The most common thing we hear from first-time home buyers is "Where do I even start?" We've broken the whole process down to seven easy steps to take you from "Is this the right decision?" to "Thanks for coming to my housewarming party" without all the stress. 

1. Decide if it's the right time to buy a house

When it seems like everyone you know is a home owner, you're probably going to start wondering if you're missing out on something. But before you dive right in you need to stop and ask yourself "Is this really the right time for me to be buying a house?" 

The thing is, there's no magic age or target bank account balance that says it's absolutely time to buy a home. It's a big decision and a very personal one. So, take the time to figure out if owning a home fits into your long-term plan and your current lifestyle. 

Then there's the investment angle. Sure, a home is a place to live, but a house is also a financial investment. Before you dive in, you need to evaluate the market, both nationally and locally, and figure out if buying right now makes sense for you financially. 

First-time homebuying tipHere's what to consider when you can't get buying a home off your mind.

2. Get your finances in order

You've given it some thought and you're ready to become a homeowner! Until now you probably didn't have to give much thought to your bigger financial picture. You could afford your rent, your debt payments, and you had money left over to go out and have fun. But now that you're looking to buy a house, you need to review every aspect of your financial life, from your credit, to your savings, to your debts. 

Your finances will play a major role in what type of loan you qualify for, how much you're able to borrow, and what mortgage interest rate your lender will offer you. 

Your deep dive into your financial health shouldn't end when you buy your home either. Stay on top of your finances so you can make improvements, know when to refinance, and have an emergency fund for those unexpected repairs. 

First-time homebuying tip: Here's our guide on getting your finances in order so you can afford your dream home. 

3. Find the right loan for your house

Searching for mortgage loans isn't particularly exciting for most people. It seems easier to just automatically go with the standard 30-year, fixed rate mortgage. But taking the time to figure out your options is incredibly important--especially for a first-time buyer. There can be a lot of jargon and a lot of unknowns, but finding the right loan for your financial situation is incredibly important. 

Be sure you do your research to see what mortgages options are available to you. And don't be afraid to ask your lender for all the options available to you based--not just the one they think is best. 

First-time homebuying tip: Ready. Set. Research. Here's how to get started finding the right loan

4. Find a Realtor

Finding a Realtor can be tricky since you don't need one very often and your relationship with them doesn't last long term. But picking the right one can make or break your home buying experience.

Think of your Realtor or real estate agent as your tour guide to finding a home. There's no rule that says you need one, but the right person can answer all your questions, show you the hidden areas of town, and help leave you feeling really happy with the whole process. That's why it's important to choose someone who's familiar with your area and with the type of house or apartment you're interested in. 

First-time homebuying tip: Find out everything you need to know about finding the right Realtor

5. Use our house hunting tips for first-time buyers to find the right house

Unless you build it yourself, you're probably never going to find the absolute perfect house. The good news is your real estate agent or Realtor will be able to help you translate everything you tell her about your life, goals, wants, and needs into a list of homes that you could be very happy in. She'll help you figure out the best location for you, how you can maximize your budget, and even introduce you to home styles that you might have never considered before. 

Before you say "no" to a home, keep in mind a lot of things you might not like about a house are purely cosmetic. Yes, it will take some time and money to repaint the red walls or refinish the kitchen cabinets, but it can be done fairly easily. In fact, it's something you can probably do yourself with just a few YouTube tutorials! 

First-time homebuying tip: Don't overlook a diamond in the rough. Use our house hunting tips for first-time buyers to find the right home. 

6. Seal the deal

Once you find a house you want to buy, you'll find yourself in the offer and negotiation phase. And, boy, can it be stressful. You're going to be worried about whether your offer is good enough to get the home, if the home inspection will come back clean, and how you'll plan on actually moving into the house.

By now you (hopefully) have a lot of trust in your Realtor. Part of their job is to make sure you're putting in a good offer and you're being smart about any contingency clauses and inspections on the home. Do your own research, but make sure you lean on them for guidance also. Between the two of you, you should be able to get the home you want for a price you can deal with. 

First-time homebuying tip: Learn how to seal the deal on your first home

7. Care for your new home 

We all know that buying a house doesn't make it a home. Once you moved in you're going to need to do things like paint, decorate, and care for your house if you want it to feel like your home. And you'll need to do it all on that new budget you made that let you afford this great new home. 

Once you're settled, you also need to be thinking about the ongoing maintenance that your home needs. That can be as minor as cleaning the toilets in the guest bathroom (even if you didn't have any guests) to something more involved, like making sure your AC system gets serviced once a year. Be sure to get on a schedule as soon as you move in so you those small tasks don't get ahead of you! 

First-time homebuying tip: Here's what you need to know about caring for your new home