GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Ready to buy the home of your dreams? Pause and make sure you have everything you need before you pay any money.

When you're ready to buy, you'll need to secure a mortgage. You want to establish a good credit history and know where your credit score is. In order to do that, you should open checking and savings accounts and make regular deposits. You can also apply for a credit card with a small balance, just make sure to watch your limits, don't max it out and make your payments on time. These are all things you should do over time and not all at once.

If you don't happen to have any of the above, you can look into alternative credit. Things like rent, utilities, renter's insurance and auto insurance.

If you're wondering how you can gain access to your credit score. You're entitled to a free annual credit report here.

What about coming up with a budget? It's actually not that complicated. Simply look at how much you earn and how you spend your money (things like housing, utilities, food and transportation). Then start thinking about how you can cut back. Think about canceling magazines or cable, bring your lunch to work rather than eating out or trim your cell phone plan. Your total monthly debt shouldn't be more than 43 percent of your gross monthly income. Your mortgage should be between 25 to 30 percent of that.

Getting pre-qualified shouldn't cost a thing. You will be able to sit down for free with most mortgage lenders. A lot of realtors won't show potential buyers unless they prequalify, because there are only so many houses on the market and they don't want to waste time. Getting pre-qualified will also allow you to know what you can afford before you even start looking.

Once you're ready to close on the house, you should know what to expect. On average, closing costs include the appraisal, title work, credit reporting, the closing fee as well as recording fees. That will cost, on average, about $2,200.

You should put more than 20 percent down and option not to escrow taxes and insurance. If you put less than 20 percent down, you'll be required to escrow taxes and insurance. You will also be required to have a PMI. Depending on the month, you will also need to make sure you have enough in escrow to cover summer/winter tax bills.

All of these tips will make it possible for you to find the home of your dreams. For more information click here.

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