Whether you're a first-time buyer, moving up or downsizing, we'll unlock the strategies you'll need to get the best house at the best price. By the editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance Updated January 2015 Homeownership has long been regarded as one of the basic elements of the American dream. Buying a home, however, is anything but basic. It is important to understand the process as well as how your specific needs fit into your search for a new home.Take Our Quiz: How Smart of a Home Buyer Are You? This tutorial was designed to help you get the most out of buying a home, whether you're a first-time buyer, moving up or downsizing, we'll walk you through the steps and strategies you'll need. 1. Getting Started Your reasons for buying a home determine the steps and strategies you should follow: First-time buyer Moving up Downsizing 2. How Much House Can You Afford? Take the time to examine your finances and determine how much you can afford for down- and monthly payments: Clean up your credit Low-down options 3. Choose a Broker Home sellers enlist the help of professionals to represent their interests, so why shouldn't home buyers do the same? 4. Begin Your Search The search for a new home should not start with the price. More important are the location and quality of the property and its ability to meet, or be tailored to meet, your needs. 5. Make the Offer Once you've found the home you want, it's time to negotiate the price. Find out about various factors to consider when preparing to make an offer: The smart buyer's purchase contract 6. Select a Mortgage Finding the right mortgage involves some digging. Interest rates, points, processing costs, and adjustment features all affect how well a mortgage suits your needs: Pros and cons of fixed-rate loans All about ARMs 7. The Application Process Here's what you can expect when you're ready to apply for your loan. 8. Close the Deal An accepted contract doesn't mean the deal is done yet, but there are things you can do to help avoid any snags.