When you decide on buying a house, there are plenty of options and factors to consider, and amidst all your excitement and anxiety, it can be all too easy to leap into the housing market before you are ready. With some careful planning on your part, the home buying experience can be fun and not-so-stressful. Consider this your to-do list as you begin the process. Your ducks will be all in a row, and your search for the perfect home will be much more productive.

  1. Target Your Desired Location
    Though it may seem like common sense, deciding just where you want to live is a crucial step in buying a house. Even if you're staying in the same city, you'll want to decide which neighborhood is best suited to your lifestyle. Whether you're moving across town or hundreds of miles away, researching different communities early on helps you focus on fewer homes once you begin viewing houses seriously.
  2. Assess Your Finances
    Before you speak with a lender or set your sights on a particular home, get acquainted with your finances. Sit down and make a budget, and determine how much flexibility your monthly expenses and savings allow when it comes to purchasing a home. Don't forget to consider extra costs such as your down payment, closing costs, and added expenses you'll be responsible for as a homeowner including insurance, property taxes and HOA fees. Check your credit score now, and look for ways to improve it such as paying down credit card debt.
  3. Pump Up Your Savings Account
    You are likely already thinking about a down payment, and ideally, your savings will cover it. If not, it's time to build up your savings. Cutting back on unnecessary expenses now may hurt a little, but forgoing those extras will pay off by helping you reach your home ownership goals. Find creative ways to add to your savings like investing in CDs, selling unused or unwanted items, and doing a bit of part-time work.
  4. Pre-Approval Brings Peace of Mind
    Although pre-approval from a bank doesn't guarantee a mortgage, it's a relatively good indication of what they will ultimately be willing to lend you. Once you know how much you can afford to spend, the process of buying a home becomes less frustrating as you can narrow the search down to homes in your preferred location that fall into your budget.
  5. Pick an Agent, But Not Just Any Agent
    Choosing the right real estate agent should be a priority when buying a house. All agents are different, and finding one that makes you feel both comfortable and assured of their skills and knowledge is essential in making your house hunt successful. Interview a few agents, and don't hesitate to ask them about their experience and knowledge of the area and the housing market. Have a look at their website and ask for referrals before deciding. After all, your agent will be your best friend and advisor throughout the process.