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Make sure you're on a financially sound footing before you start scouting out neighborhoods. See more real estate pictures.

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It's tough to miss one of the major themes of the 2008 U.S. housing-market disaster: A lot of people who were buying houses weren't financially prepared to do so. They thought they were. They were told they were. But as it turns out, not so much.

If you're considering home ownership, you've got a lot to think about -- and which neighborhood you want to live in is farther down on the list than you may think. If you buy a house before your financial situation warrants it, the house you choose in the neighborhood you love could end up being owned by the bank, among other unfortunate possibilities.

So, what are the most basic financial qualifications you want to meet before starting your home search in earnest? They're pretty simple, really, although it may take some time and effort to realize them.

Here, a few of the financial questions you'll want to ask yourself when considering purchasing your own place -- a place where you could tear out a wall if you wanted to, or put a skylight in every room.

First and possibly foremost, you'll want to know what the mortgage world thinks of you ...