Have questions about the home buying experience? The Chronicle sat down with Realtor Christa Ross to get answers to some common questions.

Q: Why is now a good time to buy a house?
A: Pittsburgh has been very lucky to have had a relatively stable real estate market, but we still have seen some decline in home prices over the last two years which means that you can probably buy more house for your money now than you could a few years ago. Plus, interest rates are historically low, so if you are comfortable with you personal employment and financial situation it’s a great time to purchase a home.

Q: What are some incentives to move into Northside neighborhoods right now?
A: With all the new development that is going on in the North Shore and other Northside neighborhoods, plus the Northside connector coming soon, I think it’s a great time for people to look at the Northside. It’s got beautiful older homes, short commutes and great walk-able neighborhoods with traditional main streets.

Q: Which Northside neighborhoods have the best deals on homes right now?
A: There are some great incentives available on some Northside homes. Right now on James Street are several new town homes that have city, school and county tax abatements, and there are other Northside homes that have 0 percent interest, no-payment second mortgages for a portion of the purchase price for qualified buyers. Both let buyers get significantly more home for their money.

Q: Do you expect prices on the Northside to go up, down or stay the same over the next year?
A: Unless another financial crisis occurs, I believe that the Northside, and Pittsburgh as a whole, will continue to be a stable real estate market. I also believe that whether the market is going up or down is less important than each seller or buyer’s personal situation in making the decision to buy or sell a home.

Q: What mistakes do home buyers make when choosing or purchasing a home?
A: The biggest mistakes buyers make is to not have their financial house in order first and having unrealistic expectations.

Q: How can I avoid those mistakes?
A: Set up a budget, only you can be the judge of how much you can really afford and how much debt you are willing to take on. Get pre-approved by a lender before you start your search, know what a bank will lend you; there is no sense in looking at homes you can’t afford.

Make the decision to buy when the right “one” comes along, write the offer and get it under contract. If you wait you just may find that someone else also thought it was the “one.” When you are ready to make an offer ask your agent to find comparable recently sold homes, use that information to develop a fair offer that has a real chance of being accepted.

Q: What are the most important questions to ask when considering purchasing a home?
A: The most important one, are you ready to take on the responsibility of buying, maintaining and owning a home? Also, how long do you
expect to stay in a particular area and will you be able to resale the home if your situation changes?

Q: How much time can I realistically expect to spend from the time I begin looking for a home until the time I close?
A: The first few weeks of a home search are usually spent online searching various national and local real estate websites. Buyers should look at different home types, prices and neighborhoods in order to develop their wish list. Then it’s time to hire a buyer’s agent. While the seller usually pays a commission to the agents involved in the deal, the buyer is still entitled to their own representation which is guaranteed through a contractual relationship with their own agent. From here it is off to look at homes.

The average home buyer will look at around 10-20 homes in a two- to four-week period. Once they have selected their home it will take a few days to negotiate the deal and have all parties sign the agreement. Expect a minimum of 30 days for any loan involving a mortgage to close, but it can be as long as 60 if things get complicated. From start to finish it usually takes eight to12 weeks to purchase a home.

Christa Ross, a realtor and ecosociate with Re/Max Select Realty, offers her clients full-time experience, creative home marketing and outstanding customer service for Pittsburgh’s home buyers and sellers. Visit her online at www.bestpittsburghhomes.com or call her at 724-933-6300 x214.