Home & Garden

Mike Aubrey's Top 5 tips for home buyers

Mike Aubrey, host of HGTV's "Real Estate Intervention," has compiled his top five tips for home buyers.

1. Live within your means. Buy a home that fits well inside your financial ability to repay the loan you got to purchase it. Most loan programs set limits on what is and isn't affordable for a buyer.

Learn the term "debt to income ratio." It's the percentage of a consumer's monthly gross income that goes toward paying debts. DTI can be broken down into two parts - front ratio and back ratio. The front ratio is indicates the percentage of income that goes toward housing costs. The back ratio indicates the percentage of income that goes toward paying all recurring debt payments (i.e., such as credit card payments, car loans, student loans, child support, alimony and legal judgments) including those covered by the front ratio. Most conventional loans set 28 front ratio and 36 back ratio limits.

2. Save your money.

Remember what your parents taught you. If you want something you should save for it. The same is true when buying a home. The loans that carry the best interest rates often require a 20 percent down payment. Not only does this serve as a vehicle to allow you to take a smaller loan, but it serves to encapsulate you from market swings.

3. Plan on staying.

Real estate has always been a great investment, and still is. However, you must plan on owning the property for a protracted period of time. Real estate, not unlike the securities market, requires that you're in it for the long haul. Plan on buying enough property that you won't feel the need to move in few years. The idea that you'll be able to turn a profit in a short period of time is gone.

4. Get pre-qualified.

Getting educated and getting your loan in order prior to looking for a house makes sense. Not only will this allow you to move fast once you find the property you want, but this also will ensure that you are shopping in the right price range.

5. Location, location, location.

Make sure that you choose a home in an area that makes sense with your life. Making sure the property has easy access to stores and strong schools is not only a great decision for you but also a wise investment move.

Ready to make some changes in your decor for 2010. Here's some advice:

End tables look best when they are just below the arm height of a sofa, not looming over it, according to Elaine Griffin, author of "Design Rules: The Insider's Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator" (Gotham Books; $22.50).

In her book, Griffin goes over the rules for selecting a palette, sizing bedside tables, improving the look of windowless rooms, mixing different furniture styles and more. Scattered throughout are info boxes with design tips, furniture standard sizes and rules of thumb that serve as useful reminders.

You'll need a measuring tape if you plan to adhere to the rules strictly, unless you prefer eyeballing. For example: Any layout requires at least 26 inches to 36 inches clear as a pathway to cross through the room without bumping into things. You can go with 48 inches if you like it airy.