Editor’s note: This is a transcript of the audio file.

Buying a house can be a bewildering experience for the uninitiated and first-time homebuyers often learn expensive lessons along the way. Avoid these common pitfalls before you begin the process of looking for a house and save money in the long run.

I’m Sheyna Steiner with the Bankrate.com Personal Finance Minute.

One typical mistake is to only account for mortgage payments. Just because you can afford the mortgage doesn’t mean you can afford the home. Property taxes, insurance, homeowner association dues and maintenance will all take a bite out of your budget.

First timers typically go through the process backwards as well — beginning by searching for a home before they’ve nailed down a loan offer. Unless you’re lucky enough to have enough money to pay cash for your house, the home buying process begins with a mortgage prequalification.

Getting professional help can smooth the process for newbies. That can mean talking to real estate agents, loan officers and even lawyers. For the biggest investment most people ever make, it can be money well spent.

For more on this and other personal finance issues, visit Bankrate.com I’m Sheyna Steiner.