Q. DEAR BOB: In the spring my husband will be transferred to Houston for his job. His employer's relocation firm will handle the sale of our current house, so that is not a problem. However, we're wondering how to start our home search. Should we have friends in Houston send us the local newspapers so we can check the classified ads? What about searching on the Internet?--Diana F.

A. DEAR DIANA: A recent survey reported that most home buyers consult newspaper classified ads to start their home searches. Many newspapers now publish their classified ads on the Internet, so you can check there, too. Also, check the biggest online home sales site, www.realtor.com.

Equally important is comparing the quality of the school districts in the areas you like. When you narrow your home search to specific neighborhoods, before offering to purchase a home, insist on a written school report. The real estate agents you contact should provide this as part of the service. Even if you don't have children, the school quality will affect how your new home appreciates in market value.

If you have any difficulty obtaining a written, objective school district report, check the Web site www.schoolmatchonline.com.

DEAR BOB: I recall that you once mentioned the best day of the month to close a home purchase to keep down closing costs, but I forgot it.--Dottie L.

DEAR DOTTIE: The best day of the month to close a home purchase is the last business day; however, if the last business day of the month falls on a Monday or the day after a holiday, close on the previous business day. Avoid closing on a Monday because most lenders will charge interest from the previous Friday, even though the new owner does not yet have possession of the home.

Since mortgage interest is collected in arrears, by closing on the last, or next to last, business day of the month, the buyer only has to pay interest at closing for a day or two. However, if the closing is at the beginning of the month, the borrower must pay interest at closing for the entire month.

DEAR BOB: Several times in recent weeks, you've mentioned the Fannie Mae Flex 97 mortgage for 97 percent of the home purchase price. You said the remaining 3 percent can be borrowed, such as on a credit card. How can I find these loans? I looked in the phone book under Fannie Mae and can't find that lender's name.--Carlo R.

DEAR CARLO: Fannie Mae, the District company formerly known as the Federal National Mortgage Association, does not make direct home loans to consumers. Instead, it buys mortgages originated by lenders such as mortgage bankers, banks and savings and loans.

Virtually every such lender sells some or all of its home loans in the secondary mortgage market to buyers such as Fannie Mae and competitor Freddie Mac. To obtain a Fannie Mae Flex 97 home mortgage for 97 percent of your home purchase price, up to a $240,000 maximum mortgage, check your phone book yellow pages under "real estate loans."

Readers with questions should write Robert J. Bruss at P.O. Box 280038, San Francisco, Calif. 94128.

(C) 1999, Tribune Media Services Inc.