It always comes down to location and picking where to buy your home is no different. Here are a series of steps to help you narrow down your choice: 1) Profile your perfect neighborhood

- Do you have children or are you planning to have children soon? If so, research the school system, parks and community centers. Even if you're single, living in an area with a sought after school system raises property values. - What type of home do you want? Determine if you want a single-family home, duplex, condo or townhouse? - How far are you willing to commute? Will you need mass transit or do you hope to bike in warm weather? - What is your current community lacking? - Do you want to be able to go places on foot? You may consider being in walking distance of shops, restaurants and other attractions.

2) Zero in on the area If you are staying within your current city, you probably already know the various neighborhoods and can choose which best match your list from Step 1. If you're moving to a new city, that takes a little more research Start by picking a town to search in based on where your job is located. In a large city, you may even narrow down to a few block radius. This will help you stay focused.

3) Gather information

Once you've found your city, start researching online, ask real estate agents for recommendations and compile as much background information you can, including: - School information - Crime statistics - Parks and recreation - Neighborhood associations - Tourist attractions

Check back later this week for the conclusion of this process.