By Adriana Cabrera

The prospect of buying a home can be daunting, especially for first-time homebuyers who may be saddled with student loans, car payments and credit card debt.

But with planning – and some discipline – potential homeowners can make their dream of home ownership a reality. Here are some tips to help you through the process.

Create a budget

Begin by gaining an understanding of your income and expenses. On an Excel spreadsheet or a free budgeting app, enter your monthly income and all expenses, including bills and loan payments, and estimated expenses for groceries, entertainment, pets, etc. Review credit cards and other receipts to gain an accurate picture of what you are spending each month. Also include a miscellaneous category for unforeseen expenses or those you may have overlooked.

Save, save, save

Put aside a set amount each month through automatic transfers into a savings account or a dedicated home savings account – and stick to the plan.

Get preapproved for a mortgage

Talk with a loan officer at a bank, or contact a mortgage broker. While a mortgage broker charges a fee, this professional may be able to provide you with a wider variety of choices. The lender will check your credit rating and calculate your debt-to-income ratio to determine whether you qualify for a loan — and if not, what you need to do to get there. If you are qualified, you will be preapproved so that when you make an offer on a home, the seller has the assurance that you have the means to make the purchase.

Consolidate debt

Many first-time homebuyers are struggling with credit card and other debt. Your lender can suggest ways to make the debt more manageable, such as consolidating it. In some cases, a credit counselor may be able to help get debt under control.

Ask about FHA loans and other programs

Both the federal government and some states have programs to help qualifying first-time homebuyers. These programs can decrease the required down payment from the usual 20 percent to as low as 3.5 percent for those who meet income and/or geographical requirements. However, most of these programs require the purchase of private mortgage insurance, which will add to your monthly mortgage payment.

By taking the proper steps and considering all of your options, you’ll be well on your way to turning your dream of homeownership into reality.

Adriana Cabrera is an Audit Senior at Wiss & Company, LLP. If you would like to speak with Adriana, you may reach her at 973.994.9400 or at


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