Next you'll want to define your needs, tastes and preferences for your new home. This is easier than it sounds when you use our Home Buyer's Need's Analysis, an integral part of the Home Buying System. It helps you quickly prioritize your requirements.

By discussing this now, you'll save plenty of time during the house-hunting process. I will show you only the houses that fit these requirements.

* Describe the style of house you like, whether it be two-story, contemporary, ranch or some other style.

* List your priorities in home features, such as a two- or three-car garage, gourmet kitchen, a family room or a formal dining room.

* Think about your lifestyle. If you don't like yard work, ask your sales professional to show you condominiums, townhouses or garden homes with smaller yards.

A neighborhood and area that caters to your needs is also a very important factor when choosing a home.

* Consider the identity of the neighborhood. The overall impression given by an area is key to its value.

* Drive through and around the neighborhood. Value is enhanced by other well-maintained properties. Conversely, be cautious of areas with unkempt yards and homes, and businesses mixed in with residences -- unless a home/office combination is a priority.

* Ask your sales professional about the property tax assessment in the area, including any special assessments or any pending bond issues.

* Pay attention to neighborhood zoning. Many residential communities are zoned to keep out commercial and industrial users. Ask about other regulations in the neighborhood, such as on-street parking. Find out if the area is governed by any covenants.

* List which community services are important to you. Do you need to be close to shopping, a school or a mass transit stop?

* Get an idea of who lives in the neighborhood by talking with people who live there.

Your new house has to feel right -- but emotions aside, it has to work right, too.

* Bring in a professional building inspector or appraiser to make sure the house is in sound condition. Use his or her report to make informed decisions.
* Ask your sales professional if the Home Protection Plan offered by the members of GMAC Real Estate is available in your area. This warranty protects you in case of major mechanical system failure and problems with some appliances.

* Decide which imperfections you can live with and repairs you may be able to make yourself. You may also be able to finance some repairs in your mortgage.