While the real estate market continues to boom, purchasing your first house can be an extreme challenge, especially amidst the high competition among buyers. Others may either have more money or more assets to liquidate than you do. In these situations, you have to create your advantage.

Here are some tips on how you can score your first house.

1. Needs, Wants, and Everything Nice

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Before making that offer for just any home, you need to identify what you’re looking for in a house. Imagine yourself in a home buying reality TV where the hosts ask you what you want, how much your budget is, and what features you would like to have in your residence; the same goes with your true-to-life house hunting.

2. Maximize Your Financial Health

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A real estate buyer needs a housing loan. However, before providers can approve yours with reasonable interest rates, you have to secure your finances.

Take care of your credit score while you’re saving up for at least a 20% downpayment. Your loans are more likely to be approved with lower annual percentage rates when you have 750 credit rating and above. Keep your debts to a minimum and pay your obligations on time.

3. Consider Alternatives

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If you can’t make a fifth of the asking price as an initial payment, or if your credit score is too low to meet the 750 mark, there are still options available. The FHA and other mortgage companies can offer loans asking for a lower down payment, which is at least 3%. Some can even provide a 1% down payment scheme for qualified borrowers.

4. Pre-approval

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Mortgage loan providers can credit scores and verify them against your assets to see whether they’ll support your loans. There are even lenders who can almost instantly approve your application for a housing loan.

Even when you receive the approval for a housing loan amount, you may still have to remember it’s not yet permanent until it has been awarded to you. Keep your credit score up before, during, and after the loan.

Also, while you may be approved for an amount, think through whether you’ll take advantage of the full loanable sum. Figure out whether you can sustain yourself throughout the life of the loan. The last thing you want to happen is becoming ‘house-poor,’ where you’ve spent all you can afford to buy your house and had little to nothing left to sustain your other needs.

5. The Buyer’s Agent

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The Internet may provide useful information when it comes to acquiring properties, but with the constant change in various markets, the critical data necessary for buying a home may be outdated.

While there is an app for almost anything imaginable, real estate buyers need human real estate agents, particularly the first timers. People require assistance in getting listings, deals, and all things to know about current market conditions, pricing and fees, financing, and housing rules.

These are just four rules to follow when buying a home. Feel free to read about getting that dream home. But most importantly, work hard for it and keep your debts to a minimum.