Most first-time homebuyers know how the process works in general. They understand the necessity of a down payment, how to prepare for closing costs, and the expense of the move itself. However, older home buyers may be downsizing and need the money to support their budget, pay down debt, or want to gift some funds to children for their use. There are a number of financial tips you may not know about that will help you during the homebuying process and beyond — hacks that will allow you to hold onto some of your equity, plan for the needs mentioned above, home-related emergencies or an emergency fund.

Get familiar with the process for securing a home loan, how to keep your credit score up (it’s harder than you think), and how to make the most of the equity in your home, which will be helpful should you ever decide to sell. Getting your finances in order is something that should begin well before you start looking at homes, so sit down with your spouse or partner and talk about a plan. You’ll need to create a budget, based on your income, your future retirement financial needs, and understand how to keep your credit on track.

While you may want to hold off on buying a home until lockdown orders are lifted, here are some great tips from Designed Retirements on how to keep your finances looking good before you start your search.

Pay down your debt

If your credit score is great but you have a lot of debt, consider applying for a zero-interest credit card and using it to pay off the amount on your current card. Since interest charges can amount to as much as 20 percent of the total you owe, paying off the card you use most can have significant benefits when it comes to saving money. Read the fine print carefully, as many zero-interest cards only offer that option for a limited amount of time, such as for the first 18 months. If this is the case, you’ll need to make sure you can pay off the balance during that time.

Consider a home warranty

Here’s an unfortunate downside to homeownership: At some point, stuff is going to break. And while your homeowner’s insurance will cover certain things, you’re ultimately on the hook for many others. This is why many homeowners decide to supplement their insurance with a home warranty, which will help pick up the tab for busted appliances or other necessities. Having a warranty can help protect you from those unforeseen expenses that pop up at the worst possible moment. Of course, before you select coverage, remember to plan for it in your budget.

Calculate your monthly fees

Obviously, you’ll be planning for your monthly mortgage payment, but you may not be as prepared for other monthly costs related to owning a home, including HOA fees, utilities, maintenance, and insurance. Calculating these costs will not only help you plan a budget, it will help you stay on top of your monthly spending so that there are no nasty surprises down the road.

You can also look into paying some of your monthly expenses (such as home or auto insurance) in one lump sum for the entire year, which will free up a bit of cash each month and save you money at the same time, since many companies charge a fee for the convenience of paying in installments; you might also make some payments automated, which can reduce fees as well.

Use your home to boost your income

If you don’t mind sharing your home with a stranger every once in a while, you could easily rent it to vacationers to boost your income. You can then use that money to put toward household expenses, pay down your mortgage, or make any improvements to your property. Fortunately, with the help of rental sites, such as VRBO or Air BnB, you can easily list your home online, which prospective guests can find through the use of search filters.

You’ll also need to market your property efficiently in order to attract a steady flow of occupancies. Use your location to your advantage and highlight all the popular attractions that are nearby. Turnkey points out that while the beaches are hot spots in Sarasota, vacationers can also find fun activities downtown and at St. Armands Circle, such as boutique shopping and visiting galleries.

The knowledge that your finances are in good shape will give you peace of mind throughout the homebuying process, helping to reduce stress and ensuring that you and your family are secure no matter what happens. Start your planning as early as possible, set realistic goals, and talk to a financial advisor if you’re unsure of how to begin.

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