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Know Your Market
You need to know how much you can afford. And you also need to understand where housing values are trending in the neighborhoods you are considering. Finally, you need to understand the quality of life trends for those neighborhoods - the quality of the schools, crime statistics, access to public transit, recently completed or upcoming construction projects, zoning and neighborhood culture.
Public records and publicly available reports can provide much of this information.
To track housing values:
Research public records of recently sold homes in the neighborhood you are considering to see prices and home improvement trends.
Of course, track local trends at the Orlando Sentinel.
The Orlando Realtors Association also reports regional sales trends.
You can look up the prior sale price of the home at the Orange County Recorder of Deeds.
With that prior sale price, you can see if the Federal government's analysis found at the Housing Finance Agencyindicates that the house has gained or lost value.
To research neighborhood characteristics:
Look up the crime rate as reported by the Orange County Sheriff.
Check out the schools at the National Center for Education Statistics.
Contact the local neighborhood association to meet neighbors who can fill you in on local culture. You might even get invited to the next block party!