A home isn’t something you can buy on a whim. You have to get your affairs in order first and mentally prepare yourself for everything that goes along with buying a home. According to Bankrate, there are 6 things you should be doing to prepare yourself to buy a home.

1. Improve your credit score

It is true that the higher your credit score, the lower your monthly mortgage payments will be. Vicki Bott, a former official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said, “While there are many qualified borrowers in the 580 range, the market today is probably (looking for) 640 to 660, at a minimum.” 

2. Determine what you can afford

There are rules of thumb that will help you figure out what price you can pay for a home. If you are using FHA financing, your home payment cannot be higher than 31% of your monthly income. Sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Susan Tiffany, a retired director of personal finance publications for adults for the Credit Union National Association, says that for conventional loans, you should not exceed 28% of your monthly income. Calculate what the mortgage payment would be for the price range of homes you're interested in. Also determine how much you’ll be paying for other expenses such as taxes and utilities. Then start saving the difference between that and how much you’re paying now. It’ll help you start to save for those payments and if it becomes too difficult, you’ll be able to rethink the amount you want to pay for your new home.

3. Save your money for your down payment and closing costs

Usually a down payment on a home is somewhere between 3% and 20% of the home’s price. Calculate how much this will be for the price range you’re looking in and begin saving. Don’t forget that you will need to pay closing costs. This cost depends on where you live, but for a $200,000 mortgage, closing costs are usually $2,300 to $4,000. You can also negotiate to have the seller pay a portion of the closing costs. 

4. Build your savings account

This is something you should be doing even when you aren’t planning to buy a home.  A lender wants to see that you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. Having 3-5 months’ worth of mortgage payments set aside makes you a much more attractive loan candidate. That money can also be used for any surprise repairs you might need to do when you do own a home. On average, you’ll spend 2.5% to 3% of your home’s value annually on upkeep and repairs so set aside money each month.

5. Get pre approved for a mortgage

Get your finances in order before you even begin looking at homes. The process for getting pre-approval for a mortgage is much more detailed than it was in past years. You need to know how much you can afford.

6. Buy a home you love

Make sure you are looking at homes that will still make you happy a few years down the road. A lot of time, effort, and money goes into buying a home so planning to only stay in the home for a short period of time could end up being very expensive.