Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home

by Various
Published by NOLO
2011 3rd Edition

*Note that a new 4th edition came out in December 2012. My review is of the 3rd edition from 2011.

"... you want to make sure you don't find just any house - you find the right house, at the right price, with the right loan. A house you're happy to stay in for a long time, no matter what the market does. To do that, you need a lot of information."

Nolo is an online company of legal advisors who specialize in several things including real estate. Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home is the only book you should get if you are in this particular stage in life. This guide is comprehensive, thorough, easy to understand and laid out in a very useful way. It was a surprise to me how much information I gleamed from reading, how it stuck with me and how I never found myself overwhelmed with information.

The book is divided into 15 chapters. In the beginning of the book even shows you how the chapters flow in a manner that is reminiscent of the home buying process. The chart is called "Navigating the path to your first home" and here are the chapters/steps:

1 - Learn the Benefits
2 - Decide what you want
3 - Make a budget
4- Check out the market
5- Choose professionals
6/7 - Get a mortgage
8/9 - Find your house
10 - Negotiate a deal
11/12/13 - Inspect, insure, prepare to move
14 - Seal the Deal
15 - Settle in

Each chapter has different names than the above but those are the basic steps from beginning to end. The chapters are written each by different experts who specialize in the topic at hand. It begins with an introduction to the author, their credentials and their home buying experience. Then it proceeds by laying out all the information in a very thorough yet concise manner. There are breaks for Tips, "Check it Out" which references to outside sources for more information (some on, some elsewhere on the internet), little quizzes, fun trivia, quotes, and more. I particularly liked the regular feature "best thing we ever did" which gives personal insights to situations that were salvaged by some smart moves. These were very enlightening and provided some very useful tips. The book covers every possible scenario, good and bad, and how it should be handled.

The edition I read, while from 2011 was a little outdated, not in the real estate advice but in terms of technology. It had mentioned MySpace as a leading social network. This is quite an outdated error even in 2011. Also, the 3rd edition comes with a CD-ROM with forms and charts to download. The 4th edition directs users to download the same forms on and ditches the CD-ROM altogether. While I am still nostalgic for the days of CD-ROM, thanks to companies like Apple these will be completely obsolete soon. I also noticed that the book needs a good proofreader who can change all mentions of things listed "below" when they are really on the next page.

If you are buying a home for the first time, you need to get this book. It's really essential. I am in the unique position in that I am buying my first home yet helping my husband sell his current place, where we live now. The book doesn't give advice on how to sell and buy at the same time since this is exclusively for first time home buyers. I recommend pairing this book with several viewings of HGTV's show My First Place. I also recommend reading Nolo's book all the way through once then using it later as a resource. It good to absorb as much information as you can but no one will expect to you to memorize it, so that's when having this book on hand will prove useful.

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