Buying a house is one of life’s major decisions. Homebuyers need to take the decision seriously and make wise choices every step of the way. Most importantly, a first home does not need to be the ultimate dream house.

1. Assess Your True Needs

True needs should come before wants. Important things to take into consideration include:

  • neighborhood safety
  • appropriate number of rooms for family size
  • structural integrity of the home
  • proximity to work and school
  • the price of the home and monthly mortgage

Create a must have list and a wish list. Your ‘must have’ list should include the essential things a home must have to be considered. The ‘wish list’ will include all the home features you feel are nice to have but are things you could live without.

2. Determine Your Budget

Home ownership is more expensive than renting because an owner is in charge of all repairs and maintenance. Some rentals have certain utilities included, while owners must pay all of those as well.

These expenses can add up fast. Having an adequate budget and then some can help you avoid a seriously trying situation. Take the time to get out of debt and save up an emergency fund, before you purchase your first home. In almost every case, eliminating credit card debt should be at the top of your priority list.

All these considerations will help first time home buyers set realistic expectations for finding a home within the right price range. To get more for less, consider searching for foreclosed homes, buying a fixer upper or choosing a home a little off the beaten path..

Careful budgeting, with room for the unforeseen, is the key to secure home ownership.

3. Find the Right Lender

A mortgage broker can screen multiple loan companies to find the very best rates.

Financial experts recommend keeping mortgage, between 25 and 30 percent of net income. They also suggest that the cost of the home be no more than two and a half times the family’s annual salary. A fixed-rate mortgage, with a term of 15 or 20 years, can lock in a low rate. Start with that goal and work from there.

4. Find a Good REALTOR

According to the globe and mail, people spend more time shopping for a tv than for a real estate agent. This is a big mistake, because especially in a surging housing market, this can cost you thousands of dollars.

Once the finances are sorted out, take the time to find a real estate agente. The right one will know your list of priorities in order of importance, make recommendations, give tips about the market, and more.

5. Personalize Your New Home

You may feel like the home is a compromise, but once you move in, it’s all yours. Add creative personal touches to make it all you want it to be. Ask yourself what elements of that dream home you can incorporate into this home. You’d be surprised what you might come up with.