With credit starting to flow again, many families with reasonable down payments are receiving the go-ahead to proceed with the home buying process. And with home buyer incentives more attractive than ever, there’s no time like the present to obtain your real estate license and educate buyers on how to make a successful home purchase.

Differentiate yourself from the competition – don’t just help your buyers select a home. Educate them with these smart, “tried and true” principles so they can enjoy the long-term rewards of homeownership:

1. Borrow within your means. Just because your buyers receive lender approval for a specific mortgage amount doesn’t necessarily mean the monthly payments will fit their budget. The old-school tradition – a “safe” home mortgage is no more than three times a buyer’s annual family income – is one that certainly should be reinstated.

2. Understand local markets. Don’t rely on national trends alone – Understand the housing market in the specific area where your client wants to live. Factors to pay attention to include:

-Foreclosure statistics
-Price movements
-Local job market strength
-Lack/abundance of newly built homes
-Prices of comparable sales in the neighborhood
-Average length of time a home is listed before it sells

3. Beware of price warning signs in the next cycle. Continuous price run-ups should raise a big red flag. From 2000 to 2005, U.S. housing prices rose by an average of 53%. Many housing markets experienced an increase that was even greater, including Nevada at 94%, Florida at 90% and California at 109%.

4. Buy for the long term. Now is not the ideal time to make a quick profit in the housing market. Since it is unclear when prices will bounce back, advise your clients to stay put for the long haul when buying this year.

5. Save smart for a down payment. While it’s true that tying up all of your equity in a mortgage can deplete your emergency cash cushion, the market is starting to stabilize and there are definite advantages of a big down payment. Putting down between 15-20% will ultimately be beneficial in the form of higher equity, lower payments, better interest rates and more readily accessible financing.

These simple guidelines can help your clients make smarter home buying decisions. Plus, many economists agree – there is light at the end of the tunnel. For example, Harvy Rosenblum, executive vice president and director of research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, believes our economy will show marked improvement in the coming year and should be back on track by 2011.

It’s time to think big. Choose to work within the confines of a cubicle, or become your own boss, see potential beyond media hype and pursue the rewarding real estate career challenges you know you can handle. Get your real estate license online in your free time and tap into this market. You can turn the home ownership dreams of qualified buyers into reality and be prepared to take on the next market upswing.