Homeowner– sure, it’s a title you want to claim one day, but maybe not right now.

Between paying off school loans, establishing your career path and getting your footing in the “real world,” you’re just not ready to take on the responsibilities of a home.

Although homeownership is years ahead, there is still work you can do now to prepare for homeownership.

” Buying a home is one of the largest purchases you’re ever going to make, so you need to make sure you’re prepared,” says financial expert Rachel Cruze. “Without taking the proper steps, a home can quickly turn from a blessing to a curse.”

In an effort to help you along the path to homeownership, we’ve talked to the experts to get their advice on steps you can take now, so that when you are ready to purchase your first home, you can be knowledgeable and prepared.

Start Saving … Now

One of the first things you can start doing now to help make your path to homeownership smooth is build up your savings account. While the task may sound daunting– especially when funds are tight– it doesn’t have to be.

In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 61 percent of recent homebuyers used their savings for their down payment. So it’s practically never a bad idea to keep padding that savings account.

It’s important to remember that a stockpile of saved money doesn’t happen overnight. “Obviously, saving money takes time, so it’s never too early [to start],” says Brian Koss of Mortgage Network in Danvers, Mass. “If you’re young and are thinking about buying a home someday, don’t wait to save– start now.”

Save For The Unexpected

When it comes to saving for a future home, most people only consider their looming down payment. Cruze suggest saving an additional three to six months’ worth of expenses as an emergency fund.

Kevin Gallegos of Freedom Financial Network in Tempe, Ariz., suggests saving a bit more. “Conventional wisdom holds that individuals need to save six to nine months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund. This is in addition to saving specifically for your home,” he says. “If that sounds daunting, start with the level of expense that would cause you to rush to a credit card. Have at least that amount available and build toward six or more months’ of living expenses.”
How to Save: Cut Costs Where You Can and Create a Budget

” The biggest obstacle to saving money is changing your habits,” says Koss. “Sometimes sticking to a major goal is easier when you include family, friends and workmates in the challenge, because they can hold you accountable. Another tool is to keep pictures of your dream home in your wallet, on the fridge and next to your computer, so that you are reminded of your goal any time you’re about to spend money elsewhere.”

“Create a budget and stick to it,” she says.” Know the Importance of Your Credit Score

It’s often not until you hear that you have bad credit that you even know what your credit score is. While perplexing, your credit score is a number that has great impact on your future purchasing power. Be smart and start paying attention to this number now.

” At bare minimum, [Millennials] should know what their credit situation is. Mortgage lenders, credit card companies and even employers are looking at your credit profile. You should be too,” says Edward Carroll, a senior loan officer in Richmond, Calif. “One in five Americans has errors on their credit report– errors that could cost you a higher interest rate on your credit cards, a home mortgage or even your car insurance. If you want to buy a home, get fiscally fit. Time will be your friend if you start early.”

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