Purchasing a home is among the largest single financial transactions most people will ever make. It’s not something to take lightly. After all, this is where you’re going to spend years or possibly decades of your life. So, do your homework before jumping in. Whether you’ve purchased a home before or not, pay attention to these important considerations. They may help save heartache and offer significant savings.

Get professional representation.

With such a huge, important decision, this is no time to “go it alone.” Buying a home is much more complicated than signing a few documents and picking up the keys. There are professionals that know every legal nook and cranny that the average person may overlook. In spite of the numerous costs involved, hiring a professional is not one to skimp on.

When looking for the right representative, remember that you’re the boss. You’re interviewing them, so don’t hesitate to ask for a resume, past experience, details about why their services are worth the cost, or how they’ll save you money.

Shop around.

It’s not uncommon to spend weeks or months finding that perfect home because it’s so exciting. But very few individuals will take the time to shop around for the right lender, real estate broker, title company, or real estate attorney. A lot of parties are involved in real estate transactions and the difference in quality and cost for each one can be significant. A few thousand dollars may not seem important in light of the overall cost of your home purchase, but it is. Don’t give in to the complacent attitude of signing checks just because it’s easier.

Get everything in writing.

We’ve all had the experience of getting a take-out meal, only to discover a mile down the road that you’re missing part of your order. Whether it was a miscommunication or an honest mistake, these things happen. The same is true with larger transactions. Be sure to get every detail in writing and to read through it carefully. Even if all the involved parties are honest and have your best interests in mind, miscommunication still happens. And while missing fries from your take-out meal may be irritating, it’s nothing compared to discovering that your monthly payments are larger than expected or that rear-landscaping costs aren’t included. Getting every detail in writing not only provides accurate expectations, it also provides some legal evidence in case of any disputes.

Know all the costs.

It’s easy to get lost in all the commissions and fees of buying or selling a home. However, ignoring the various costs can be expensive. Keep a list of expenses and make sure you understand each one. Who’s paying for the appraisal, the inspection, or title insurance? If you’re the seller, what property taxes are due for the time you were the homeowner? Buyers, how much will annual taxes cost? Are there homeowners association dues? Know which party is paying for closing costs, warranties, or any other associated costs. Tell your agent you don’t want any surprises.

Don’t make emotional decisions.

Don’t let emotion drive your decision-making process. At the end of the day, this is a financial transaction. Whether you’re buying your first home or selling a home you raised a family in, you can bet the person on the other side of the deal is more concerned about their own emotions than yours. Keep a cool, level head at all times. This doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t have emotional reactions or “I must have this kitchen!” moments. If the tire swing in the backyard reminds you of a happy childhood, that’s great. Just don’t let it cloud your judgment.

What to do next.

Speak with your professional team. Not only will you want to meet with professionals in the real estate field, but you’ll also want to talk with an accountant or investment advisor. Small decisions can make a big difference in taxes or other expenses.

Determine what you can afford. If you’re planning to take out a loan, you can get pre-approved for a specific amount. Remember, what you can borrow and what you can afford are two very different things.

Hire a professional and start house-hunting for your new home.