So, you’ve done your financial homework. You’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage loan. And you’ve found a great real estate agent to help you through the process. What next? It’s time to start house hunting. For many first-time home buyers, this can be the most exciting part of the process. Here are some tips to help you do it right.

1. First and foremost, stay within your budget. Your agent may show you some houses that are above or below your price range, to help you “frame” the right kind of property in your mind. But you need to remember that you’re only pre-approved for a certain amount. And you should never exceed the home buying budget you set for yourself back in step #8.

2. You’ll be more likely to find the best house for you if you combine multiple house-hunting techniques. Your agent will help you find properties that meet your needs, but don’t just rely on them. Use the Internet to research homes in your area. Websites like have plenty of listings with pictures, pricing and other details. Read the weekend edition of your local newspaper. Drive through the neighborhoods you like with an eye out for the “For Sale” signs.

3. Get a general idea of what homes are selling for in your preferred area. This will help you evaluate the asking price of any given property. Your agent will help you with this. But again, you shouldn’t rely too heavily on your agent. Educate yourself about local sales.

4. There is a big difference between the listing or “asking” price and the actual sale price. Many sellers price their homes above their actual market value. If you agree to pay too much for a house, it probably won’t meet the mortgage lender’s appraisal (described below). Measure the asking price against recent sales in the area. Based on that data, is the asking price reasonable, slightly elevated, or just plain ridiculous?

5. Bring a digital camera and a notepad with you on your house hunting trips. Taking notes and pictures of each home will help you recall the details later on. It also forces you to pay attention to the details, which is something that first-time buyers often overlook.