Buying a home is exciting and scary all at the same time! I'm encouraged that you are seeking advice before you even start the process.
First, determine the amount of payment you can afford. Better yet, determine the amount of payment you want to pay! You will quickly find out the lenders will sometimes qualify you for more money than you want to spend (as long as your credit and income qualifies you). Since you will most likely prefer to put food in the house you buy, I would avoid this..
Next, get pre-qualified. Find a mortgage broker. This person will be able to "shop" lenders and rates for you, as apposed to going to a bank where they are only looking at their rates and terms. Let then know what payment you want. They can calculate (including taxes and insurance estimates) the loan amount.
Once you know that loan amount you qualify and want, contact a real estate agent. Make sure they are a buyers agent. They will be glad that you have a pre-qual letter, just make sure they understand you are not willing to go over that dollar amount. Many times (but not always) they will show you houses outside your dollar amount. You do not want to see these houses. There is always a house out there that is nicer than the one you can afford, regardless of the dollar amount.
Once you find the home of your dreams, go back to mortgage broker and they will take it from there.
Best of luck to you as you navigate this new adventure!
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