Traversing along the windy and sometimes daunting trails to your perfect home can be a challenge. Through my experience as a homebuyer and with homebuyers as a Realtorå¨ I have accumulated key tips to make the process easier. I want to pass what I have learned along to my MARtians.

1. Start house hunting after your bank has prequalified you for a mortgage. It puts you in a powerful bargaining position, and you will not waste time on homes out of your price range.

2. Research the neighborhood. With all the information available on the web, you can find out a lot about the place you’re thinking of making home. Schools, zoning, crime stats — do your due diligence and know what you’re buying into.

3. Buy the cheapest house on a good block, particularly if you’re looking to get the best out of your investment. Plus, you’re going to want to customize the dÌ©cor yourself, anyway.

4. Do not fret if your first dream house is in the middle of a bidding war and don’t get seduced into joining in. There’s another one right around the corner you won’t have to fight for.

5. Neighborhood renovations are a good sign. A neighborhood in the process of renovating means the neighborhood is worth staying in for the long haul.

6. Check out the local amenities. It is good to have a grocery store, great shopping and activities nearby, but if you have a local Starbucks and Whole Foods you can be sure the neighborhood is a good one.

7. Buy on the outskirts of a good neighborhood to get a deal. It is typical for these areas to catch up in short order.

8. Go to lots of open houses. Besides being fun, it is a great way to get a feel for the market and the neighborhoods you’re interested in residing. If you don’t have a Realtorå¨, this is a great way to connect with them.

9. Start looking early in the home buying season. While there is a large inventory and lots of home sales in spring and summer, you’re also competing with the most people. Begin looking in January and February for a jump on the competition.

10. Know your finances. How do you spend your money? Keep track of monthly spending so you know where your money is going and what you will be able to allot for a new home.

While these tips are great starter points, you will have more questions. Of course, this is where a great Realtorå¨ comes in — like me! Look at what is being sold and who is selling it. Drive around and see what signs are going up and down quickly. You will get a good idea who is on the ball and who is not. If you’re in my area, Fairfield County, I’m your man.