So, you’re ready to move out of your rented apartment and into your first home.

Great, but how do you go about it and what are the steps a new homebuyer needs to take? Well, understanding how to find and finance the right home for you can take time and effort.

However, these steps might help make the home buying process a little easier and hopefully, enjoyable for your first time around.

Tip 1: Begin Researching Early

Begin by reading Web sites, newspapers, and magazines that have real estate listings. Check out homes you like and how long they have been on the market, and/or if the prices have gone up or down. Overall, this might give you an idea of what the market is like out there.

Tip 2: Ask Yourself How Much House You Can Afford

Lenders typically recommend potential buyers look for homes that cost no more than three to five times their annual household income. Bear in mind that is if the homebuyer plans to make a 20 percent down payment and has a moderate amount of other debt. However, do make this determination based on your own financial situation.

Tip 3: Get Prequalified and Preapproved for Credit for Your Mortgage

Before you begin looking, you’ll need to know how much you can really spend. The best way to determine this is to get prequalified for a mortgage. To get prequalified, you will have to provide some financial information to your mortgage banker such as income and the amount of savings and investments you have. Your lender will review it and tell you how much they can lend you. This will be helpful since it will tell you the price range you should be looking.

Tip 4: Hire the Right Realtor

A Realtor can be an important person when you’re in the market to buy or sell a home. They can provide you with helpful information on homes and neighborhoods not usually available to the public. They should have knowledge of the home buying process, negotiating skills, and know those areas you are interested.  Keep in mind, an agent won’t cost anything upfront, as they’re compensated from the commission paid by the seller of the house.

Tip 5: Shop Around, Make an Offer

Many house hunters find the best part of the process is touring the homes. Once you begin, make sure you stay within price range. Keep a list of the homes you like, the details of what you liked, what you didn’t etc.

Take as much time as you need to find the right home. Then work with your real estate agent to negotiate a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes in the same neighborhood. Once you and the seller have reached an agreement on a price, the house goes into escrow, which is the period of time it takes to complete all of the remaining steps in the home buying process.

Tip 6: Order a Home Inspection

Usually, purchase offers are contingent on a home inspection of the property to check for signs of structural damage or things that may need fixing. Your real estate agent should be able to arrange to have this inspection conducted within a few days of your offer being accepted by the seller. This contingency protects you by giving you a chance to renegotiate your offer or withdraw it without penalty if the inspection shows significant material damage.

Both buyer and the seller will receive a report on the home inspector’s findings. You can then decide if you want to ask the seller to fix anything on the property before closing the sale. Before the sale closes, you will have a walk-through of the house, which gives you the opportunity to confirm that any agreed-upon repairs have been made.

Tip 7: Work with a Mortgage Banker for a Loan

Lenders have a wide range of competitively priced loan programs, and no doubt you will have questions when you are buying a home. Choose an experienced, responsive mortgage banker to help you with the process.

Tip 8: Time for Home Appraisal

Lenders should arrange for an appraiser to provide an independent estimate of the value of the house you are buying. The appraiser is a member of a third party company and is not directly associated with the lender. The appraisal informs all parties involved that you are paying a fair price for the home.

Tip 9: Paperwork, Paperwork

Again, the lender should arrange for a title company to handle all of the paperwork and make sure that the seller is the rightful owner of the house you are buying. There is much paperwork involved, so be prepared and stay organized.

Tip 10: Finally, Close the Sale

At closing, you will sign all of the paperwork required to complete the home purchase, including your loan documents. It typically takes a time for your loan to be funded after the paperwork is returned to the lender. Once the check is delivered to the seller, you are finally ready to move into your new home and hang the home-sweet-home sign!