Buying a home for the first time is an exciting prospect. It can also be a terrifying one. We love to tell one another that homeownership is a cornerstone of American life. What we don’t tell each other is that buying a home for the first time is hard – and a mistake can crush you financially.

Thankfully, this guide can help you get started the right way.

  1. The 28% Rule

This is a classic metric of home buying, which states that your mortgage shouldn’t come to more than 20% of your gross monthly income. The Federal Housing Authority gives a bit more leeway in their recommendations, giving 31% as a starting point. That said, if you have debts or want to air more on the conservative side, 28% is a good place to start.

  1. Remember Other Expenses

One common mistake first-time buyers make is a simple one – forgetting that there are other expenses to be paid once you buy your home. Once you put down your first payment on the home, you still have to clean up and maintain the lawn, pay to move things into your home, add improvements, and do any number of other things to get your home ready. Don’t forget to include all of these calculations in your budget as well.

  1. About the Down Payment

Chances are your bank will want you to pay at least 20%. If you can only pay an amount less than that, you’ll likely still be able to get your mortgage, but you may have to pay an extra expense in the form of private mortgage insurance. The rates for PMI can vary between 0.5% and 1% of the amount of your loan depending on a variety of factors, including the size of the home and your credit score.

  1. Affordability Above All

More than anything else, you want to make sure that you are purchasing a home you can afford. That may seem like simple advice, and it is, but all too often people get carried away by the prospect of a loan and buy a home that’s too expensive and then struggle to pay it off. Shoot for what’s affordable and reasonable, and remember – you can always move and upgrade later.

Keeping these pointers in mind can make buying a home a lot easier.