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Purchasing a home, especially if it is your first time, can be an extremely stressful and complicated process. It is easy to get overwhelmed by your choices and the many steps it takes to get the deal closed and the keys in your hands.

1. Get organized. Before you start your search make a list of “must-haves” for your ideal future home. Try not to go overboard but include attributes that aren’t negotiable, like the number of bedrooms and school district you want access to.

2. Attain pre-approval from your lender. Pre-approved buyers are less likely to experience deal breaking hiccups throughout the home-buying process. By getting pre-approval you will have a straightforward budget that will allow you to conduct a realistic search to meet your needs.

3. Scour the Internet. The web is an incredible tool when it comes to starting your home search. Many online listings include video tours and countless pictures. Obviously, you’ll need to see the highest contending properties in person with your real estate agent but by spending some time on the Internet, you will be able to avoid wasting time on listings that don’t satisfy your “must-have” list.

4. Focus on what matters. Try not to get distracted or turned off by attributes within a home that are easy to change like paint color and lighting fixtures. Bright, bold colors, outdated furniture and stained carpet can be extremely off-putting when you are viewing a home but try to remember that wall color, carpet, and cabinets are easy to change while a home’s location and lot size aren’t up for negotiation.

5. Plan ahead. Don’t allow an expiring lease to push you into buying a home that you aren’t sure about. First-time homebuyers are often eager to end their days of spending money on rent but don’t let that eagerness cloud your judgment and rush you into buying the wrong home.

To get the most out of your real estate search, be sure to interview your real estate agent before you hire them. Ask them what their hardest sale was and how they made it work. Most importantly, make sure they are an expert within the area you are searching.

Kelly O’Ryan is Office Manager at Coldwell Banker in Lexington, MA. She knows the industry inside and out and works with a wide range of price points. As a non-competing manager, Kelly can focus her energy and creativity on supporting office sales associates and their clients.