Chances are you’ve considered buying a home — maybe you even attended a couple of open houses and ran the numbers. But once you get serious, there are a few points you need to consider before signing a contract and heading to your closing. Buying a home takes more time and research than, say, buying a tablet or smartphone. Before diving in, it’s important to understand the process. Every home buyer’s journey happens on a slightly different timeline, but here are some steps every prospective buyer should take.

3-Step Plan for Finding and Buying Your Next Home - RealEstate WordPress Theme

1. Search and discover

The home-buying process often occurs organically and may begin a year or more before the actual purchase. You’ll get started by viewing home listings online to discover what types of homes you can get in different price ranges.

Look at homes in your favorite neighborhoods, and review statistics and reports on home values. Use this time to dream about some of your favorite home features, and start to put together your list of priorities. Most buyers will find a property during this phase that prompts them to move to the next stage.

2. Do the math and your required homework

Most would-be home buyers need a mortgage to purchase a home. While the process has gotten easier as we’ve moved farther away from the financial and lending crisis, it can still be challenging if you’re not prepared. You need to know what you can afford, the types of loans available and how what you can afford will affect your home search. Pull your credit report, and understand your financial situation. Then you can get pre-approved.

Many buyers need to repair their credit score, save more money or allow cash to the season for some time before buying. Use the next few months to address any financial issues.

3. Dive in and have fun

At some point along the way, you should connect with a local real estate agent. These relationships form early, and having that person beside you during your search should be invaluable. Go to open houses, make appointments and see as many homes as possible. Before making an offer, you’ll need to know the market inside and out. The more homes you see, the more you will know about your local real estate market, and the more confidence you will have when that dream house comes along.

And if you miss out on a deal or two, it’s okay. It’s all part of the process. Don’t feel rushed, and realize that the home search often becomes a part-time job. Have fun with it. If you find yourself in the real estate market prior to doing significant research, you may be jumping the gun. Unlike a tablet, smartphone or even a car, a home is a long-term investment — and a special one at that. It’s where your life will happen. Move too quickly and buyer’s remorse can creep in.