Discovering the home that’s just right for you and your family can be difficult. In a perfect world we could snap our finger and *poof* our dream home would appear: in perfect standing, signed for, with the mortgage all sorted out. Sadly, reality is not that simple. However, considering that there are plenty of home-buying veterans out in the world these days, borrowing some tips and tricks from the experts can make the whole “buying your first home” process significantly easier.

Let’s get started:

Home Buying for Beginners

Deciding to make the move from renter to first-time homeowner is a huge, thrilling milestone. While many of us look forward to the day when we can finally paint the walls how we like, enjoy non-ruined carpet, and have pets with no additional costs, things can get a bit complicated leading up to buying your first home — particularly how differently money is handled in regards to renting versus owning.

According to some home-buying experts at Zing Blog, there are some definite pros to owning your own house. For one, owning a home gives you the opportunity to build important long-term wealth. They explain that, “when you make a monthly mortgage payment, it’s not all going to a lender’s pockets … you’re paying for your house a little bit at a time.” They go on to further explain, “The ownership you gain every month is called equity. While the amount of equity you have in your house will ebb and flow with the housing market, even modest gains will add up over time.” Moreover, as a homeowner you are given tax deductibles not offered to renters.

However, it is worth noting that the trade off with owning a home is that you have to have a good chunk of money saved up for your down payment. You’ll also have to start paying property tax, and you will ultimately have less flexibility if you suddenly decide to move. It can also get expensive if you find that you need to replace the carpet, garbage disposal, or remodel the kitchen. With that being said though, if it’s your dream house and you’re ready, the pros often outweigh the cons.

Being Vigilant (Now More Than Ever)

Another important factor to keep in mind when on the hunt for your first home is your credit. We all know how important credit is for milestone purchases, whether it’s a house, a car, loan approval, or insurance. The problem with credit is that even if you’ve worked hard to keep it in tip-top shape, a sudden drop can likely mean your information has ended up on fraudulent sites, and you’ll have to put in a few extra steps to keep your personal information safe. Of course, a sudden drop on your credit score can seriously hurt your chances of getting approved for your dream home, despite your best efforts.

With all of that being said, leading up to looking for your first home, it’s important to start and maintain your identity security. Some helpful tips you should begin utilizing are:

  • Keeping your computer, browser, and software updated to ensure all security walls are set to run on the most up-to-date technology (I know it’s a hassle, but it’s worth it).
  • Never trust unknown, wireless sources. Always access the internet over a secured wireless network and only download applications from trusted sites.
  • Using different passwords for every website, change them regularly, and avoid the obvious choices like “password” and your birthday.
  • Always verify the authenticity of requests online and over the phone, such as your date of birth, credit card information, and other important personal details. If you are ever unsure, deny access.
  • Closely monitor your online accounts. Most online banking offers free online access, so it’s worth logging in often (on a secure network!) to make sure there are no signs of suspicious activity.
  • Check your credit score to help spot potential issues and resolve fraudulent activity sooner rather than later.

If you catch a sudden change in your credit score before house hunting, you can get it resolved much faster and with less stress. It’s easy to check these days, so it’s important to have look if you haven’t in a while. Furthermore, be cautious about phishing scams and more during this time. Don’t let identity theft — or anything else — be the downfall of owning your dream home. Furthermore, practicing these kinds of security habits can benefit you beyond house hunting, so they are certainly worth implementing into your life.

(Future) Parenthood and Your Dream Home

Oftentimes, people looking to buy a home tend to have their kids in mind. Whether you have children now or are planning to start a family after finally purchasing your dream house, the cost of children should definitely be part of your planning. The cost of raising a child isn’t insignificant; you probably know this if you’re already a parent, but new parents might find themselves in a pickle without the right budget and expectations.

When considering what you can and cannot afford, it’s essential to keep in mind how your spending costs will fluctuate as your family grows. It’s estimated that raising a child to 17 years of age in the United States (sorry, college costs not included) is over 200,000 dollars. That kind of number is startling all on its own, but it also means that the monthly mortgage payments you can afford now, might not be the kind you can afford after kids. With all of that in mind, you shouldn’t be scared to start a family by any means, but looking at the big picture can help save you a lot of stress and money troubles down the road.

Buying your first home is equal parts terrifying and exciting. There are so many things to look forward to as a homeowner. However, it’s going to require plenty of planning, budgeting, and hard work. With enough tips and tricks up your sleeve, you’ll be moving into your dream house before you know it. Good luck!