My boyfriend and I have recently started the house hunting process and let’s get one thing straight – it’s nothing like an episode of House Hunters. On House Hunters, potential buyers tour three homes, select one and a commercial break later, they’ve settled in. It’s been three months for us and we’re still looking. Finding the right home can feel overwhelming. I mean, it’s not like buying a pair of jeans - there’s no easy return policy. A house is a purchase. And we want to make sure our purchase is the right one for us.

So what have we learned so far that might help you on your house-hunting journey? Read on.

Know your budget!

It’s easy to get caught up in granite counter tops, jetted tubs and in-ground swimming pools, but it’s more important to be realistic about what you can reasonably afford. Mortgage calculators are a great starting point. You should also factor in other expenses such as property taxes, insurance, increased utility costs, HOA’s and maintenance and upkeep of your new home. If you’re moving from an apartment to a home, these extra expenses could catch you off guard. Working with a reputable lender will also allow you to have a pre-approval letter, letting sellers know you’re serious.

Know what you want, don’t want and where you’re willing to compromise.

When we first started the process, we had a general idea of what we wanted in a home - three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fireplace and a separate laundry room. Everything else was negotiable. But as we toured open houses, we began to modify our list. In addition to our initial wants, we’ve since added: a home not situated on a through street, a specific school district, a nearby QuikTrip, lots of natural light and a flat driveway. The point is – it’s ok to be choosy. Don’t let a realtor or anyone else push you into something you don’t want. In our case, if having a steep driveway will be a source of grief for my boyfriend, then a flat driveway it will be.

Fixer Upper or Move-In Ready?

Some people thrive on doing home improvements; some people panic at the mere thought of painting a room. Know which type of person you are and embrace it. There is absolutely no shame in wanting a move-in ready home where your biggest challenge is deciding where the sofa goes. Conversely, if you have the skill set that allows you to take on a fixer upper, then go for it! The important thing is to know your limits. I’m comfortable with (and actually prefer) the idea of doing a complete renovation. My boyfriend? Not. At. All. So we’ve compromised on the idea of buying a mostly move-in ready home that needs minimal updating.

And finally…

Just like any other major purchase, research is key! Like I mentioned previously, there is no easy return policy when it comes to buying a home. Take your time and decide what’s really important to you and your family.