In today’s market, low inventory dominates the conversation in many areas of the country. It can often be frustrating to be a first-time homebuyer if you aren’t prepared. Here are five tips from realtor.com’s article, “How to Find Your Dream Home—Without Losing Your Mind.”

1. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Before You Start Your Search

One way to show you’re serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage. Even if you’re in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing whether or not your dream home is within your reach. This will help you avoid the disappointment of falling in love with a home well outside your price range.

2. Know the Difference Between Your ‘Must-Haves’ and ‘Would-Like-To-Haves’

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Before you start your search, list all the features of a home you would like. Qualify them as ‘must-haves’‘should-haves’, or ‘absolute-wish list’ items. This will help you stay focused on what’s most important.

3. Research and Choose a Neighborhood Where You Want to Live

Every neighborhood has unique charm. Before you commit to a home based solely on the house itself, take a test-drive of the area. Make sure it meets your needs for “amenities, commute, school district, etc. and then spend a weekend exploring before you commit.”

4. Pick a House Style You Love and Stick to It

Evaluate your family’s needs and settle on a style of home that will best serve those needs. Just because you’ve narrowed your search to a zip code doesn’t mean you need to tour every listing in that vicinity. An example from the article says, “if you have several younger kids and don’t want your bedroom on a different level, steer clear of Cape Cod–style homes, which typically feature two or more bedrooms on the upper level and the master on the main.”

5. Document Your Home Visits

Once you start touring homes, the features of each individual home will start to blur together. The article suggests keeping your camera handy and making notes on the listing sheet to document what you love and don’t love about each property you visit.

Bottom Line

In a high-paced, competitive environment, any advantage you can give yourself will help you on your path to buying your dream home.

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