Are you in the market for a home? Experts advise, 'For the best deals, close in the next five months' Real estate market experts report housing prices and interest rates are still favorable but the market may well change in the next five months. According to experts at Equifax finance, there are five reasons why buyers, especially first-time buyers, should make their moves, even though it's difficult to face rising prices and rising interest rates at the same time. * Prices are actually 20 percent less than their mid-2006 peak. In fact, average home prices are at summer 2004 levels. That means buyers could see significant appreciation over the next few years. * Interest rates are slowly rising. As the Federal Reserve concludes it economic stimulus plan, rates are expected to continue to rise into the first quarter of next year. Even a small bump in rates will make your payment significantly higher. So buy now if you can. * Compare rental costs with home purchasing costs. In the second quarter average rents have rose by close to 0.8 percent from the first quarter. If you want to put down roots in your hometown, it could be cheaper to buy. Divide the list price of the home you are considering by the annual rent of a comparable property to determine the price-to-rent ratio. If it's below 20, it's a very good time to buy. Remember to consider maintenance, insurance, taxes and utilities, though you would have some of these costs when renting. * Consider your buying power. Americans have been steadily reducing their debt load, maybe you have too. The lower your debt-to-income ratio, the more you can borrow for a home. Mortgage companies say you can spend 28 percent to 36 percent of your gross income for debt service. That's your housing expenses plus your debt payments. * It pays to raise your credit score. It's one of the biggest factors lenders consider when determining the interest rate and terms on your loan.