How to start shopping for your first home

1. “Keep your credit in check.”
Approaching the homebuying process — and it is a process — begins with sizing up your finances. (Spoiler alert: you’re going to be writing some checks!) Your financial footing, including the state of your credit, plays an important part in obtaining a home loan: lenders look at the score on your credit report to determine if you pre-qualify (more on that later). Personal-finance expert suggests looking into your credit score several months before you hit the open-house circuit. She explains that you can pull your credit report for yourself once a year at no cost from each of the three major credit bureaus

2. “Get pre-qualified.”
With your credit in tip-top shape, next you’ll likely want to zero in on the budget range for your home purchase. “Before you even start shopping, you need to know how much a lender is willing to extend [to you] to purchase your first home,” says Quinn, who bought her first home with her husband at age 27. By meeting with mortgage brokers — at your own bank as well as others — and getting prequalified for a home loan will help to clarify that picture. While you may have done your own calculations, “only a lender can give you a truly accurate figure,” Quinn says.

3. “Sign up for email listing alerts.”
OK, your credit is tuned up and you have a price range in mind. We’re guessing by now you’re pretty eager to, you know, go see houses? To scour the inventory like a pro, real estate marketer  suggests seeking out home-search tools online such as email alerts about new listings. In signing up for these notifications you can filter for price, house size, community interior features and more, Fox says. “New homes that match your criteria [are] automatically emailed to you … often multiple times per day.”

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