Looking to buy a home? Here are five essential tips for making the process as smooth as possible:

1. Get your finances in order.

Start by getting a full picture of your credit. Obtain copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find. Next, find a suitable lender and get pre-approved for a loan. This will put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house.

2. Find a house you can afford.

As with engagement rings, there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to buying a home: two-and-a-half times your annual salary. There are also a number of tools and calculators online that can help you understand how income, debt, and expenses affect what you can afford. Don’t forget that there are considerations beyond the sticker price, including property taxes, energy costs, etc.

3. Hire a professional.

While the internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process require a level of expertise that requires a professional. A buyer’s agent will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.

4. Do your homework.

Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large. Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers? Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood. Look at prices for the last few months. Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic. Otherwise, you may end up ticking off your seller. By hiring a professional, they will do the heavy lifting for you, providing you with the best information before you bid. 

5. Think long term.

A major factor that contributes to the value of a home is location. Homes located in neighborhoods with a good school system are not only beneficial to families who may send their children there, but to individual buyers as the resale value will fluctuate with the reputation of the school system. 

Additionally when it comes to the house itself, you should hire your own home inspector, who can point out potential problems that could require costly repairs in the future. Thinking long term can save you money as well as provide leverage during the bidding process. 

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORSĀ®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.