Buying your first home is a big step. If you are thinking about, or in the process of, buying your first home, then keep reading. Below are some helpful tips to help you navigate the process and be a more informed buyer.

Look at Your Finances

Before you start looking for a home, take an honest look at your income and all of your expenses (including what you spend at the coffee shop and the movie theatre). This will give you an idea of how much you’ll be able to contribute to a down payment and monthly mortgage and home expenses. Be sure to factor in new home-related expenses such as inspection costs, insurance, taxes, utility bills, and repair bills.

Make a List of What You Want

In addition to making a list of the qualities you want in a house, be sure to also consider these questions: What kind of neighborhood do we want to live in? How far do I want to commute to work or school? Which school system best fits our needs?

Research First Time Home Buyer Programs

First time home buyers who meet certain guidelines may be eligible for lower interest rate loans, low down payment options, and down payment assistance programs. The Federal Housing Administration, the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation (Hula Mae Program), and Hawaii Homeownership Center all offer this type of support to first time home buyers.

Get Pre-Approved for a Loan

Before you make an offer on a home, get pre-approved for a mortgage. Lenders will pre-approve you based on your income, debts, and credit. When you’re pre-approved, sellers will take you more seriously and you’ll know in advance how much you’ll be able to borrow.

Get a Home Inspection

A home is a major purchase, so take responsibility for making sure your investment is sound and secure. Hire a home inspector to take a look in all the nooks and crannies to ensure your new home is not a “lemon.” Choose a home inspector who is certified or licensed. You may want to check with organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors that require members to abide by certain standards and ethics.