Whether you’re a first-time homeowner, upsizing for a growing family, or searching for an investment property, buying a home can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Reality shows may lead you to believe that the perfect property will present itself before the next commercial break, but in the real world, finding the property that best suits your lifestyle and budget takes far more perseverance and patience.

If you’re embarking on a new home search, read on for the best tips to help you manage your time and efforts wisely.

Step One: Check Your Credit
It’s always a good idea to check your credit regularly, but it’s especially important when you’re buying a new home. The better your credit score, the better chance you have of getting a lower rate on your mortgage loan. You can download your report for free once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Look for any errors and submit them for removal if they are incorrect.

If your credit needs improving, then start taking the steps to increase your score. Pay off debt as quickly as possible and refrain from opening new credit cards or financing new items such as furniture or vehicles.

Step Two: Get Preapproved for a Loan
Assuming your credit score is good, the next step is to get preapproved for a loan. Getting preapproved accomplishes two things: it lets you know how much house you can afford and it lets buyers know that you’re serious about making an offer on a home.

When determining how much home you can afford, don’t forget to factor in expenses such as property tax, home insurance, and HOA fees. You’ll also want to factor in your down payment, which is typically 20% of the loan, and your closing costs.

Step Three: Hire a Real Estate Agent
Even though the online real estate industry would have you believe that you can buy a home from the comfort of your couch, experienced real estate professionals will tell you that there is no replacement for working with a Realtor.

A real estate agent will protect your best interests during the entire home buying process. Unless you’re a seasoned pro at navigating the real estate market, it’s best to have a professional advocating for you so that you get the best possible deal. If you want to peruse online listings to get a feel for the market, by all means do so, but it’s best to send those links to your Realtor for assessment.

When choosing a Realtor, look for someone who knows the market and has experience working with properties similar to ones that you are interested in.

Following these three steps will give you a head start on your house hunting. However, it’s always smart to ask your Realtor questions along the way. I’ve helped countless numbers of families, first time home buyers, investment property owners, and more find their dream Smith Mountain Lake home, and I’ll do the same for you. Contact me today to get started.