Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.

Renting is something of an American pastime nowadays. Only about 62 percent of Americans own their homes, which is the lowest number since the early 90’s. Even though more people are renting than ever before, most eventually make the transition from renting to buying.

When that time comes, you’ll probably notice a few key differences in the way things operate. First and foremost, you’ll have a lot more responsibility month to month, and it will follow you for the next 30 years, unless you pay off your home early.

For the nervous renter who’s ready to finally buy a house, these tips can help you navigate the process carefully.

  1. Know the right time to make the transition

Thee allure of owning your own home can make you feel ready for a home purchase prematurely. The responsibility is heavy for homeowners, and we’re not just talking about finances.

Are you really ready to make that purchase? According to the property managers at Green Residential in Houston, there are some criteria to meet if you want to become a homeowner after years of renting:

  • Minimal credit card debt, car loans, or other debt (school loans don’t count)
  • A credit score in good shape
  • A steady job with decent pay
  • Enough savings for a good down payment
  • Basic handyman skills
  • A real desire for homeownership

If you meet the criteria above, you’re probably in a good place to make a home purchase, and the transition will come more naturally to you.

  1. Understand your monthly financial responsibility

The costs of homeownership can be cheaper than renting, but it’s not always easy to stay on top of your monthly costs. You can’t forget to make these payments, as it will hurt your credit and could have serious consequences down the line.

The first and most expensive cost of homeownership will be your mortgage. Don’t forget to calculate interest payments into that. There are also utilities, internet, maintenance and repairs, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and unexpected expenses for things like locking yourself out of the house.

Get organized financially, and be ready for the bills and responsibilities coming your way.

  1. Recognize that your freedoms will be changing.

Renters love a mobile lifestyle. You’re not tied to any one place for longer than the length of your contract, most of your problems can be handed over to your landlord, and it’s often easier to find a place to rent rather than buy in the location you want.

On the flipside, there’s something pretty freeing about having your own home. You can paint walls, renovate the bathroom, and even extend the house. You have freedom with renting too, but it’s a different kind of freedom. Make sure it’s the kind you want.

  1. Think about the long-term implications of your purchase

When you’re renting, you usually find a place that fits your current situation. You don’t have to think about a growing family, resale value, or other conflicts. You also don’t care about structural issues that might occur down the road. If you’re not satisfied with the property at any point, you can just move.

Purchasing a house is different. Carefully examine any home before making a purchase, and try to spot problems down the road. You must also be aware of the resale value, and purchase a property that has long-term equity, so you get the most from your investment.

  1. Brush up on your handy-man skills

As a homeowner, you’ll also become an amateur handyman as you do chores like fixing leaks, replacing broken parts, and learning the inner workings of a household. There’s no landlord to call, so you’re on your own for most of it.

Although you can learn a great deal about repairs and maintenance through online tutorials, remember that there are some things best left to the professionals. If you’re dealing with a serious repair or something that’s out of your depth, pay someone instead of fixing it yourself. Otherwise, you could cause a bigger, more expensive problem with your mistake.

  1. Learn to keep up with the Joneses

This oft-used phrase in homeownership means you’ll feel a social pressure to keep your property looking as nice as your neighbor’s. While “keeping up with the Joneses” is not a requirement, you should try to keep your property in good shape. Your neighbors will want an attractive neighborhood, something they can’t accomplish if one house refuses to comply.

This is especially important if you belong to a homeowner’s association. Your HOA will often cover bigger projects like snow shoveling or spraying for weeds, but in return, you have to keep your grass to just the right height in the summer and follow other rules that keep your property looking nice.

  1. Do your homework thoroughly

Above all, know what you’re getting into. Reading articles like this one can facilitate the transition. Learn more about mortgage options, taxes, real estate services, and more.

Most importantly, learn about the local market for your prospective home. Check comparable prices, know about environmental concerns, look into schools and crime rates, and do other research to find the perfect house. Nothing eases the transition more than moving into the house of your dreams.