One of the best New Year’s resolutions I ever made was to finally become a homeowner. Once I’d made myself that promise, I had a lot to learn (including a new degree of discipline) — and it wasn’t as hard as I’d feared! Here’s some simple advice I learned when planning to buy my first home.

1. Know your needs. This step can be really fun, and will evolve naturally into your homefinding journey. Sit down and really outline what you expect in a house. Consider how much space you need now - how many rooms, how much storage, how large a yard - and how much space you’ll need in the coming few years, if you expect life changes like a child or new home business. Map out distances and drive times to your workplace(s), family, shopping, and so on. Be clear on whether you prefer a pedestrian-friendly urban area, a quiet suburb, or something more remote. Like me, you might even have a favorite neighborhood in mind (North Park, in case you hadn’t guessed!).

2. Check your credit. Even if you’re not trying to move immediately, find out where you stand and plan how you can improve your purchasing power. Check and understand your credit score; if it’s not that great, find out how to improve your credit (tip: it’s not that hard, and it’s really rewarding).

3. Plan for your down payment. Boost your saving strategy. A little corner-cutting now can save you big money in interest later! Explore additional options for your down payment — say, tap your 401K, and don’t be too proud to consider a loan from your loved ones.

4. Get preapproved. Before you start looking at actual properties, you’ll want this important information. Don’t be intimidated; most homebuyers are pleasantly surprised by the credit line they qualify for. It’s also during this stage that you can find out about programs to help first-time homebuyers, which can substantially boost the chances of scoring your dream home.

5. Start looking at homes. If you enjoyed step 1, you’re gonna love this! Talk with your REALTOR® about everything you learned in steps 1–4, and they’ll start suggesting homes that match your wants and needs, show you properties that tickle your fancy, and may even be able to open up great homes for sale that haven’t hit the open market.

Pro tip: You don’t have to wait until step 5 to find a REALTOR®. In fact, a good agent can help you with every step of your homebuying journey — answering your questions, asking questions you didn’t know you needed to ask, and getting to know you so your home search has the best chance of success.

Does the new year hold your first set of keys? Contact me and I’ll help you get started with a no-obligation appointment.

Happy New Year! May it bring you health and joy.