So you’ve decided you’re ready to buy a home. Congratulations. Now the journey begins in turning your goal into reality.

Once you’ve determined it’s time to become a homeowner, there are some crucial steps you must take before beginning your home search in earnest. recently provided a clear picture of these steps and it’s worth passing along here.

First, find out how much house you can afford. There are a few ways you can answer this question. The most important is this: Determine how much a total monthly payment you can afford, and then see how that calculates to the price of a home you can afford. One of the easiest ways to determine this is through a home affordability calculator. You can find one here. It uses your down payment, income and debts to help guide you to the proper price range.

Second, you will want to check your credit. Credit scores play a key role in determining what kind of loan you can get. Typically, you will need a score of 620 or better and have no accounts “under dispute.” If you do have anything under dispute, you will need to get that cleared up before seeking a home loan.

To help sort out your credit status, you will want to get your free annual credit report at least a few months in advance of your home home search.

Next, you will want to learn about the different mortgage options. Each type of mortgage comes with its own sets of benefits and potential challenges. Investigating these different options and finding the one that suits you best will go a long way towards a successful purchase.

After finding the right mortgage option, you will want to get pre-approved for a loan. Being pre-approved has a number of benefits, including the fact it shows seller and agents that you are a serious buyer. When pre-approved a loan officer will provide confirmation to your credit and loan information. This allows a buyer to know exactly what size mortgage they can get.

Finally, you will want to try and minimize any changes in your life. Or, as put it, don’t do anything crazy. In other words, when in the process of buying a home it is not the time to take on any other financial commitments, change jobs, close credit card accounts, etc.

These steps are critical in achieving your dream of owning a home. Follow them and you will be well on your way.

When you get pre-approved, your loan officer will confirm your credit and loan information, so you’ll confidently know what size mortgage you can get. “It’s an important indicator to sellers and real estate agents that you’re a serious buyer,” Birk says, adding that “some listing agents won’t even accept an offer on a home without a copy of your pre-approval letter.”