. When is my first house payment due?

162. What will my monthly mortgage loan statements look like?

163. What payment alternatives to lenders offer?

164. Do I need to retain my closing and home-related expenses?

165. How do my mortgage payments affect my taxes?

166. What is a homestead exemption?

167. How do I apply for a homestead exemption?

168. How do property taxes work?

169. How do homeowners insurance payments work?

170. How can I lower my property taxes?

171. What should I do before moving into my new home?

172. How should I pack up my existing possessions for the move?

173. What if I discover a defect that wasn't disclosed to me?

174. What steps should I take if I discover a major defect postsale?





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First Chapter

Home Buyer's Question and Answer Book

By Bridget McCrea


Copyright © 2005 Bridget McCrea
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8144-7236-2

Chapter One

The House Hunt

48. What should I do before searching for a home?

Before you start your home search, make sure you have your ducks in a row, both on the financing side and in terms of your own wants and needs. Use this checklist as a guide:

Get your financial house in order first (see Chapter 2 for in-depth information on how to do this). That includes determining what your budget will comfortably allow and sticking to it and getting preapproved for a mortgage.

Familiarize yourself with the different housing types available to help narrow your search.

Determine your minimum requirements, as well as any desired additional features.

Clearly outline any items that you don't want in a house.

Determine the desired location (close to schools, work, public transportation, and other amenities or infrastructure).

Familiarize yourself with the mortgage process.

If you're using a real estate agent, select one with whom you feel comfortable and who understands your needs.

Check listings and prices throughout the United States on the Internet.

Tap resources like friends, relatives, a good real estate agent, home advertisements in the newspaper, home magazines, foreclosure databases, and listings of homes for sale by owner (FSBO).

Use a scorecard to compare homes (see question 58).

Familiarize yourself with the home inspection process that you will need to conduct in a short period of time on all homes (see question 58) that you look at.

Through it all, maintain your perspective, keep a critical eye open, and try to keep emotions out of the process.

49. How do I start the house-hunting process?

If you didn't jot down notes about your wants, needs, and desires in Chapter 1, flip back and do that before you go any farther (see question 6). Having these house-hunting parameters in hand while you are touring homes will keep your search focused and grounded and will help you avoid getting too emotional or caught up in the process. Approach the market from a pragmatic standpoint, and act like an investor-no matter how much actual "money" you're investing in this home-who is most interested in getting the best return for her money, not the fanciest house on the block.

Ask any successful home buyer about his own search process and he will probably tell you that the combination approach worked best. That means using a mix of local newspaper advertisements, yard signs, online for-sale ads, online multiple listing service (MLS) systems, the services of a professional real estate agent, and a sprinkle of your own knowledge of "what you want" to find the right home, rather than just expecting a single channel to produce the home of your dreams.

Tell me more

Once you've determined that you're financially ready to buy a home, it's time to start looking for the right one. Some people may already have a community or specific neighborhood in mind, while others may not have narrowed down that part of their search. For the latter, a good first step is to simply drive around in your city, county, or community of choice and envision yourself living in the homes that you pass by. Ask yourself if you'd rather live in the city, the country, or a suburban area, whether you'd like to have neighbors "close by" or farther away, and whether you would prefer a single-family home, or one of the many multifamily options available on the market today (see Chapter 4: Multifamily Housing Options).

Here are a few key first steps that you can take when whittling down your options to locate the right home:

Find the prime location: Ask yourself: How far am I willing to commute to my job? How are the local schools, shopping centers, public transportation, and other public amenities? Does the neighborhood or community offer amenities that will either fit with or improve my lifestyle? (Schools are usually a large factor for buyers, and you can get information about school systems by contacting the city or county school board or the local schools themselves. Your real estate agent may also be knowledgeable about schools in the area.)

Educate yourself: The more research you do prior to buying your home, the better off you'll be. Learn all you can about the community that you've chosen, ask about the typical tax obligations and insurance requirements (a property in a flood zone, for example, will require flood insurance coverage), contact real estate agents, and drive through your selected neighborhoods to get a true feel for them.

Get preapproved for a mortgage: If you haven't done this already, see question 26 for more information.

Get detail oriented: Once you've located desirable neighborhoods, start your search. View as many homes as you can and jot down notes about each as you go through them. At the end of the day, review the notes and cross off any homes that don't meet your criteria, and come up with any additional questions about those that looked like good prospects.

By pinpointing a location, educating yourself, and getting your finances on the table before embarking on your house hunt, you'll have a much better chance of finding the appropriate home without losing too much hair in the process. First-time home buyers, in particular, should follow these early steps as the process doesn't change much as you purchase homes throughout your lifetime. Once you've been through it once, you'll know exactly what goes into the house hunt and be able to replicate your success as you move up into larger homes, or into new geographies.

50. What resources can I tap to help with my house hunt?

Home buyers generally use a number of different sources of information in their home search, with the majority of them using the services of a real estate agent to locate the home that they ultimately purchase. In 2003, for example, the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) reported that 41 percent of all buyers stated that they first learned about the home they purchased through an agent. With the advent of the Internet, an increasing number of home buyers are finding their homes on the Internet, then turning to an agent to seal the deal.

In 2003, NAR says, 11 percent of buyers first found their home on the Internet-up from 8 percent in 2001 and an increase from less than 1 percent in 1995. Many buyers search the Internet in addition to relying on an agent, so that while an agent searches for homes for his buyer, that buyer is doing his or her own ferreting around for the right home. NAR reports that yard signs (16 percent) remained the second most common way that buyers found out about their homes, followed by newspaper advertisements (7 percent), friend, neighbor, or relative referrals (7 percent), and builders (7 percent). Least helpful to buyers were home books and magazines (just 1 percent found their homes this way, presumably because of the timeliness issue involved with hard-copy publications).

Tell me more

Potential buyers have many information sources at their disposal as they search for a home. Still, NAR reports that buyers rely on their agents more than any other source for home search information. In 2003, for example, 86 percent of buyers consulted an agent to some degree in their home search-up from 79 percent in 2001. Here are a few local resources that can be particularly helpful to home buyers looking for specific information:

Community Resources: Contact your local chamber of commerce for promotional literature, or talk to your real estate agent about welcome kits, maps, and other information. You may also want to visit a local library, which can be an excellent source for information on local events and resources, and librarians who are probably familiar with the community.

Home Prices in Certain Areas: A real estate agent can give you a ballpark figure by showing you comparable listings (known simply as "comps"). Agents have access to comparable sales maintained on a database. If you have a specific property in mind, check out your local property tax or tax appraiser's Web site for similar data on specific properties.

Property Taxes: The total amount of the previous year's property taxes is usually included in the listing information located in the MLS. You can also ask the seller for a tax receipt or contact the local assessor's office. Remember that tax rates can change from year to year.

As a buyer, you have a broad range of resources, professionals, and educational sources available to help with your house hunt. Even though the Internet is gaining in popularity, yard signs and open houses (see question 61) remain popular "traditional" resources that can help you identify what homes are for sale in a certain neighborhood. (When the home across the street from mine went up for sale recently, no fewer than ten cars a day stopped in front of the property as their drivers and passengers jotted down the listing real estate agent's name and number.)

During your search, you'll also find a number of FSBO properties for sale. On these, you'll deal directly with the property owner (unless you have a buyer's agent, in which case he or she will handle it). Other good sources of house-hunting information include the local newspaper, which typically features an expanded real estate section on Sundays. Internet Web sites like Realtor.com, BuyOwner.com (for FSBOs), Yahoo! Real Estate at realestate.yahoo.com/, and MSN House and Home houseandhome.msn.com/ all feature homes for sale, searchable by geographic region, price, and other criteria.

One word of caution for buyers, particularly those who are looking in "hot" markets, where homes that are priced right sell quickly: Don't get your hopes up too high until you determine that the home is still available. Most online real estate sites have vastly improved their updating capabilities but early on were criticized for updating only weekly and posting outdated listings that-by the time the buyers contacted their local real estate agent-were already sold or under contract.

Be particularly aware of this if you're looking for a home in an area that is currently a "seller's market," where the best homes sell fast and multiple offers are common. If there are more buyers than homes for sale in your area, the days a home is on the market may shorten to a week or even less than a day. In fact, homes may sell before they're even registered in the MLS, since agents have a certain grace period between the time they list the home and the time they submit it to the MLS. If you fall in love with a home that someone has made an offer on, take heart: In a multiple offer situation, the seller is not under any obligation to negotiate with the first buyer who submits an offer.

51. What should I keep track of when looking at homes?

One of the best ways to keep track of the various homes that you'll look at during the home search process is to simply jot down notes as you preview the properties, or immediately afterward. It might seem time-consuming at first, but having those records will pay off in the long run, particularly when it comes time to make your final decision.

If you're in the middle of an intensive home search, you're bound to forget a good portion of the information you learn along the way. As you cross that twentieth threshold, for example, expect to have already forgotten the total square footage of home number two, or the color of the pool deck on home number ten. In today's information age, there are a number of tools that you can use to keep track of the information and make it readily available, should you need it. Even if you're working with a buyer's agent who will keep track of the most vital housing information, it's advisable to retain your own notes to pore over when the home sellers aren't standing over you and when you're not packed into a car driving around neighborhoods.

Tell me more

The Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae) suggests using this homebuyer checklist during your house hunt:

Ginnie Mae's Homebuyer Checklist

Basic Information

Home address ________________________________________

General description ________________________________________

Asking price ________________________________________

Taxes ________________________________________

Total sq. Footage ________________________________________

Lot size ________________________________________

Age ________________________________________

No. of beds/baths ________________________________________


Rooms/sizes & features

Living room ________________________________________

Kitchen ________________________________________

Dining room ________________________________________

Master bedroom ________________________________________

Bedroom 2 ________________________________________

Additional Bedrooms ________________________________________

Bathroom(s) ________________________________________

Closets ________________________________________

Basement/attic ________________________________________

Laundry area ________________________________________

Storage ________________________________________

Other ________________________________________

Appliances/condition & comments

Stove/oven ________________________________________

Refrigerator ________________________________________

Dishwasher ________________________________________

Garbage disposal ________________________________________


Heat type ________________________________________

Forced air, heat pump, baseboard, radiators, etc. ________________________________________

System age/condition ________________________________________

Heat source ________________________________________

Electric, gas, oil ________________________________________

Air- conditioning type ________________________________________


Condition ________________________________________ Surface (wood, stucco, brick, siding, etc.)


Excerpted from Home Buyer's Question and Answer Book by Bridget McCrea Copyright © 2005 by Bridget McCrea. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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