You’ve been renting since college and now you’re married. Priorities have shifted, and you’ve managed to land that dream job. Between student loans, car notes and Netflix bills, somehow, you’ve been able to start saving money to begin the process of buying your first home.

But where do you begin? To avoid heartache and disappointment when applying for a mortgage, here are five things to know:

  1. Credit score. Before you even get to the saving portion, a good credit score is necessary. There are different scores for different loans, such as a conventional loan where you need at least a 620. Know your numbers.
  2. Save your cash. The amount of money you need to save is dependent on where you want to live. Once you decide on a location and a price point, it’ll help you determine your savings goal. Twenty percent is a great goal to have, but take these into consideration — down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, mortgage payments, repairs, etc.
  3. Job stability. Many lenders will look for at least a two-year continuous employment history and will expect a full financial report. They’ll look for gaps in employment, frequent job changes and changes in income levels.
  4. Pre-qualification vs. pre-approval. With a pre-approval, the lender checks your credit score and verifies your documents to approve a specific loan amount over a period of time. Pre-qualification is used as an estimate of how much you can afford to spend on your home. Pre-approvals carry more weight in the long run.
  5. Hire a realtor. While you can do a lot yourself, it’s always better to consult the professionals. Realtors can help you find ways to save money and shop smarter when it comes to buying your first (or third!) home. A great realtor knows the market and can find you your dream home.

Sponsored by Regions Mortgage.