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One of the biggest hurdles first-time buyers face is the dreaded mortgage application. Between worrying about being able to qualify, and wondering which rate is best for you, it can become a nightmare in an already lengthy process.

It’s important to do some research on what to expect before dipping your toe into the often turbulent sea of applications. To make sure you’re prepared, read on for three things you need to consider when applying for a mortgage.

Be realistic. It’s important to be honest with yourself when it comes to how much house you can actually afford. You have to consider what you can spend today, and what you’ll be able to afford five or ten years down the road. Interest rates currently sit at a historic low, but they are likely to rise in the near future, and you need to ensure that you can afford higher payments down the road if you don’t have a fixed rate. If you’re not sure, opt for a smaller property—it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Work with the pros. Sure, you’ve done your research, but when it comes to mortgages it’s best to hire professionals that know their stuff. Your real estate agent will be able to help you with many of the steps of the process, but you may also want to consider a mortgage broker, who can scan the market and determine which plan is be best for you.

Beware of credit. As everyone knows, good credit is essential to securing a mortgage. Before you think about locking down a property, be sure to pay off as much of your outstanding debt as possible and cut back on spending if you want to seem like a good bet for the big banks.

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