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Buying your first home can be stressful if you don't know what you're doing. Here are the best tips to hit the ground running.

Are you hoping a new home is in store for you in the coming year? If "buy a house" is at the top of your New Year's resolutions, you'll want to start planning for your big purchase now, especially if it's your first time buying a home. Here are a few tips from our real estate agents to help you get on track.

  • Start saving NOW for a down payment.
    While it's not true that you need to have 20 percent in savings in order to buy a home, you'll definitely need to save up for a down payment. Even if you don't plan on buying for a while yet, starting to save now will make saving easier and allow you to save more. Go through your budget to see where you can cut expenses, and start socking that money away in a dedicated housing fund.

  • Be kind to your credit.
    If you're planning on buying a home in the next year or two, it's not a bad idea to check on your credit. Find out what your score is and whether there is anything you can do to improve it. Checking this early will give you time to get your ducks in a row before you start seeking pre-approval for a home loan.

  • Get pre-approved.
    Speaking of pre-approval, it's generally a good idea to talk to a lender and get pre-approved for a loan before you start looking for a house. Pre-approval benefits you for several reasons: It lets you know how much house you can afford and gives you a price range to work with, plus it gives sellers confidence in accepting your offer over other buyers as they don't have to worry that the sale will fall through due to lack of funding.

  • Plan ahead for closing costs.
    It's easy to focus so much on the cost of the home that you forget about closing costs and other expenses involved in the purchase. For instance, once your offer is accepted, you'll need to pay for an appraisal, home inspection, and any other inspections you decide to do to verify the condition of the home. And then there are the processing costs associated with the loan, which you pay on closing day. Some of these costs can be rolled into the loan, but that means adding to the principal, so plan to pay them yourself if possible.

  • Prioritize your list of what you want in a house.
    Everyone has lists of needs, wants, and wishes when they start out looking for a house. It's important to remember that you're probably not going to find something perfect that has everything you want, especially if it's your first home. Instead, make a series of prioritized lists: one for must-haves, one for overall needs, and one for would-like-to-haves.

  • Hire a good real estate agent.
    Are you ready to take the plunge and start looking for a home with the intent to buy? If you're at that point, it's time to start shopping for an agent. A good real estate agent will be your guide from start to finish, and you'll be counting on them to know the ins and outs of not just the home-buying process but also the neighborhoods where you're looking. With this in mind, be sure to look for a real estate agent who is familiar with South Bend homes for sale in your intended area.

Who you sign with as your agent matters, especially if you're a beginning homebuyer or buying in an area that's unfamiliar to you. For professional, experienced guidance you can trust, contact us today.

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