Buying a home can be a tornado of activity, especially in today’s real estate market. It is defined by several financial headwinds, including rising interest rates, moderate inventory and ever-increasing home prices.

As you begin to plan out your homebuying strategy, here are some reminders to take note of so you can get through the process with your head held high.

Research down payment assistance

Ideally, homebuyers should plan on a substantial down payment. Putting down at least 20% of the home’s price is a tall order, but doing so waives mortgage insurance requirements and can lead to other benefits.

No matter how close you are to 20% down, dig around for down payment assistance programs to help you absorb the costs. Federal programs, lending incentives and local municipality programs can help you finance the home of your dreams. In some cases, the financial support will not need to be repaid so long as the property remains your primary residence.

Explore loan options

Shop around and explore the various loan programs.

Depending on your profession, financial goals and assets, there is a program made just for you.

Conventional loans are the most common, but other loan programs have features that can boost your savings over time or make it easier to make monthly payments. With the help of your lending team, you can determine which program better fits your needs.

Budget maintenance cost

As a homeowner, you will be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of your home, inside and out.

Think carefully about the time and financial commitment this will entail and include it in your budget moving forward.

From lawn care, major appliance tune-ups, home weatherization and other recurring expenses, new homeowners should be well prepared to handle planned and unexpected maintenance work on their homes.

Do you want an HOA?

Homeowners associations are not uncommon, especially in new home developments.

If you buy into an HOA community, there are two major things to know: You will have added benefits, but they will come at a cost.

HOAs are typically charged with maintaining common areas, including green spaces, swimming pools and club houses, that are available to all community members and their friends and families. HOAs set general rules and guidelines that residents will follow.

Check in on the details, including the monthly costs, before deciding whether you want to live within an HOA neighborhood.

Actively monitor credit

The key to homeownership is a healthy financial standing.

Before you begin to take concrete steps toward homeownership and applying for a loan, make sure you have laid the groundwork to make it through successfully. This means actively monitoring your credit and taking actions to improve the score. The better the score, the more likely you are to be approved for a loan with favorable borrowing terms.

Credit companies can make mistakes in their reporting. To protect yourself from inaccuracies, which can damage your credit score, do your best to monitor and call out any errors. All the major credit evaluators will work with you to address the inaccuracies and correct them and appropriately adjust your credit score.

Balancing your outstanding debt against the credit limit is also important. This ratio will have a big say on your credit score.

Once your score reaches the desired level, you can feel more comfortable and confident that you’re well prepared to take the first major step toward owning the home of your dreams.

PMR is not affiliated with or an agency of the federal government. All opinions expressed by the loan officer, are the loan officer’s opinions, and do not reflect the opinions of PMR.