Buying your first home is a big deal. In theory, you’ll live there for 30 years or longer, celebrating many life milestones there and possibly even passing it down to future generations. But if you’re a typical first-time home-buyer, you’re probably working with a fair number of constraints in terms of budget, location, and amenities. With real estate prices climbing up, up, and up, you may wonder if home ownership is possible for you at all.

Luckily, knowing what to look for and how to step out of the typical first-time buyer’s mold can help ensure that you wind up in your dream home, even if you only plan to stay there for a few years. Here are a few crucial considerations and facts to keep in mind when you start scouring the market for your first home.

  1. The Profile of the First-Time Home Buyer is Changing

Tip: Think outside the housing box. Savvy, modern buyers are gravitating towards unconventional dwellings, such as mobile homes and tiny houses, to help address the housing crisis among those 35 and under.

Gone are the days when the starter home belonged exclusively to the young, white married couple. Today, women, millennials, and Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographics in the housing market, and they’re not too keen on the status quo. With a whole new buyer profile comes whole new buyer preferences and expectations, and we’re starting to see these new buyers shift to some unconventional options.

From gobbling up mobile homes for sale in desirable areas to redefining what demographic is allowed to live in condos, there’s no reason to limit yourself to the “traditional” image of a newbie homeowner or stick to the typical first-time homeowner dwelling. Thanks to their affordable, eco-friendly appeal, manufactured homes have emerged as a popular option among young buyers, and they should not be overlooked for those who are just starting out.

  1. Owning a Home is About More Than Just Your Mortgage

Tip: Avoid using those seemingly handy mortgage calculators on real estate websites. They can be misleading because they often omit important information, especially property taxes.

At risk of sounding patronizing, we do think it’s important to mention that many young real estate dabblers don’t realize that there will be a lot more to pay for, maintain, and monitor as a homeowner versus a renter. The fact of the matter is that home ownership is costly and unpredictable, so it’s much more difficult to accurately forecast than rent.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a home, it’s important that you get an accurate cost assessment, factoring the current property taxes as well as any necessary upgrades to the property. Remember to do some digging on your utilities to try and get an estimate on what you’ll be paying each month in gas, electricity, and water. Talking to neighbors can help. Don’t forget to consider things like homeowner’s association fees, if applicable.

What You’ll Have to Pay:

  • Mortgage
  • Mortgage interest
  • Property taxes
  • Private mortgage insurance*
  • Maintenance
  • Utilities
  • Furnishings
  • Lawn care
  • Repairs

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) doesn’t apply to all real estate. However, it’s often required among buyers who finance a home with less than 20 percent equity, which includes many first-time homeowners.

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  1. Everything is Negotiable, Especially in Certain Markets

Tip: Keep all of the above costs in mind while negotiating your first home. If you can identify high costs you’ll have to address when first moving in—such as aesthetic upgrades or repairs—you may be able to talk the seller down in order to offset some of them.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t learn how to negotiate in school, which means we’re often left completely in the dark about how to come up with a reasonable offer when shopping for our first home. Pairing with a good real estate agent who knows the market inside and out is your best approach here. Make sure to go with someone you trust and who is well-versed on the specifics of the area.

One of the smartest ways to get the very best price on your first home is to go into things with a very strict budget and an open mind. It also helps if you’re shopping during a time of year that’s traditionally not “hot” in real estate, such as during the holidays or in the beginning of the year. You’re less likely to get a steal of the deal when the market is particularly active, which is in the spring and summer in most regions.

  1. It Can Pay To Think Outside the Standard Listing

Tip: Though the vast majority of homes are sold through conventional channels like real estate agents and online listing websites, there are some other ways to find homes for sale that the rest of the buyer pool may not have considered.

As convenient as it is to spend all day perusing online real estate websites until you find your dream house, it can be well worth your while to take the real estate road less traveled, especially if you live in an area with a particularly limited market. After all, the rest of the buyer pool—which, in some areas, may include cutthroat competitors—is probably looking at the same listings as you, driving the price up.

One great option to consider is buying a foreclosed home at a sheriff’s sale. Though this option is mainly for handy types and those who have funds available in cash, it can translate into big dollars saved. Typically, these auctions or sales occur when the owner of the property is unable to make the payment and the lender is trying to sell it in order to regain some of the money, so it’s possible to get great deals on these listings.

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Home Ownership Still a Generally Safe Move

Owning your own home is still considered a fairly safe investment, but the perks go far beyond the financial. As a homeowner, you have complete control over your space—how it’s decorated, who gets to come over when, and more—and it will be well worth your while in the end. Just make sure to keep the above considerations in mind before you go in and you’ll surely land the perfect home to call your own!