A home is typically one of the largest purchases a person will make in their lifetime. For many people, house hunting is their favorite part of buying a home—they love looking at homes and imagining the possibilities. But since house hunting can be time consuming, it’s important to start saving time before you even step foot in a potential home.

Shop Within Your Budget

Before you even think about going house hunting, you need to set a budget. Don’t waste your time looking at homes if you don’t know if you can afford them. Sit down and take a look at the amount of money you earn each month after taxes. Compare this amount to the amount you have going out each month for your debts and expenses. Your housing budget will be roughly the difference between these numbers. Knowing your budget will help you avoid falling in love with a home that’s out of your price range.

In order to really know how much home you can afford, you will need to get pre-approved for a home loan. During the pre-approval process, your loan officer will examine your financial information like:

Having a pre-approval will not only help you look for homes within your price range, but give you negotiation power with home sellers when you find a property you like.

Identify Your Needs

After you’ve created your budget, identify your home needs. Take the time to write down everything you must have in your home, be it an attached garage or a roomy kitchen. Include a few deal breakers too. If a home has these deal breaker items, like no attached garage, it can be immediately scratched from the list.

Then, make another list detailing what you would like to have, but don’t necessarily need, and what you absolutely don’t want in a home. When you go house hunting, take these lists with you and stick to it. It’s a good idea to show them to your realtor so they can guide you to homes you can afford that have your desired features, significantly narrowing your search and saving time. In most cases, you won’t find a house that has every little thing you want, so having a set criteria will prevent you from getting too attached to something you know you don’t need.

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The above information is for educational purposes only. All information, loan programs and interest rates are subject to change without notice. All loans subject to underwriter approval. Terms and conditions apply. Always consult an accountant or tax advisor for full eligibility requirements on tax deduction.