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Buying a new home can be a stressful experience, especially if it’s your first. There are a number of important factors to consider, such as finances and the location of the home itself. While the process can be difficult, rest assured that millions of people have made it through without any issue other than the occasional stress headache. Here are a few helpful tips to make your next home buying experience a little easier.

Explore Your Credit and Financing Options

Very few homebuyers have the cash on hand to pay for a home outright. When buying a house, you’ll likely need to apply for a loan. Before applying for a mortgage, or any kind of financial assistance, you should always check your current credit score. The government website annualcreditreport.com allows you to view your scores from three different companies for free, although the service can only be used once per year.

Credit scores range from about 300 to 850, with a higher score indicating better credit. This value will be used by lenders and banks to determine what loans you qualify for at what level of interest, so it’s important to know yours ahead of time to better understand what financing options will be available to you.

Determine Your Monthly Budget

The next step is to determine how much you are capable of spending each month. Don’t forget to factor in important expenses such as your down payment, closing costs, cost of future utilities and any other recurring fees you’ll have to pay in the future. Closing on a home you can’t afford in the long term will cause significantly more financial and emotional stress than knowing your feasible budget ahead of time.

Find the Right Real Estate Agent for You

Do your research to find the perfect real estate agent or mortgage lender for you. Start by asking friends or family for recommendations, but also check reputable websites like the Better Business Bureau for online reviews. After creating a short list of the agents you like most, take the time to meet with each one individually and ask a lot of questions before making a final decision. Purchasing a home is likely the biggest financial decision you’ll ever make; it’s important to find someone who has your best interests at heart and can ease you through the entire process.

Shop Around

Before going out and looking at homes, make a comprehensive list of the things you want in a house: number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square feet, etc. If you’re fortunate enough to find something that seems perfect, keep looking. Shopping around is a good way to really understand what homes are available to you, both in the market and within your budget. You don’t want to wait too long to make an offer or you risk losing the home you were looking at to someone else, but try to compare two or three properties before making a final decision.

Make an Offer

When you’ve found the perfect home, all that’s left to do is make an offer to the seller. Most sellers price their homes a bit higher than its worth, expecting you to haggle down the value. You can respectfully take this opportunity to try and save as much money as possible. Start by asking your real estate agent what similar hom