Trouble Saying Yes? Here’s How to Commit to Homeownership.

You’ve saved for a down payment. You’ve pored over the local listings for months. Touring open houses has become part of your weekend ritual. But months, perhaps years, have passed and you are still in your rental.

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For many first-time homebuyers, pulling the trigger on a purchase can be a frightening experience. Will you be happy there? Will you like your neighbors? Will you be tied down—house rich and cash poor? What if you lose your job? Will you hate your commute? In short, your fears stem from the unknown.

Meanwhile, your current home is familiar. You’ve come to accept its shortcomings—the loud neighbors, the leaky ceiling, the scant street parking. It has few surprises. Your family, friends and co-workers took the leap and are reaping the benefits. Give these steps a try and you could be one of them:

Firm Up Your Finances

Anticipate the new costs that you will incur, such as taxes, homeowners insurance, utility bills and commuting. This will help determine the maximum price you can spend on a house. If your daily budget will change with a new home, consider a trial run living on that budget for a few weeks, to make sure you can. Enlisting the help of a financial expert will give you an objective view of your finances. Remember, the first year is the most difficult. After that you will begin receiving tax benefits.

Partner With an Agent

Even though the Internet gives you access to endless amounts of market information, don’t be tempted to go it alone. Instead, interview several real estate agents and find one you like who listens to you. He or she can line up properties to view, answer many of your questions and make connections for you in your new community. Agents often have the inside track on new properties just coming on the market.

Accept Some Risk

Realize that there is uncertainty in everything, but no matter what happens, you will deal with it. Ask family and friends about their experiences and learn from them. Be sure to keep some cash reserves in the bank as a safety net. And remember, you have homeowner’s insurance for a reason.

Fine Tune Your ‘Must-Haves’

Is there a community that you absolutely must live in? Are you adamant about a garage, a fireplace or a finished basement? Make your list of what’s vital. You may find that you are willing to sacrifice one feature if the rest are fabulous. If you are not crazy about the house, don’t bid. It’s important that you love it at the outset.

Be Ready to Bid

Regardless of the market, great houses do not stay available for long. One open house can lead to three offers. If you love it, be ready to make your best offer. If you are wavering, ask yourself, “How will I feel if I don’t get this house?” You might just get it, and if not, at least you will know you tried.

Reap the Reward

Owning a home can be one of the most exciting and satisfying things you will do in your life. It’s an investment that can pay you personal dividends as well as financial benefits.

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