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This newly launched website lists buyer incentive programs ranging from down-payment and closing-cost assistance to low-interest loans for renovation and rehab for homes in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Minnesota Home Ownership Center -

Resources and education for home buyers, including Home Stretch workshops offered statewide.

Minnesota Housing Finance Agency -

MHFA provides down-payment and closing-cost assistance for qualified low- to moderate-income, first-time home buyers. The agency also makes loans at below-market interest rates to qualified applicants, and home improvement loans for homeowners.

City and county programs

Call your local county or city housing agency or visit its website to learn about programs offered to residents.

The Home Buyer's Handbook

Go to for a free copy published by the Minnesota Attorney General's office.

When you're ready to buy

• Meet with a lender to get preapproved for a mortgage before house hunting. "Many sellers won't look at an offer if you aren't preapproved," said Deb Greene, an agent for Coldwell Banker Burnet and former president of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.

• Get a recommendation from relatives or friends for a real estate agent who will help you find a home. Interview him or her to ensure you'll work well together.

• Take notes at each home showing.

• Review the city inspection report (if one is required) and the Seller's Disclosure Statement at the showing.

• Find out the age of the roof, mechanical systems and the other features that are the most costly to replace.

• Check for ceiling damage that could be caused by ice dams.

• Walk the perimeter of the home, inspecting grading, deck, patio and home exterior.

• Call the local police department for a neighborhood crime report.

• Determine the home's value compared with that of others in the neighborhood. Is it the highest-priced property in the neighborhood or the lowest? A real estate agent will do a comparative market analysis on homes in the area.

• Go back for a second showing with relatives and friends before making a decision to buy.

• Schedule a private home inspection after the purchase agreement is written. "With an inspection you will learn how to maintain the home, discover unforeseen problems and get peace of mind about your purchase," Greene said.