Buying a home is a big deal. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out in life or have been down this road before, preparing in advance for your home purchase is crucial to ensuring a smooth transaction.

One of the most important things to do before making an offer on a home is to prepare your finances. Here are three steps you can take to help make sure your financial affairs are in order.

1. Understand your budget

Most people have a vague sense of their income and expenses. However, if you enter into the real estate market with anything less than a strong knowledge of what exactly your income and expenses are, you could quickly find yourself saddled with mortgage payments you can’t afford. If you have a more precise idea of your costs, it’s easy to define a budget and stick to it.

2. Seek prequalified approval

Assuming you know how much you’ll be able to afford on a monthly mortgage payment is playing with financial fire. It’s also dangerous to assume you’ll be qualified to obtain a mortgage in a certain amount. A prequalification from one or more lenders will provide you with a more concrete idea of what your price range should resemble. Without a prequalification, you may be wasting valuable time looking at homes that are outside of your budget.

3. Consider all of your costs

The purchase price of a property is not your only expense. You will need to budget for taxes, closing costs, down payments, and anticipated maintenance costs. Work these costs into your budget. You may have to adjust your price range accordingly.

Preparing now can help you avoid stress in the future

A home is a significant purchase, perhaps the biggest investment you will ever make. Preparing for your home buying well in advance can help you save money and avoid the stress that comes with financial mistakes. A skilled legal professional can help guide you through this process one step at a time.