Tips to help you prepare for buying your first home.

Buying a home is quite possibly the biggest purchase you will ever make. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, there’s a good chance you’ll get frustrated at some point. Fraught with confusing lingo and surprise costs, the whole process can seem overwhelming at times. To help make your home buying experience a little less stressful, we’ve put together the following five tips for the first-time homebuyer.

Start Saving Early and Check Your Credit

The home buying process starts long before you actually begin actively searching for the perfect house. The average mortgage lender requires a 20 percent down payment, although many first-time homebuyer programs allow for as little as 3.5 percent. Be aware, however, that lower down payments often force you to pay for mortgage insurance, so it’s best to be prepared to put down as much money as possible to get the best deal.

Your credit score is one of the most important factors lenders look at when determining whether to finance your mortgage or not. Check your credit score before starting your search for a home, and do your best to dispute any discrepancies and take care of any outstanding debt as soon as possible.

It’s also very important to halt all new credit activity if you plan to buy a house anytime soon. Opening any new lines of credit such as credit cards or auto loans cause a slight decrease in your credit rating when the lender does a hard inquiry.

Figure Out How Much House You Can Afford

Many first-time homebuyers make the mistake of buying a home based on the idea that their income will increase in the future. This often leads to higher mortgage payments than they can comfortably make while they wait for their income to go up. Play around with a mortgage affordability calculator to figure out what you can afford based on your income now. You can always sell the home and upgrade as your income increases in the future.

Explore Your Down Payment and Closing Cost Options

One of the biggest problems people have with purchasing their first homes is coming up with the down payment. Luckily, there are many options available for a first-time homebuyer that decreases the down payment amount to as low as 3 percent.

Many new homebuyers mistakenly give little consideration to the closing costs associated with their mortgage. These expenses can add up to thousands of dollars, so it’s a good idea to consider your two options here: pay them yourself or have the seller pay them for you. Both options have pros and cons, so discuss them with your lender to find out which works best for you.

Shop Around for the Best Mortgage Rates

Shopping for the best mortgage rates is just like shopping for anything else. You wouldn’t hire the first contractor you call to fix your roof, and you shouldn’t go with the first mortgage lender that gives you what sounds like a good deal either. Gather mortgage rate quotes from at least three lenders before deciding which one fits your budget and your needs best.

Get Pre-approved

Sellers like to see that you’re serious about buying their property. Before heading out to find your dream home, take the time to get a pre-approval letter from a lender that states how much they are willing to lend you and at what terms. Not only will you have an upper hand over other buyers who haven’t completed this step, but you’ll also have a better idea of how much house your lender is willing to finance in your name.