Buying a home is exciting, but it can also be complicated. You're going to meet new people and go through an unfamiliar process. If you're a first-time buyer, be sure to talk to family, friends and current homeowners to get helpful tips on the buying process. Be sure to talk to you Realtor as they know the process more intimately than anyone involved.

It's important that you speak to a lender as they can determine your affordability and your comfort level in taking on a mortgage payment. If you don't have a lender, ask around for recommendations or ask your Realtor as they usually have lenders they trust and regard highly in the business.

To get started, get a copy of your credit report from the 3 major credit bureaus. Your credit rating is one key element that determines your mortgage interest rate. By law, you're entitled to one free credit report a year. You can either request them online or call them at the numbers below:

-- Equifax: or at 800-685-1111

-- Experian: or at 888-397-3742

-- TransUnion: or at 800-888-4213

Do the math. You need to budget for your home as well as your lifestyle. Look at your complete financial picture, including current and potential future expenses. Will you need a new car? What about childcare? You also want to have money saved up for any unexpected repairs in your home. And don't forget to include any ongoing monthly costs such as taxes and utilities. 

Once you've added up your expenses, use a mortgage calculator to determine how much home you can afford. Keep in mind that a mortgage payment consists of 4 elements commonly referred to as a PITI payment -- Principle, Interest, Taxes and Insurance. For a good and free mortgage calculator, click here to determine your comfort zone and how much you can afford.