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Is homeownership on your bucket list? Even if it’s a year or two away from your goals, here are some wise steps you can take in advance to make sure you are well prepared for the journey.

Clean up your finances. Start by looking over your credit report. If your credit score needs strengthening, be sure to pay your bills on time and aim to pay off credit cards balances to show your fiscal responsibility.

Determine your budget. Determine how much of a monthly house payment you can really afford (or want to spend). Consider the fact that you will also have to pay property taxes, escrow, and insurance. Many financial experts recommend allotting no more than 25% to 30% of your household’s take-home pay for shelter.

Save for a down payment. A target of at least a 20% down payment will not only lower your mortgage interest rate and avoid having to buy mortgage insurance but will also provide a tax advantage. The larger the down payment, the sooner you’ll be earning equity in your home. Also, be mindful that you’ll need to have around 2% to 5% to cover closing costs.

Get pre-approved. While there’s no commitment to getting pre-approved with a lender for a mortgage, you’ll accurately know how much house you can get for what you plan to spend. Plus, you’ll have the advantage of leverage for negotiation as a pre-approved home buyer who is ready to make an offer.

Buying a home can be a great way to put down your roots in a community and stabilize your finances versus renting. Good luck and remember: there’s no place like home!