Getting ready to buy a house? If so, tip number one: before you start looking up homes, invest in some logistical groundwork.

See, big decisions like buying a home are all about doing your research and getting the details right. Many first-time buyers think they know what to expect from this process, but still, end up getting overwhelmed.

Want to get started on the right foot? Check out this list of five essential home-buying tips for aspiring homeowners!

1. Start Saving Early

Preparing your finances is the best thing you can do before buying a home. A home is an investment, but a home loan is an investment for your bank. The more financially stable you are, the easier it’ll be to get a loan.

One thing you should focus on is saving for your down payment. Most lenders offer options as low as 3%, but even that can be hard to save. Decide on your goal early, then create an automatic savings plan to get started.

2. Strengthen Your Credit

Beyond determining if you qualify for a mortgage, your credit score affects the interest rate lenders will offer. Having a higher score will get you a lower rate, so it’s worth strengthening your credit as much as you can.

There are several ways you can do this, from paying bills on time to keeping your credit cards open. Another thing you should do is get a free report from all three credit bureaus and dispute any errors you find.

3. Choose the Right House

This one seems obvious, but you need to pick the right type of home for your lifestyle. Are you looking for a starter home or a forever home? Have you considered paying less for a fixer-upper and investing that money in repairs?

One thing that can help you choose between different homes for sale is to make a list of your must-haves. Keep in mind that there are many things you can change within a home, but some—like the location—are there to stay.

4. Research Mortgage Options

There are many types of mortgages out there, so it’s important to do your research. Some conventional loans targeted at first-time buyers come with lower interest rates. Others, such as VA loans, require no down payment.

If interest rates are increasing, you may go with adjustable-rate mortgages. ARM rates tend to be lower than fixed rates, but that may change over time. Consider hiring a mortgage broker to find the best deal for you.

5. Pay for Inspections

When it comes to how to buy a house, many buyers neglect inspections. That’s a mistake, as a home inspection is the best way to reveal potential issues with the home and make an informed buying decision.

Attending an inspection can also be helpful for the home buyer. As you follow the inspectors around, you’ll get a better understanding of the house. If you can’t attend, review the inspection reports carefully.

Keep These Home-Buying Tips in Mind

Buying a home takes a long time—but it will take even longer if you’re not sure what you’re doing. By following these home-buying tips, you can ensure you’ve covered your bases before signing on the dotted line.

Want to know what happens after you buy your dream house? Check out the Lifestyle section for our list of essential moving tips!