Once you have decided it's time to buy a home, there are some things to consider. The first thing to think about is how much you can afford. By talking to a lender, you can get an idea of what you can qualify for. You also want to think about how much you are comfortable spending every month.
Decide how much you can afford for a down payment. FHA allows you to put 3.5% down, VA is zero down. Conventional loans are a minimum of 3-5% depending on your situation. Your lender can give you some ideas of what will work best for you. Make sure you leave yourself some money for any emergencies after closing on your new home.
Decide where you want to live. Think about where you work, maybe what schools you want your kids to go to. Where do you spend a lot of time? Once you have decided on an area, then it may be easier to find a home that you like. Depending on your situation, you may have to expand your ideal location. Sometimes you need to go further out to find less expensive homes, but you may spend more in gas money.
What do you want in a home? Think about what you need and what you want. Somethings may be a "need" for one person but a "want" for another. Do you need a town home or do you want a single family home? Do you need a garage – or maybe you need a 3 car garage- consider your lifestyle and make a list of things that you want and need in your new home. Those items may change as you look at homes, but it gives you a starting point.
How's your credit? Do you need to take time to fix your credit report before you buy a home? Are there any debts you may need to take care of? If you aren't sure about your credit, talk to your lender and find out if you need to take care of anything before you start the house hunting process.
Where do you start? The first thing to do is to talk to a lender or a realtor. You want to have an idea of what you can qualify for and your lender will give you that information. You also want to know what is available in the area you are looking for and your realtor will give you that information. Make sure you are comfortable with both people. Talk to your friends and get referrals for both agents and lenders. Then decide who you want to work with. You will be relying on both the realtor and lender to give you good information and help you in your home search. Don't be afraid to talk to more than one person to make sure you are working with the best person for you.