The mere thought of it can be overwhelming: if you've never saved to buy a home, going from renting to owning may feel like it's years away.

"Utilities are typically gonna be higher. You're gonna pay taxes. You're gonna pay insurance. You're gonna have the expenses of the home itself," says Philip Maliniak with Virginia Financial Planning.

Putting away thousands of dollars seems unrealistic when you're already on a budget. But even when spending is tight, Maliniak says you can usually find a few unnecessary expenses.

"If someone comes to me and says, 'We make all our meals at home. We never go to the movies. We... discontinued our Netflix plan. Like, we don't do anything. We are living paycheck to paycheck.' That certainly is a problem," Maliniak says. "That's certainly something that's difficult to... accomplish. But most people can find something. There can be that one thing that they can find a way."

But finding money to save is just the beginning. Figuring out how much you'll need is next, and Jerry Trickie with Keller Williams Coastal Virginia says that's a conversation you need to have with a lender.

"You're not able to come to the table with nothing," Trickie says. "So, having that knowledge up front by talking to a lender, understanding what that price point might mean to you in terms of dollars out of your pocket from day one, will be a big step in the right direction to get you started down the path to home ownership."

So, with a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter in hand, the house hunt can begin. But here's why it's best to select a realtor first:

"You get with the realtor so that they can walk you through all the steps, because there's so many of them," Trickie says. "From putting in an offer, to negotiating, to working through the fixes on the home when you get done with the home inspections, making sure that the lender's staying on track with their underwriting, getting the closing company set up, the appraiser... anything that goes along with all of that process."

And that's why it's not just about how much you can spend when you start, but putting someone on your team to decrease what you have to spend by the end.

"It's about the things you don't know, not the things you do know. It's about finding obstacles or pitfalls or tips that they're going to bring up to you through the process," Maliniak says.

Asking the right questions and choosing the right professionals can take your savings account from "how?" to "home."

"You're buying something so you can do what you want with it," Maliniak says. "You can live the way you want. And at some point in the future, it will be paid off, and you won't have to pay the bank any more money and you can certainly at that time save... on your monthly expenses."

To contact Philip Maliniak with Virginia Financial Planning, visit

To contact Jerry Trickie with Keller Williams Coastal Virginia, visit