If you’re considering becoming a first time home buyer, people are probably offering all kinds of advice. But before you can dive into applying for a mortgage and hitting the real estate market, you’ll need to figure out what are the best homes for first time home buyers and why.

Some of the preliminary steps should include checking your credit score. Having the down payment in hand is great, but interest rates are usually heavily weighed against credit. The better your credit score, the better your chances of a lower rate. Check on your monthly cash flow. If you have other regular payments such as a car loan or a high credit card bill, there may not be much left over. Even though your new mortgage may be similar to your monthly rent expense, if something breaks there’s no calling the landlord.

Once you feel financially confident and organized, consider the lifestyle that suits you. Search for areas that have attractions that fit your daily life. If you’re the outdoors type, look at towns with clean rivers and lakes for boating, fishing and hiking. If fine dining and nightlife appeal to you, perhaps something in or around a metropolitan area makes sense. Also, take a good look at each area’s school ratings. Not all school systems are equal and if you’re planning on having a family or already have one, this is an important factor.

When it comes to paying taxes, keep a closer eye on the actual dollars than the percentages. Some cities and towns show low percentages, but houses are evaluated higher and that may mean paying more out of pocket. Some places have additional taxes that can include mandatory payments for the fire district, ambulance services, cars, sewers, water, etc. Be sure to add up everything you’ll be responsible for and include it in your budget before choosing a home and location.

First time home buyers, like all buyers, should have a safety inspection. But beyond the house being ready for occupancy, have a professional check things such as the roof and when can you expect to replace it. Consider how long the current plumbing, heating and cooling systems have been in place. More importantly, when will they likely require repair or replacement? If the home has a basement, does it get moist during the rainy season? Moisture can cause a number of problems, including mold. How much sun does the roof receive on a daily basis? These are all important things to look for in a home as a first time buyer.

Consider making a lengthy checklist of these elements and get input from others about what you expect in a home. At the end of the day, the best homes for first time home buyers are ones they can afford and that have good value. For more information about what to expect during the home buying process, download our eBook now!