No matter where you are in your life, when it comes time to purchase your first home, it can feel a bit overwhelming. Schools rarely educate students on how to go about buying their first home and the housing market is quite different from when your parents may have bought a home. When you begin considering buying a home, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the process and what you’ll need to do in order to get the best deal possible. Understand what it entails so you can avoid getting a bad deal or making a major mistake that impacts what kind of house you buy.

Figure out what you can afford

The first step to take before finding a house you’d like to buy is to figure out how much you can actually afford. The last thing you want to do is find a house you love and then realize you can’t afford it. Or, even worse, actually buy a house that costs way more to maintain than you can handle and then have to foreclose. Take time to get your finances in order, by checking your credit score, saving up a decent down payment for a house, and realistically looking at what you make each month and the cost of home ownership.

Educate yourself about the housing market

Depending where you live, the housing market can differ drastically from other parts of the country. Talk to your family and friends who have purchased homes in the area and see what their experience was. It’s also a good idea to speak to various real estate professionals to get their input on the market before making a decision to search for a home. You can also check out local real estate forums and see what other people are saying about their home-buying experiences. Learn whether or not it’s a good time to buy a home.

Get ready to find your mortgage

Before you attempt to find your home, learn what kind of mortgage you can get approved for. Here are some tips for getting your mortgage. Make sure you do not get a mortgage that’s more than you can afford and show around before settling on one bank or credit union. You want the best rates possible for your mortgage, so do your research. Spend significant time on this step so you avoid spending too much. Getting preapproved can also help your chances when looking to buy a house, because it shows that you’re a qualified buyer. However, make sure you’re not accepting a mortgage loan from the bank that’s much more than you can afford.

Find your realtor

A major part of homebuying is finding the best realtor for you. Do not be afraid to talk to different realtors and see who you like the most. Your realtor is going to be your biggest help when finding a house, so it’s important you find someone you really connect with and trust. Make sure it’s someone who exclusively works for you and doesn’t also represent that seller. Also check that your realtor has all the necessary certifications (you can look this detail up online).

Have the home inspected

Before finally settling on a home, make sure you get it inspected. While the current owners will almost certainly have had an inspection done, you’ll want to have a third party inspector come in as well and make sure there are no serious problems with the house. Ask plenty of questions yourself and check it out, then defer to a professional opinion. You’ll pay for this inspection and if you find out there’s a serious issue with the home, you can either pass or try to lower the price knowing you’ll need to make repairs.