Buying a home is an investment in time and money. For many people, a home is the largest purchase they will make in their lifetime. For first-time home buyers, the process can seem intimidating, given the many steps involved in the transaction. With adequate research and preparation, the journey towards purchasing a new home can be a relatively smooth one. To help your home buying process become more manageable, you’ll need to take a deep dive into your finances and prioritize your home amenity preferences. Here are a few steps to help you get started.

Determine what you can afford

The best place to start is to figure out what monthly payment will fit your budget. Experts say that your total monthly home expenses should not exceed more than one-third of your gross monthly income. Your mortgage payment is only part of your monthly expenses. Property taxes, home insurance and interest should also be factored into your monthly payment.

Check your credit score

Most people will choose to finance their home, so checking your credit score is another important first step. Your credit score will help you figure out the financing options available to you. Lenders use credit scores to determine if a borrower has a record of on-time payments and to gauge the likelihood of repaying the mortgage. Your credit score will also impact your mortgage terms. The higher the score, the more financing options and lower interest rates will be available to you. Borrowers with scores in the low 600s and even high 500s can still find lenders who will qualify them, but borrowers should strive for scores in the mid- to upper-700s to land the best rate.

Make a list of your priorities

As a first-time home buyer, you’ll need to determine a list of your “must-haves” for your new home. Do you absolutely need a space for a home office or more rooms for your growing family? You should have a general idea of the size, location and amenities you want in your home. Figure out what feature you are willing to compromise to ensure your home fits your budget.

Shop for a mortgage

First, research mortgage rates at various lenders online. Shop around to find the lowest rate or work with a mortgage lender to help you find all of the loan options available. There are several types of mortgages available, including FHA, conventional, adjustable rate and fixed-rate. You’ll need to learn more about them to figure out which option works best for you. There are a variety of mortgages available for first-time home buyers as well.

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Your local home builders association is your best resource to find a member, hire a local professional or join the National Association of Home Builders. To learn more about Lakes Region Builders & Remodelers Association, visit lakesregionbuilders.com.

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