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House hunting is an exciting process, especially when it’s your first home. While it may feel stressful and overwhelming at times, there are ways to make the search easier. Here are five steps to take before looking for your dream home:

1. Set Your Budget. The first thing you need to do before looking at any homes is set your budget. It’s a waste of time to look at homes that are out of your price range. If you aren’t sure what your budget should be, try an online calculator that tells you how much home you can afford. Knowing how much you can spend allows you to filter home options by price. The best way to find out how much you can afford is by getting pre-approved.

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage. When you’re serious about buying a home, you should go through the pre-approval process with a mortgage lender. This way, you can show a seller your pre-approval letter if you decide to make an offer. In most cases, sellers will not even consider an offer on their home unless the buyer is pre-approved.

3. Figure Out Your Wants and Needs. Like your budget, your wants and needs in a home will help you narrow down your options and decide more quickly if a home is or isn’t right for you. List your needs first. These are your non-negotiable items. For example, if you have two children, you may decide that you need a home with at least three bedrooms. Your wants are the things that would be nice to have, but you could do without.

4. Hire a Real Estate Agent. It’s tough to shop for a home, and doing it on your own can be stressful and confusing. Hiring a real estate agent can make a world of difference. An agent will have the resources to help you find a home quickly and the expertise to walk you through the home-buying process.

5. Consider the Neighborhood. The home itself may be what’s most important, but it’s also important to consider the neighborhood in which the home is located to ensure that it’s right for you. If you have kids or plan to, you’ll obviously want a neighborhood near good schools. Additionally, all homebuyers want to live in an area where they’ll be safe from crime. The neighborhood could also affect the value of your home when you go to sell it later on.

Your home will likely be one of the biggest purchases you ever make. Be patient so that you can find the one that’s right for you.

Source: Kara Masterson/RISMedia’s Housecall

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