Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life. Most of us fake our way through the process, following the lead of a realtor. But before you dial up your real estate agent and start packing your boxes, here are some things you can know in order to feel more informed and in control as a buyer. Consider this your master guide to buying your first home with confidence. In this guide, we’ll cover the home-buying process from start to finish. If you’ve already begun, feel free to skip ahead to the section that best applies to you. Knowing what you can afford Hidden costs to watch out for Understanding the financials Knowing when to buy Staying organized and focused while house-hunting   First, let’s take a look at how to know what you can afford.   Here are some tips for finding a house that you’re comfortable paying for: Consider debt-to-income ratio Your debt-to-income ratio is the amount of debt you have (credit card payments, student loans, auto loans, etc.) compared to your overall income. The ratio helps mortgage lenders evaluate how much additional debt you can handle, helping them to decide whether or not to give you a home loan. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to have a debt-to-income ratio less than 36 percent. Bankrate.com offers a helpful calculator so you can quickly find your ratio. Save for your down payment Once you’ve got a realistic goal based on your debt-to-income ratio, start saving. Set up a savings plan and evaluate your current spending habits to fit your budget. You could even consider earning extra money from a side job, project, or hobby. Build your credit Having a checking or savings account and paying your bills on time are the two most important indicators of good credit. To continue building your credit, try to diminish your outstanding debt and keep existing debt in check. Calculate your mortgage payment Figure out the purchase price you can afford using a mortgage calculator. This calculator factors in the current interest rate for your area and different loan types to help you determine what your payment will be. Investopedia’s Mortgage Calculator is a good one to check out. Factor in PMI If you can’t afford to make a down payment of at least 20% on your home, you’ll need private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI protects your mortgage lender if you default on your home loan. PMI fees depend on the size of your down payment as well as your credit score, requiring a monthly payment though, in some cases, you can pay in a large amount upfront.   But, what about those hidden costs?   You may...