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 A home is not a home because of its room dimensions or the color of the walls. It is about how you feel when you walk through the front door. And the way you can instantly envision your life unfolding there. This is about more than real estate. It is about your life and your dreams.

My approach to real estate is one that is built on personal touches, win-win deals and positive results.
Utilizing the latest technologies, market research and business strategies to meet your expectations. I will help you achieve the American dream of owning your own home.                          I specialize in finding the best loan options for first time buyers. I listen to your wants and needs, and I work closely with you, from contract to close. 
Contact me today for All Your Real Estate Needs!!

Janet Buff
The Pearland Home Team
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Five to seven times a day, the air in your home circulates through the air ducts of your HVAC heating and cooling system, carrying with it the dust and debris of everyday living.

Your furnace filter catches much of the stuff, but neglect, remodeling projects, or shoddy duct installation can lead to a buildup of gunk inside your ductwork that threatens the efficient functioning of your system.

Are Dirty Ducts Hazardous to Your Health?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asserts no studies have proven that duct cleaning prevents health problems. Also, there isn’t proof that dirty ductwork increases dust levels inside homes.

But some people are more sensitive to airborne dust and pet dander than others. If your nose is getting itchy just thinking about what might lurk in your ducts, the $300 to $600 it costs to clean a 2,000-sq.-ft. home is a worthwhile investment. But before you reach for the phone, take a good look to see if your ducts are dirty.

Get the Picture

Wouldn’t it be handy if you could take an incredible journey through your ductwork to see if cleaning is needed? Using a pocket digital camera equipped with a flash, you can come close. Simply remove a floor register, reach as far as you can into the duct (don’t drop your camera!), and take a couple of shots.

If there’s gunk within a few feet of the register, take heart. It’s easy to snake a vacuum cleaner hose into the duct and remove the stuff. However, if you see a long trail of junk and a thick coat of dust beyond what your vacuum can reach, your house may be a candidate for professional cleaning.

Look for These Symptoms

  • Clogs of dust, cobwebs, and debris, or noticeable particles blowing out of supply registers.
  • Visible mold on the inside surfaces of ducts.
  • Rodent droppings and dead insects inside ducts.

In addition, recent construction inevitably creates dust you don’t want in circulation.

“We recommend cleaning after a big remodel job,” says Scott Milas of Mendel Heating and Plumbing, St. Charles, Ill. Milas adds that a new home purchase is also a good occasion — after all, who wants to breathe someone else’s pet dander?

“People get it done after they buy a house,” he says. “It’s like getting the carpets cleaned.”

Good Reasons for Duct Cleaning

  • Cleaning removes accumulated dust so it won’t shed into the household.
  • Removing debris and cobwebs eases airflow and increases the efficiency of the system, in extreme cases as much as 40%.
  • If you have fiberglass ducting, fiberglass gathers more dust than sheet metal.

Reasons to Skip Duct Cleaning

  • Cost.
  • Health benefits are not proven.
  • Dust and debris caught on the interior of ducts isn’t circulating and therefore may not be a problem.
  • Changing furnace filters regularly often does the job, especially when combined with annual furnace cleaning.

    How Air Ducts Are Cleaned............

    Dislodging and removing dust and debris is done with one or more of the following methods:

    • Hand-held vacuuming: Workers use a brush attached to a large portable vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. However, the hand-held method isn’t completely reliable and may leave pockets of dust.
    • Mechanical brush: A rotating brush is fed into the ductwork. A truck-mounted vacuum sucks away debris. The rotary brush may damage older or poorly installed systems.
    • Air sweep: A truck-mounted vacuum system carries away dust and debris dislodged by a compressed-air hose fed into the ducts. Of the three, the air sweep method usually does the most effective job.

    Note: Some duct cleaning companies advocate spraying the inside of your ducts with chemical biocides. However, the EPA cautions that the spray may be more hazardous than helpful, aggravating respiratory ailments and introducing moisture that encourages mold growth.

    Choosing a Duct Cleaning Service

    It is all too easy to set up as a duct cleaner; some fly-by-nighters do more harm than good. Ask a reputable heating contractor for recommendations, or go to National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) to locate a certified contractor.

    Be wary of unsubstantiated health claims. Resist pressure to clean annually; even cleaning every other year is overkill. Most homes needn’t be cleaned more than once every five years. Also, make sure your furnace will be cleaned as part of the HVAC maintenance service that includes checking the plenum, evaporator coil, and heat exchanger.

    Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/heating-cooling/cleaning-air-ducts/#ixzz32U0GpvnU
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We know so well the thrill of owning your own house — but don’t let the excitement cause you to overlook the basics. We’ve gathered up a half dozen classic boo-boos new homeowners often commit — and give you some insight on why each is critically important to avoid.

1. Not Knowing Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is

Water from a burst or broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home’s interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight — including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims.

Quick-twitch reaction is needed to stave off a major bummer. Before disaster hits, find your water shutoff valve, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Make sure everyone knows where it’s located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it’ll work when you need it to.

2. Not Calling 811 Before Digging a Hole

Ah, spring! You’re so ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don’t — not until you’ve dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property — often within a day — to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires.

This free service keeps you safe and helps avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you’ll also avoid fines.
Before you start working on your curb appeal, give 811 a call. The hotline will send out folks from your local utilities to mark underground pipes, cables, and wires so you don't sink your shovel into something dangerous.

3. Not Checking the Slope of Foundation Soil

The ground around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure that water from rain and melting snow doesn’t soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to mega-expensive repairs.

This kind of water damage doesn’t happen overnight — it’s accumulative — so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you’ll be. While you’re at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house.

Related: How to Prevent Water Damage

4. Not Knowing the Depth of Attic Insulation

This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing where your attic access is located, so let’s start there. Find the ceiling hatch, typically a square area framed with molding in a hallway or closet ceiling. Push the hatch cover straight up. Get a ladder and check out the depth of the insulation. If you can see the tops of joists, you definitely don’t have enough.

The recommended insulation for most attics is about R-38 or 10 to 14 inches deep, depending on the type of insulation you choose. BTW, is your hatch insulated, too? Use 4-inch-thick foam board glued to the top.

Related: Attic Air Leaks: How to Find and Seal Them

5. Carelessly Drilling into Walls

Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls — but do you know what’s back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables.

You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor — a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to sniff out studs, cables, and ducts.

But stud sensors aren’t foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1¼ inches deep max — enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes.

Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that’s a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches — wiring runs along studs to reach switches.

6. Cutting Down a Tree

The risk isn’t worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor’s property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that’s best left to a professional tree service.

Plus, trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/repair-tips/what-new-homeowners-need-to-know/#ixzz32Ty6OGuS
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First impressions count — not just for your friends, relatives, and the UPS guy, but for yourself. Whether it’s on an urban stoop or a Victorian front porch, your front door and the area leading up to it should extend a warm welcome to all comers — and needn’t cost a bundle.

Here’s what you can do to make welcoming happen on the cheap.

1. Clear the way for curb appeal. The path to your front door should be at least 3 feet wide so people can walk shoulder-to-shoulder, with an unobstructed view and no stumbling hazards. So get out those loppers and cut back any overhanging branches or encroaching shrubs.

2. Light the route. Landscape lighting makes it easy to get around at night. Solar-powered LED lights you can just stick in the ground, requiring no wiring, are suprisingly inexpensive. We found 8 packs for under $60 online.

3. Go glossy. Borrow inspiration from London’s lovely row houses, whose owners assert their individuality by painting their doors in high-gloss colors. The reflective sheen of a royal blue, deep green, crimson, or whatever color you like will ensure your house stands out from the pack.

Related: Pictures of 10 Great Value-Add Exterior Paint Jobs

4. Pretty up the view. A door with lots of glass is a plus for letting light into the front hall — but if you also want privacy and a bit of decor, check out decorative window film. It’s removable and re-positionable, and comes in innumerable styles and motifs. Pricing depends on size and design; many available for under $30.

A way to get the look of stained glass without doing custom work or buying a whole new door: Mount a decorative panel on the inside of the door behind an existing glass insert, $92 for an Arts and Crafts-style panel 20-inches-high by 11-inches-wide.

5. Replace door hardware. While you’re at it, polish up the handle on the big front door. Or better yet, replace it with a shiny new brass lockset with a secure deadbolt. Available for about $60.

6. Please knock. Doorbells may be the norm, but a hefty knocker is a classic that will never run out of battery life, and another opportunity to express yourself (whatever your favorite animal or insect is, there’s a door-knocker in its image).

7. Ever-greenery. Boxwoods are always tidy-looking, the definition of easy upkeep. A pair on either side of the door is traditional, but a singleton is good, too. About $25 at garden centers. In cold climates, make sure pots are frost-proof (polyethylene urns and boxes mimic terracotta and wood to perfection).

8. Numbers game. Is your house number clearly visible? That’s of prime importance if you want your guests to arrive and your pizza to be hot. Stick-on vinyl numbers in a variety of fonts make it easy, starting at about $4 per digit.

9. Foot traffic. A hardworking mat for wiping muddy feet is a must. A thick coir mat can be had at the hardware store for less than $20. Even fancier varieties can be found well under $50.

10. Go for the glow. Fumbling for keys in the dark isn’t fun. Consider doubling up on porch lights with a pair of lanterns, one on each side of the door, for symmetry and twice the illumination. Many mounted lights are available well under $100.

11. Snail mail. Mailboxes run the gamut from kitschy roadside novelties masquerading as dogs, fish, or what-have-you to sober black lockboxes mounted alongside the front door. Whichever way you go, make sure yours is standing or hanging straight, with a secure closure, and no dings or dents. The mail carrier will thank you.

     Buying or Selling a Home in 2014? There’s Still Time for New Year’s Resolutions

    Losing weight is the number one resolution people make each year. Getting more exercise or becoming “fit” is usually not far behind in popularity. Seeing as we’re approximately 2 weeks into the New Year, approximately 30% of people who resolved to change their lifestyle this year have already given up. In fact, only about 8% ever succeed in achieving their resolution.

    At least some of this spectacularly high recidivism is the result of people setting goals in such a way as to almost guarantee failure, and end up exactly where they started (if not worse off).

    Here are the top 5 New Year resolution pitfalls I regularly see people making. By avoiding these, you can increase your odds of being part of that elusive 8% when 2014 comes to an end.

    Pitfall #1: The all or none approach
    People have the best of intentions – they recognize the errors in their behaviour and they decide to do a complete 180 and become a new person. Unfortunately, when changes are too drastic, they can be very difficult to adhere to. If you’ve never gone for a jog, don’t set yourself up for failure by resolving to run 10km every day of the week.

    Solution: Make small, progressive but easily achievable goals to gain some momentum. Also, try focusing on one change at a time rather than attempting a whole lifestyle makeover.

    Pitfall #2: Focusing on outcomes rather than behaviours
    What is a typical resolution read like? “I will lose 30lbs by December 31, 2014.” What is the problem? This is largely out of your control. There is marked variability between any two people going on the same weight loss plan. Also, as we’ve highlighted over the years on the blog, achieving sustained significant weight loss is much less common than many would like to believe.

    Solution: Instead of worrying about the number on your bathroom scale, focus on healthy behaviours. Improve your diet, move more often, reduce the amount of continuous time you spend sitting, get a good night’s rest – any of these will improve your health and the way you feel. And if you happen to lose some weight along the way, that’s a bonus.

    Pitfall #3: Going on a diet
    The issue here is more to do with the concept of “dieting”, understood by many as a quick and temporary fix for years or even decades of poor lifestyle. Literally starving yourself for a few weeks or even months will result in weight loss, but how long can you maintain that before you inevitably resort right back to your unhealthy diet? A diet is not something you “go on”, it is a progressive and sustained improvement in what and how you eat.

    Solution: Avoid diets that are too restrictive or that sound plain crazy (i.e. grapefruit diet). Instead focus on something more reasonable, such as eating breakfast each day, switching pop and juices for water, eating more small meals throughout the day instead of a couple large ones, slowly replacing your chocolate and chips with healthier snack options, etc. Understand that changing your diet for the better does not happen overnight. It has taken me a good decade to significantly reduce intake of chips and pop – it didn’t happen overnight!

    Pitfall #4: Getting a long-term gym membership
    While I fully endorse the use of a fitness facility to be physically active, the key error people make here is committing to a gym with a long-term contract (mandatory at many establishments) when they have no idea whether they will like it. This works great for the gym owners – they get tons of money from people who end up never using the facility. The traffic in all gyms swells dramatically every January. By late February, the gym is back to normal and many who started in January have stopped coming (but continue to pay).

    Solution: When you head over to your local gym demand that you pay on a per session, per week or per month basis – whatever they allow. Do your best to avoid signing up for a year contract. If in June you are still regularly using the gym – then consider a longer term commitment to save some money. More importantly, get over the notion that you need to go to a gym to get in better shape. You can get a perfectly good workout in your home or at the park. You just have to get creative. The stairs at your office or home are essentially a free gym – use them!

    Pitfall #5: Falling for Miracle Weight Loss Cures
    The whole reason behind the development of Obesity Panacea waaaaay back in 2008 was to help debunk many of the bogus weight loss products on the market. Judging by the regular spike in traffic from Google to our site early each year for search terms such as “Acai Berry”, “Slender Shaper”, “Air Climber” – too many people will end up buying some utterly useless product they were made to believe is the panacea for obesity.

    Solution: Unfortunately, there currently exists no cure for obesity – only treatments. Anyone or any product that suggests otherwise is trying to rip you off: run away!

    The best of luck to all of you in 2014.
    Janet Buff


    Single women: Is buying a home right for you?

    Female homeownership has outpaced that of unmarried men

    Forget being homemakers—single women are now homebuyers.

    Solo females began to outpace lone males in purchasing homes in the early 1990s. By 1999, single women represented about one in five total sales, buying homes at twice the level of single men, a proportion that has held roughly steady since, according to National Association of Realtors data.

    "A lot of people, myself included, take pride in owning a home," says Portland, Ore., lawyer Katie Abbott, 36. She bought a two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot Craftsman this summer. "There's no reason that it (homebuying) should be limited to only if you're married," she says.

    Before you jump on this trend, take a few important steps to ensure the time is right for you. Buying a house is the biggest financial commitment most of us will make in a lifetime. A wrong move could haunt you for decades, but the right decision will make you a proud homeowner.


    Save a big down payment. Many financial advisers recommend putting down at least 20 percent of the purchase price to make sure you can sell the house in the future, even if prices fall. "The less you put down, the greater the probability of being underwater (owing more than the value of the house) at some point," says Eleanor Blayney, a consumer advocate for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

    Take care of yourself. Before you acquire a major real estate asset, make sure you are contributing enough to a retirement fund, have six months of living expenses saved for emergencies and have purchased disability insurance—a must for single women, according to award-winning author and money manager Julie Jason, based in Stamford, Conn. "It's not a simple decision of, 'I like this house; let's go buy it!' The worst thing you can do is put all your money into a house and not put any money into retirement," Jason says. "You're deploying assets to make this purchase that you could be using for another purpose."

    Educate yourself. Shop around to find financial professionals you trust, including a real-estate agent and lender who are willing to answer all your questions and educate you about the transaction. Read all your mortgage documentation. Bone up on real estate basics, home repair, siding and roofs, garden care and home heating systems, even if you have to resort to books with the words "dummies" or "idiots" in the title.


    Plan to stay in the home you buy for five or seven years. When you take out a mortgage, you pay closing fees, moving costs and other "friction" costs that can never be recovered. Make sure that the general area and the specific house will suit your needs long enough to make it worthwhile.

    Consider what would change if you met a long-term partner. How long you would stay in a house depends in part on whether you remain single. Evaluate whether the property could accommodate two residents, or more if you might add children. Before Abbott bought her home, she had a structural engineer make sure she could build into the unfinished attic, which you currently enter through a ladder on the wraparound porch. "It's a home that I could grow and expand into," Abbott says.

    Be sure your job and the local economy are stable. We all heard the horror stories of layoffs followed by foreclosures in the Great Recession. Be wary of buying a home if either your employer or the community is on shaky ground.


    Compare owning to renting. You can't necessarily afford a mortgage payment that's the same as your rent bill. There's homeowners' insurance and taxes to consider, and additional utilities and maintenance costs. Ask the existing homeowner what she pays for gas, electric, water, sewer, garbage removal and lawn maintenance. Remember extras like condo or neighborhood association fees. Build it into your budget. Ask colleagues and friends to recommend vendors who can help you keep the house in shape.

    Consider moving costs. At a minimum, you'll spend time away from work and shell out for packing supplies. Then you'll need money to fix up and furnish your new home. Abbott set aside $20,000 for moving, painting, and furnishing her new guest bedroom and dining room.

    Keep in mind you'll be in charge of long-term repairs. During your home inspection, ask the inspector to explain everything that will need to be replaced or repaired, and make sure you know the age of each major system in the house. That will form the basis of your to-do list for the coming decade. "The biggest mistake people make when they buy a home is not to consider the non-routine expenses," says Jason. "You're probably doing one major project a year."


    It's a big task to save up 20 percent of the purchase price of a home. Consider these ways to make it easier.

    • Set up an automatic, recurring transfer from your checking account to a savings account. If you never see the money, you won't spend it.
    • Limit eating out and clothes shopping.
    • Switch from pay services to free ones, and save the difference. For instance, ditch the gym membership for running and biking trails. Cancel cable and instead watch free television online or borrow from the library.
    • Sell old clothes, books, music and belongings that you no longer use. Have a rummage sale or sell them online. As a bonus, you'll have less stuff to pack and move.
    • Negotiate better rates for services such as insurance, banking and your phone bill. You never know what you can get unless you ask!
    • Take a second job or start a side-business. If you tutor kids in the evenings or walk dogs, all that money can go into your house fund.
    • Live with your relatives—just for a while. Make sure it's limited, and invite them to your housewarming party when you move.

    This article is excerpted from USA TODAY Modern Woman magazine, which contains articles about lifestyle, health, relationships, money, home, travel and more. Find it on magazines newsstands or at modernwoman.usatoday.com.

    Go to any local courthouse and you can find property records detailing real estate ownership in your community -- sometimes records that date back hundreds of years.
    These records are important because they provide today's owners with proof that they have good, marketable and insurable title to the property they are selling. Equally important, such records enable buyers to provide proof of ownership when they sell.
    The closing process, which in different parts of the country is also known as "settlement" or "escrow," is increasingly computerized and automated. In many cases, buyers and sellers don't need to attend a specific event; signed paperwork can be sent to the closing agent via overnight delivery.
    In practice, closings bring together a variety of parties who are part of the "transaction" process. For example, while the history of property ownership has been checked, it's possible that the records contain errors, unrecorded claims or flaws in the review itself, thus title insurance is necessary. At closing, transfer taxes must be paid and other claims must also be settled (including closing costs, legal fees and adjustments). In most transactions, the closing agent also completes the paperwork needed to record the loan.
    What to expect
    Settlement is a brief process where all of the necessary paperwork needed to complete the transaction is signed. Closing is typically held in an office setting, sometimes with both buyer and seller at the same table, sometimes with each party completing their papers separately.
    Whatever the case, the result is that title to the property is transferred from seller to buyer. The buyer receives the keys and the seller receives payment for the home. From the amount credited to the seller, the closing agent subtracts money to pay off the existing mortgage and other transaction costs. Deeds, loan papers, and other documents are prepared, signed and filed with local property record offices.
    What you need to do
    One of the best parts of settlement is that buyers and sellers need to do very little.
    Before closing, buyers typically have a final opportunity to walk through the property to assure that its condition has not materially changed since the sale agreement was signed. At closing itself, all papers have been prepared by closing agents, title companies, lenders and lawyers. This paperwork reflects the sale agreement and allows all parties to the transaction to verify their interests. For instance, buyers get the title to the property, lenders have their loans recorded in the public records and state governments collect their transfer taxes.
    What kind and how much?
    There are various forms of insurance associated with home ownership, including these major types:
    Title insurance: Purchased with a one-time fee at closing, title insurance protects owners in the event that title to the property is found to be invalid. Coverage includes "lenders" policies, which protect buyers up to the mortgage value of the property, and "owners" coverage, which protects owners up to the purchase price. In other words, "owners" coverage protects both the mortgage amount and the value of the down payment.
    Homeowners' insurance: Homeowner's insurance provides fire, theft and liability coverage. Homeowners' policies are required by lenders and often cover a surprising number of items, including in some cases such property as wedding rings, furniture and home office equipment.
    Flood insurance: Generally required in high-risk flood-prone areas, this insurance is issued by the federal government and provides as much as $250,000 in coverage for a single-family home plus $100,000 for contents. Local REALTORS® can explain which locations require such coverage.
    Home warranties: With new homes, buyers want assurance that if something goes wrong after completion the builder will be there to make repairs. But what if the builder refuses to do the work or goes out of business?
    Home warranties bought from third parties by home builders are generally designed to provide several forms of protection: workmanship for the first year, mechanical problems such as plumbing and wiring for the first two years, and structural defects for up to 10 years.
    Home warranties for existing homes are typically one-year service agreements purchased by sellers. In the event of a covered defect or breakdown, the warranty firm will step in and make the repair or cover its cost.
    Insurance policies and warranties have limitations and individual programs have different levels of coverage, deductibles and costs. For details, speak with REALTORS®, insurance brokers and home builders.
    Where to look.
    REALTORS® often provide home insurance and such policies are also available from insurance brokers.
    How do you get insurance?
    The time to obtain insurance and warranty coverage is at closing, so speak with a REALTOR® or insurance broker prior to closing. Be sure to ask about limitations, costs, deductibles and "endorsements" (additional forms of coverage that may be available).
    What kind of loan?
    There are thousands of loans available out there from a variety of lenders, but in general, the mortgage you choose will likely be determined by at least several key factors:
    • How much down? Loans with 5 percent down or less are available -- in fact, loans from major lenders with no money down have appeared in recent years.
    • If you place less than 20 percent down, lenders will want the mortgage guaranteed by an outside third party such as the Veterans Administration (VA), the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or a private mortgage insurer (PMI, or private mortgage insurance, is required by lender to protect against any mortgage defaults). Millions of VA, FHA and PMI loans are generated each year.
    • How's your credit? The best rates and terms are only available to those with solid credit. To get the best loans, make a point of paying credit cards, installment payments, rent and mortgage bills in full and on time.
    • Are you a first-time buyer? It might seem that "first-time buyer" means someone who has never owned property before, but under most state programs, the term refers to those who have not owned property within the past three years. State-backed first-timer programs often feature smaller downpayments and below-market interest rates. For details, speak with your local REALTOR®.
    How do you get a loan?
    To obtain a loan you must complete a written loan application and provide supporting documentation. Specific documents include recent pay stubs, rental checks and tax returns for the past two or three years if you are self-employed. During the prequalification procedure, the loan officer will describe the type of paperwork required.
    Where do you get a loan?
    Mortgage financing can be obtained from mortgage bankers, mortgage brokers, savings and loan associations, mutual savings banks, commercial banks, credit unions, and insurance companies. A growing number of REALTORS® can also arrange financing.
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