So, you’ve decided to give up the renter’s life and take the plunge into home ownership. You’ve already weighed the pros and cons of each style of living and decided it’s time to start house hunting — an exciting endeavor indeed.

Here are a few first-time home buyer suggestions to get started on becoming the king of your castle:

Buy a Home You Can Afford

It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get sucked into the allure of a house that’s just out of your price range. Maybe the house is just a little bigger or a little more eye-catching, but don’t give into the temptation. Know your spending limit and stick to it.

There are a few considerations to look at when determining your affordability:

  • Total household income per month, including your salary or any personal investments
  • Total debt per month, including car loans, student debts, utilities, groceries, insurance
  • Down payment amount, which is typically 20 percent of the purchase price, plus closing costs.

Do you have that money in savings already or investments to draw from? You don’t want to completely drain your bank account just on a down payment. One rule of thumb is to have at least three month’s worth of house payments, plus monthly expenses to give you a cushion in case you need to dip into reserves.

If you’re a first-time home buyer you may qualify for a Federal Housing Association loan, which typically requires less down than other types of mortgages with less than stellar credit scores required.

No one knows you’re budget better than you (well, at least you should know what monies you’re working with). So, don’t let someone sweet talk you into buying something out of your price range. You may want to live in the ultra hip downtown area but your budget pushes you out into the suburbs because you can get the most bang for your buck.

Here are some more tips from INSCMagazine about securing home loans.

Don’t Give in to the Stunning Staging

All potential homeowners have been there. By that, I mean getting sucked into that perfectly staged home, thinking that’s what it’s going to look like if you buy it — only to have all the sexiness stripped away the second after you sign off on closing. What a downer.

Staging is a tactic that sellers and agents use to entice potential buyers into making an offer on the house as fast as possible and for more money. Professional stagers get paid to make the house being sold look more desirable.

“Home staging is about illusions,” according to an article on The Balance. “It’s how David Copperfield would sell a house. It’s magical. It’s beyond decorating and cleaning. It’s about perfecting the art of creating moods. Staging makes your house look bigger, brighter, cleaner, warmer, move loving, and best of all, it makes home buyers want to buy it. Instantly!”

Plus, while some of the staging may look good, you still have to determine if that’s really your taste in style for the long run. Here are some tips about identifying your home style.

According to the pros at Zolo, there are a few tricks in addition to staging that homebuyers should be aware of. Be sure to be on the lookout for roof issues and oddly placed wall hangings, for example. Is the wall hanging being used to hide cracks or stains? Does the roof have a few new-looking tiles? You might ask why that’s the case because there might be major problems with the roof.

Don’t Assume You Can Take on a Fixer Upper

Another romantic notion involves taking a downtrodden home and giving her a facelift with your own two hands.

You may be able to get a good deal on a fixer upper, but you may also find yourself in over your head if it’s revealed that the home needs substantial renovations.

“Cosmetic updates are one thing, but anything that requires a permit means all kinds of additional expenses and headaches,” according to Trulia. “Leave full renovations to people with experience and stick to properties that are either move-in ready or just need cosmetic work.”

You may have the motivation and some repair knowledge, but you also need to consider the cost of tools needed to do the job. What may seem like a simple flooring repair project takes certain tools such as a circular saw, miter saw, crowbar, rubber mallet, trowels, adhesive and an oscillating multi-tool. Do you have that stuff?

It’s perfectly reasonable to incorporate cosmetic improvements into structural repair, according to This Old House. If you are replacing the roof, you might want to add a skylight while you’re at it. It could improve the value of your home.

Buying your first home can be fun and doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Just stick to a few basics, including working within your budget, watching for common selling tactics that might might you down the road and not getting in over your head with renovations or repairs.

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