Buying your first home is an exciting, daunting, emotional time. Homeownership has always made more sense, and when interest rates are low, it's a wise time to buy. Over the long haul, real estate investments provide the greatest return on your money, even if it's your primary residence. Buying your first home means owning your real estate. Land ownership is the American dream. No matter what socioeconomic level you may currently find yourself at. 

That's why the rich and famous focus so much on their residences. Owning real estate is almost engrained in our psyche as humans. 

Buying your first home provides many tax benefits, and equity over time can make a huge difference in your overall wealth. Just a note, those benefits alone shouldn't necessarily be why you buy. Starting a family, succeeding in your career, pets, an inheritance, outgrowing a space, downsizing, or various other reasons will likely be a primary motivator for buying.

Clarifying your motive is essential to understanding your actual needs and wants. It helps to keep the essentials in check during the journey. One's health, rest, diet, exercise, and spiritual well-being are so essential to stay in the best possible condition you can be.

This may be the most significant investment of your life, so treat it accordingly and permit yourself to let the emotions go through you because you're likely to feel many if you're a first-time home buyer. So get pumped up because a few key points can mean the difference between a high negative stress situation, to a smooth transition with happiness through most of the journey. 

The key is preparation and expectation. Purchasing a home can be daunting. If you want the best chance of getting a home at a great price, you need to prepare in advance. Check out these five tips to prepare for buying your first home.

1. Know Your "Spend" - Buying your first home when your income is stable, and you have a high credit score can mean success vs. failure if you borrow money from a bank or private lender to purchase. The debt-to-income ratio should be less than 45% and have enough cash in the bank to cover closing costs, the down payment, moving expenses, and other expenses the purchase may create (i.e., paint, repairs, inspections, surveys, appraisals). Having a great lender is critical to your success, and knowing your numbers is the first thing on your list. 

2. Don't Rush - Create a timeline for your purchase to reduce the pressure this life change brings. If you're renting a home now and you're nearing the end of your lease, see if you can rent month-to-month until you've been able to close on your new home. Firm deadlines often have to be shifted for a variety of reasons. If the appraisal comes in late, the sellers have to stay a bit longer, or repairs to the house need to be made, most likely, your closing date will be extended. Be prepared for that possibility by planning. This often occurs when buying a home.

3. Location and Lifestyle - Important considerations might be commute time, schools, golf, beaches, churches, healthcare, nightlife, proximity to family and friends, and more. Different counties have different tax rates. HOAs can mean less maintenance, and if you're considering an HOA, factor the fees into your monthly expenses. 

4. What Are Your "Must-Haves" - Analyze neighborhoods and home types in advance. Your Realtor will help you determine what's a great buy through a Comparative Market Analysis. Upfront and be flexible. Remember, the value of your new home is determined by the most recent closed sales in the area, not active listings. A valuation expert can save you thousands at closing. Be flexible on what is a "must-have" when buying your first home. The less inventory on the market, the harder it will be to have an offer accepted. 

5. When you've chosen your Realtor and pre-approved for a loan, you're as ready as ever. Be diligent and look for good deals. Be prepared to act quickly when that deal appears. It may be gone before you know it! Buying your first home can be fun and very rewarding. Prepare ahead, and you're more likely to succeed. 

For more information about buying your first home, call Mona Leonard, Realtor, your Treasure Coast Living Blogger, at 772-530-6131 or mona@monaleonard.com.