Buying a home can feel completely overwhelming. After all, it's probably the largest purchase decision you'll ever make. And once you sign on the dotted line, the house you buy will be the center of your life; you'll spend more time in your home than in any other place on the planet. No matter which type of buyer you are, consider these three most important steps to buying a house:

1. Understand the Current Condition of the Home

As part of buying a home, it's essential to have a clear picture of the current condition of the home you're considering, and a home inspection is a great place to start. Your inspection will provide you with information about all the key systems of the home. Read your inspection report carefully so that you have a clear understanding of possible repairs. Remember, the simple fact that a repair is needed is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It's simply information you can use evaluate the house on its true merits. To help guide your purchase decision, combine the condition of the house with your own tolerance for either taking care of some repairs after your purchase or asking the seller to make repairs or adjustments.

2. Determine the Home's Maintenance Requirements

Understanding maintenance requirements is one of the most often overlooked steps to buying a house. Every home needs maintenance of some kind. Again, a HouseMaster home inspection can be a valuable tool in looking ahead to home ownership. Understanding maintenance needs involves more than just looking at the current condition of the home. It also includes looking at the condition, age, and intended use of each part of the home. For example, the roof may appear on the report as being in "satisfactory" condition, meaning it is free from visible defect, is being used for its intended purpose, and is within its expected lifespan. However, if that "satisfactory" roof is 18 years old and has an intended lifespan of 20 years, replacing it is a likely maintenance need within the next few years. Again, combine the maintenance needs of the house with your own tolerance and ability to either complete or fund future maintenance needs so that you can make your purchase decision with confidence.

3. Check Out the Neighborhood

Safety is a critical concern for your new home. A large part of the safety of your home involves the neighborhood you're buying in. Check with neighbors to see whether there is a crime watch group in your area. Use online tools such as CrimeReports to find out about incidents in and around the neighborhood you're considering. You should also check the US Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website to get a clear picture of the safety around the home you're thinking about purchasing. You'll also want to find out about neighborhood opportunities and social activities that may be available. Selecting the right neighborhood is in many ways as important as selecting the right home.

Considering these three important steps to buying a house will help you to feel confident in your purchase decision and help you to enjoy your home for years to come.