When buying a home, avoid sticker shock

Red jigsaw puzzle piece shaped like a house

Before you shop for a new home, it's a good idea to get preapproved for your mortgage to make it easier to narrow down your choices.

You may want that house with four bedrooms, granite countertops and a media room, but you'll be hugely disappointed if you discover your dream home only to find out later it's out of your price range.

Knowing what you want in a home is only part of the equation. You also need to know what your limitations are in the eyes of the lender.

Mortgage cash doesn't flow nearly as easily as it once did, and even if you are confident your credit score is excellent, it doesn't guarantee you'll get the loan you need for the house you want.

Prepare a list of the items and characteristics you want when buying a home as well as a price range you need to stay within for your real estate agent.

If you find a neighborhood you like -- before you shop -- find out what other homes have sold for recently in the area. You'll get a sense of whether you can afford to live there.

Of course, before you ever ask a lender for money, you should figure out for yourself how much house you can afford and which mortgage rates you qualify for. Use our mortgage calculator to set your spending limit.

Facing disappointment is often a part of home-buying. With so many complications, there is never a guarantee things will work out smoothly. By doing your due diligence, you can at least avoid the shock and distress of falling for a home you can’t possibly afford.

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