Home Ownership | Collection Development

Designed to help prospective first-time home buyers gain an understanding of the process, the titles below are focused on the search for a new home, the financial side of home buying, and renovation and upkeep. Starred titles () are recommended for all library collections.

Buying a home continues to be one of the most stressful life events for most Americans. According to a 2018 survey by homes.com, only 20 percent of home buyers surveyed felt confident in their understanding of the process. This was before work-from-home opportunities caused a shift of many workers out of high cost-of-living urban areas to suburban and rural areas. The high offers from these workers on homes for sale, combined with historically low interest rates brought about by the global pandemic and increasing corporate investment in residential real estate, ignited a sector that was already overpriced. A 2021 report from the National Association of Realtors notes that the cost of homes in the United States has risen 30 percent since the start of the pandemic, while the inventory of homes dropped to a record low. Homes often sell in a matter of days and for well over asking price.

Those now looking to buy a house also have a very different perspective than would-be homebuyers in 2019. Pre-pandemic books reflected the trends of house flipping, creating Airbnb rentals, and shipping container homes or other tiny homes. But the pandemic has caused people to seek “flexible homes” that come with a yard. A house is no longer just a space to rest in between work, school, and social lives; now it’s also an office, schoolhouse, gym, entertainment center, restaurant, and retreat.

Designed to help prospective first-time home buyers gain an understanding of the process, from mortgages to moving, the titles below are focused on the search for a new home, the financial side of home buying, and renovation and upkeep. Starred titles () are recommended for all library collections.


These four resources provide complete outlines on home buying for first-time home buyers. Each provides similar advice on the financial and legal aspects of residential real estate and focuses on the work leading up to closing.


Bray, Ilona & Ann O’Connell & Marcia Stewart. Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home. 7th ed. Nolo. 2019. 464p. ISBN 9781413327007. $24.99.

This guide from Nolo covers the homebuying process with a focus on financial preparation. There are specific chapters on budgeting, organizing a team of realtors and lenders, and the different ways to get money to buy a home. Only the last chapter is devoted to what happens after closing.

orange starred review symbolGorey, Jon. Home Buying 101: From Mortgages and the MLS to Making the Offer and Moving In, Your Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home. Adams Media. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9781507217405. $15.99.

Gorey’s recently published title is a straightforward manual for first-time home buyers on what buying a home looks like in the current environment. The book covers issues of waiving inspections and competing against buyers offering all-cash bids.

Trench, Scott & Mindy Jensen. First-Time Home Buyer: The Complete Playbook to Avoiding Rookie Mistakes. Bigger Pockets. 2021. 167p. ISBN 9780997584783. $16.99.

Like the Nolo title above, most of this volume concentrates on the financial prep work. The actual searching and making offers occur in the last part of the book. It also features an introductory discussion on reasons for buying a home or condo as an investment.


United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Buying a Home. 


This page from HUD breaks down the home-buying process into nine steps. Each step offers links to worksheets and resources. An essential site, it offers web pages dedicated to home-buying guides for each state. As every state has different regulations, having a central space to find that information is important in stages of financial preparation.


A mortgage is one of the largest debts most people incur and is often seen as the main source of stress in purchasing a home. These guides provide thorough introductions to thinking about the cost of a home and where to apply for a home loan.


orange starred review symbolReed, David. Mortgages 101: Quick Answers to Over 250 Critical Questions About Your Home Loan. 3rd ed. Amacom. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780814438749. $17.95.

While most works aimed at first-time home buyers devote a chapter or two to the loan process, this title provides a deep dive into how mortgages work and dedicates multiple chapters to the process of finding lenders, loan officers, and interest rates. It also includes a chapter on construction and home improvement loans.


995Hope’s Worksheets and Guides. 

995hope.org/financial-wellness/ worksheets-and-guides

995Hope and its parent company GreenPath are national nonprofits focused on sustainable home ownership for buyers. The worksheets and guides on the site are similar to those found elsewhere, but this site is a standout with key worksheets on budgeting and aligning priorities.

Bankrate’s Compare Current Mortgage Rates for Today.


An up-to-date guide to mortgage rates that looks at the current market and offers advice on comparing and getting mortgages. While a good buyer’s agent can also provide this help, this web page tracks the trends in mortgage rates and offers step-by-step instructions on the lending process.

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Mortgage and Foreclosure Resources.

federalreserve.gov/consumerscommunities /foreclosure_consumers.htm  

This collection of resources from the FED helps consumers find current information on mortgage costs, refinancing, and foreclosures.

Federal Housing Finance Agency. Homeowners & Homebuyers. 


The independent regulatory agency FHFA oversees the secondary mortgage market and offers mortgage assistance and mortgage education on its site.

FRED® Economic Data from St. Louis Federal Reserve. S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. 


The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis offers access to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which track trends in home prices in 20 locations. These indices can give a very quick visual assessment of the trends in home prices across the United States.


After dealing with finances, it is time to start looking for a place to call home. While money always causes stress, this aspect of home buying can be just as fraught. From something as simple as architectural style to a consideration of traffic patterns, taxes, and condition of the house, there are things that new home buyers might not think about in the rush to make an offer.


Amuchastegui, Aaron & David Osborn. Bidding To Buy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Investing in Real Estate Foreclosures. Bigger Pockets. 2020. 250p. ISBN 9781947200333. $19.99.

Like so many other recent books on the topic, this is geared toward buyers of real estate as investment and not the average home buyer, but the book walks through the process for dealing with foreclosures. Chapters are dedicated to activities such as title review and buying at auction. Not for most home buyers, but this does cover the additional work that comes with purchasing a foreclosure.

Glink, Ilyce R. 100 Questions Every FirstTime Home Buyer Should Ask: With Answers from Top Brokers from Around the Country. 4th ed. Crown. 2018. 480p. ISBN 9781524763435. $22.

Glink has published several personal finance and home-buying guides; this one is a deep dive into financial concerns. It includes appendices on common mistakes buyers make and what to look for in new construction.

McAlester, Virginia Savage. A Field Guide to American Houses (Revised): The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture. Knopf. 2015. 880p. ISBN 9780375710827. $37.50.

Not sure what differentiates Queen Anne Victorians from Folk Victorians? Not even sure what a Victorian house is? This revised edition of the essential guide to American houses provides ample details to help readers identify and understand different architectural styles.

Robinson, Roger C. & Michael Litchfield. The Complete Guide to Home Inspection. Taunton. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781627104807. $24.95.

After an offer is accepted, the home inspection is one of the last moments to discover a problem before closing. Good home inspections can reveal major structural issues, but they can also provide a blueprint for the repairs that will be needed over the next few years. This book helps readers understand just what an inspector is looking for when they examine a house.

Schwindt, David. The Condo Book: How To Not Get Burned When Buying and Living in a Home Within a Community Association. Beyond Words. 2016. 272p. ISBN 9781582705828. $16.

Few books about buying condominiums are geared toward home buyers. Here is one of the only titles published within the last decade that focuses on condos as a place to live and not an investment opportunity.


National Association of Realtors®. Research and Statistics. 


The National Association of Realtors® offers a variety of free reports on its site. Sections on financing and home buying and selling provide information on down payments, debt, and trends in the current market.

Realtor.com’s Research Reports. 


While geared more toward agents than buyers, the research section of realtor.com offers reports on local supply and demand of houses and median monthly costs for rental vs. ownership in cities across the United States. The main site also offers listing of houses for sale and a search for agents by ZIP code.

Trulia (trulia.com), Redfin (redfin.com), and Zillow (zillow.com).

After the financial prep work is done, buyers need to start looking for houses. While a good Realtor will help find what’s on the market, these three sites offer buyers a chance to see a home before making a site visit. Each of them offers different ways of looking at a house, and it will come down to personal preference on how information is displayed. All of the sites pull information from the MLS real estate listings, but they also offer information about school districts, traffic, sales history, and sometimes even virtual walkthroughs of houses.

United States Census’s American Housing Survey. 


The most comprehensive national housing survey in the United States, this is wide-ranging and data-heavy, but for those willing to spend time with it, it has invaluable information. As part of the U.S. census, it offers demographics, but it also provides information on the physical condition of both houses and neighborhoods and the costs for selling and maintaining those homes. At press time, the last published survey is from 2019, but the site says that it will offer data from the 2021 census shortly.


Closing on a house can feel like crossing a finish line: large sums of money trade hands and a buyer now owns a living space. Unfortunately, the work is just starting. Now comes the moving in and organizing of the new space; then there’s the maintenance. New home buyers will need to think about everything from wall colors to fixing leaky toilets.


100 Things Every Homeowner Must Know: How To Save Money, Solve Problems, and Improve Your Home. ed. by Family Handyman. Trusted Media. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781621452201. $24.99.

When looking for home repair resources, homeowners need to find one that is at their level of expertise. The other resources listed here and most YouTube videos tend to get very technical, but this book from Family Handyman magazine offers very basic breakdowns of common home issues. It won’t tell readers how to renovate their bathroom, but it will show them how to unclog their toilet. A great resource for the little problems.

Kaysen, Ronda & Michelle Higgins. The New York Times: Right at Home: How To Buy, Decorate, Organize and Maintain Your Space. Black Dog & Leventhal. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9780762468539. $30.

This book from two New York Times real estate columnists covers buying in the first section and then devotes the other three sections to decorating, maintaining, and organizing a home. It overlaps with the books listed above, but it has a real focus on the work that happens after closing to make the house a home.

Molinelli, Jim. Remodel Without Going Bonkers or Broke: Have a Stress-Free Renovation and Fall in Love with Your Home Again. 2nd ed. Jim Molinelli. 2021 254p. ISBN 9780578843056. $23.95.

This self-published guide by the “Remodeling Professor” offers advice on one of the least-discussed expenses that comes with owning a home. Remodeling is like buying a home all over again, piece by piece. With the average kitchen remodel now costing around $35,000, Molinelli walks readers through the budgeting process  and how to find the right professional for the job.

Ultimate Guide: Plumbing. 5th ed. The Creative Homeowner. 2021. 312p. ISBN 9781580118613. $24.99.

Most DIY repairs have countless tutorials online, including a plethora of You Tube videos, but sometimes having a trusted print resource on hand is easier than searching countless YouTube videos for one that addresses a specific problem. The “Ultimate Guide” series is an excellent printed resource on home repair and renovation. This plumbing guide is of great value.

Wing, Charlie. How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Your Home. 3rd ed. RSMeans. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9781119467618. $27.95.

Written for the homeowner who wants to understand everything about their house, this title by a homebuilding expert with a PBS TV series provides detailed illustrations and troubleshooting guides on the different systems within a home, including the electrical, heating, and plumbing.


Gale Onefile: Home Improvement.


A database that includes 4.5 million articles for both hobbyists and professionals. It includes instructions, information about tools, and details about zoning. For libraries in areas with a lot of real estate transactions, this can be a great resource for patrons who are working on their homes.

This Old House. 


For over 40 seasons this PBS series has dealt with all aspects of home repair. It remains one of the most important, accessible resources for homeowners who need help taking care of their house. The website offers access to episodes of This Old House, Ask This Old House, and New Yankee Workshop. It also offers an index of home improvement projects and includes videos from the show.

John Rodzvilla is Assistant Professor at Emerson College, Boston, where he teaches in both the Writing, Literature, and Publishing Department and the Business of Creative Enterprises Program.


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