When it’s time to begin house hunting, it can be hard to know where to start. There’s a lot to consider, from how to find a home to how to get your finances in order. 

Here are 8 important things you should do if you’re starting your home search:

1. Research before you look. 

Take the time to research homes online to see what’s out there. Make a list of your “must have” features, and narrow down what neighborhoods you prefer and how much you can spend each month on housing. 

2. Be realistic. 

It’s good to set expectations and know what you want, but you also don’t want to be unrealistic with your expectations. There’s no such thing as a perfect home (even if you’ve found your dream home!), and you might have to compromise. Use your list of priorities as a way to guide you through your search. 

It's OK to be picky, but don't be unrealistic with your expectations. There's no such thing as a perfect home. You may have to compromise. Use your list of priorities as a guide to evaluate each property. 

3. Get your finances in order.

Review your credit report and assess whether or not you have money to cover your down payment and closing costs. Now is also a good time to talk to a lender and get pre-qualified for a mortgage. This will save you heartache later—you don’t want to fall in love with a house you can’t afford! 

be sure you have enough money to cover your down payment and closing costs. Then, talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage. This will save you the heartache later. Avoid falling in love with a house you can't afford.

4. Don't ask too many people for opinions.

Everyone has their own opinion, and hearing ALL of them might drive you crazy! If you need an opinion, choose one or two people you trust. However, when identifying "the one," you’ll ultimately need to make the final decision on your own.  

5. Decide your moving timeline. 

When does your current lease end? Do you have to sell your home? There are many factors that go into actually moving, and these factors will help to determine that. 

6. Think long term. 

Think about what your life may look like in one year, five years, ten years—what type of home do you want to buy now? Are you looking for a smaller starter home, or are you moving up? These things may dictate what type of home you'll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that will best suit you

7. Insist on a home inspection.

Completing an inspection will allow you to evaluate the home for any possible defects. You also will have an opportunity to tests that all systems are in working order. If possible, get a warranty from the seller to cover any defects for one year. 

8. Get help from a REALTOR®.

Hire a real estate professional who specializes in buyer representation. Unlike a listing agent, whose first duty is to the seller, a buyer's representative is working only for you. Buyer's reps are usually paid out of the seller's commission payment, which means you are not responsible for paying them directly.