If 2018 is your year to buy a new home, but you’re not sure how to get started, don’t worry. The path to homeownership can actually be enjoyable and rewarding. Here are a few tips to help to help lay the foundation.

Check your credit score.

A recent survey showed that nearly 3 in 10 Americans don’t know their credit score. But understanding your credit score can help you better understand how it plays a role in the rest of your financial life. For example, you’ll understand if you’ll qualify for the lowest interest rates offered by mortgage lenders. For some lenders, you don’t need a perfect credit score to get the lowest rates. But if you check your score and see a major red flag, like a low score or credit accounts that you’re not aware of, you can work to address those issues before you apply for a loan.

Understand your finances.

You’ll want to document your income, liabilities and assets.

  • Income: What you’re earning
  • Liabilities: Debts you owe and financial obligations
  • Assets: Property you own

These will help your lender determine what you can afford. Understanding your spending habits is another key part of understanding your finances. Do you have enough saved up for a down payment or closing costs? If your spending habits are preventing you from getting there, you’ll want to adjust where you can so you can set money aside to cover these costs. Keep in mind – not every home loan requires a down payment. Talk to your lender about your options. You’ll want to make sure you’re using the mortgage that best fits your current and long-term budget.

Work with trusted partners.

Trust is an important thing. When you’re looking to buy your first home, you’ll feel more comfortable if you can work with people you trust. You’ll want to make sure your mortgage lender and your real estate agent pass your “gut check.” For example, if you’re looking to settle down after a military career, you may feel more comfortable working with a lender and real estate agents who are more experienced in helping Active Duty military, veterans and their families. Your financial institution may even have a program to help place you with an experienced real estate agent that fits your needs, like RealtyPlus through Navy Federal.

Becoming a homeowner is one of life’s major milestones. Planning ahead using the tips mentioned here, along with working with the right professionals, can help make the process easy and enjoyable.