The thought of moving into a new home can be very exciting. The whole process of finding the one for you, from searching to find the right neighborhood to all of the required steps that go into getting a mortgage can be quite overwhelming. Here are four house-hunting tips to help keep you focused, organized, and hopeful as your search begins.

Envision your new home before you start looking

Some things are considered nonnegotiables when looking for a new home. For example, having an adequate number of bedrooms and bathrooms is usually not something you should be willing to budge on. Other important factors to consider are your commute to work and quality of education in the area for kids if you have them. And then of course, there’s budget. It is hugely important to set a budget and stick with it during your search to prevent falling completely in love with a home that you simply shouldn’t get into from a financial standpoint.

But beyond just the basics, we suggest you make a list of needs and a list of wants for what should be included in your new home. The needs list will include most of the information just listed – the nonnegotiables. But the wants list will include things like tile or wood floors, updated appliances, his and hers closets, or granite countertops to name a few examples. Try to keep in mind that these things may not all be found in one place, and if absolutely necessary, and with the available funds, are usually things you can add to your home with time. These lists will help keep you organized during your house hunt and will help you narrow down the properties you’re interested in.

Get home loan pre-approval ahead of time

Most people are unable to afford buying a home outright, so most people get a mortgage in order to make buying a new home affordable. Waiting until you find your dream home to apply for a loan can cause many problems and a lot of unneeded anxiety. From the time you apply to the time you hear back whether or not you are approved, you run the risk of missing out on this great place you’ve found for you and your family. Getting pre-approved for a home loan not only prevents that stress, but it also makes it much easier to set a realistic budget from the beginning of your search.

Almost always use an agent

Without an abundance of experience in real estate and the huge amounts of time and effort needed to manage a home search on your own, don’t forget about the importance of hiring a real estate agent to help along the way. Real estate agents can access very helpful databases that the public cannot, not to mention their vast knowledge of the local market and the relationships within the field that can prove to be helpful. An experienced real estate agent can lead you in the right direction while avoiding other blunders you may not recognize on your own.

Look at the home, not the staging

Beautifully staged homes are attractive without a doubt. But they can be deceiving without this tip in mind. Picture the home without the staging. You won’t be keeping that beautiful furniture after all! Don’t be distracted by the furniture, art, and other staging touches from the actual structure of the home itself. Make it a point to evaluate the structural integrity and the condition of the home. Think about the furniture you will be bringing with you and how it will fit into this space.