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Web Exclusive: How to buy your first home

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(CNN) - It is a tight real-estate market right now and any edge you can get is important, especially if you are looking to buy your first home.  
 It is a big deal and if you're not quite ready yet, there are some things you can do now, ahead of time, to set yourself up for success.
Money Magazine lays out a great timeline.  
Starting at 12 months out, a year before purchase:
  • Clean up your financials 
  • Pay down debt 
  • Start saving
  • Stay in the same job to exude stability  
At six months out:
  • Find out your credit score and keep trying to boost it up by paying bills on time, fixing any mistakes, and avoiding new debt. The average credit score for approved mortgage applicants is 755.     
  • Now is also the time to use an online calculator to figure out what you can afford and start looking at homes you may like in that range.
At three months out:    
  • Pick out what type of loan you will get and they say to prove you are serious to sellers by getting a mortgage pre-approval from your bank.
  • Find a realtor. 
They say finding a realtor is especially important in such a competitive market.  You want the right realtor, someone who can find you the hidden gems at the right price.

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