1. Automate your down payment.
One painless way to save is to automate your checking account to regularly set aside a small amount of your paycheck into a separate savings account dubbed your “house fund.”
2. Build your credit history and keep it clean
Keep your credit score in check. Lenders will want to see evidence that you’ve paid off past debts. As such, keeping on top of your credit cards and car and college loans is a crucial mortgage must-do. If you’ve never had a credit card or a bank loan, you won’t have a credit history. Once you have credit established, keep it pristine. Pay all your bills on time—this cannot be overemphasized. Tip: don’t use more than 30% of your available credit.
3. Practice living on a budget.
If you expect your mortgage to take a bigger bite than your rent, create a budget that factors in your new reality so you can get used to living on less disposable income.
4. Get your handy on
Save thousands of dollars and learn the basics of property maintenance and general “handy habits” since maintenance is an ongoing effort for homeowners. One of the big benefits of renting is that any problems around the home—leaky faucets, broken boiler—are your landlord’s responsibility to repair. But once you own, you should probably know how to roll up your sleeves and fix it yourself if you don’t want to shell out for a handyman every time something goes wrong.
5. Prepare to pounce
Know the real estate market before you are ready to buy. Have your Realtor send you weekly updates on homes and start browsing online and popping into open houses in your neighborhood. It’s a good habit to know what’s available in your price range, neighborhoods, and amenities you can realistically afford so when something does become available you are ready to pounce.