If I can find homes for sale or list my own home for sale on the Internet, why do I need a real estate agent?

The Internet and the various Web sites that list homes for sale are fantastic resources that the professional real estate community has embraced. If you are beginning your search for a home, please visit the "Search for Homes" link on this site where you can search all the listings in the Metro area.

The internet can help you zero in on a neighborhood that you like, consider and evaluate more homes in less time, and provide a wealth of information about financing a home. The services of a real agent or broker add value to your initial research. In preparing the home for sale, we can recommend small improvements that may add thousands of dollars to the value of the home. We can steer you through the many steps involved in financing and closing. And our skills as negotiators can help you obtain the best price for a home, whether you are buying or selling.

1. DON'T.. buy or lease an auto. The lender looks carefully at the debt-to-income ratio and a large payment such as a car lease or loan can greatly impact those ratios and prevent you from qualifying. Also, each time an auto dealer or car insurance company checks your credit, your credit rating will be reduced.

2. DON'T.. be tempted by low introductory rates or store discounts offered with new credit cards. Each time a creditor opens an account for you they check your credit. Each time they check your credit, an inquiry is created in your credit file, which reduces your credit rating. And each new account that is opened will further reduce your credit rating because you are taking on more debt.

3. DON'T.. move assets from One bank to another. These show up as new accounts or large deposits and complicate the application process, as you must then document the source of funds for each new account. It is better to let the lender verify each account before you move the funds around.

4. DON'T.. change jobs Even if you earned bonuses or commissions in your previous job, the lender may not be able to use this income in a new job until you have a year or two of earnings history behind you, which could seriously impact your ability to qualify for a loan.

5. DON'T.. buy new furniture or major appliances for the "new house". If the new purchase increases your debt load, it can disqualify you from the loan or deplete your funds to close. And don't forget, each time someone checks your credit or you open a new account, your credit rating will be reduced.

6. DON'T.. attempt to consolidate bills before speaking to your lender. The lender can advise you if this needs to be done.

7. DON'T.. pack or ship information that may be needed for the loan application. Important paperwork such as w-2's, divorce decrees, and tax returns should not be sent with your household goods. Duplicate copies can take weeks.

8. DON'T.. throw away paystubs and bank statements. Save everything until after your loan closes. You will need to produce one to two months' worth of documentation when you apply for your loan, and you may need to provide additional paperwork prior to closing. If you have done any of these, contact your lender. Even if you have been pre-qualified. They can help you re-qualify if necessary and advise you of your options.