Most potential home buyers are a daunted by the fact that they’re about to agree to a hefty mortgage or property that they’ll be dealing with for the next few decades in another country. The best way to relieve that anxiety is to be confident you’re purchasing the best home at a price you can afford with the most favorable conditions. These steps will help you make smart decisions about your next biggest purchase.

1. Decide How Much Home You Can Afford

Generally, you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Remember to consider costs every homeowner must cover: property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care if you plan to have children.

2. Develop Your Home Wish List

Be honest about which features you must have and which you’d like to have. Handicap accessibility for an aging parent or special needs child is a must. Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are in the bonus category, especially when you’re in Costa Rica. Come up with your top five must-haves and top five wants to help you focus your search and make a logical, rather than emotional, choice when home shopping.

3. Select Where You Want to Live

Make a list of your top five community priorities, such as commute time, schools, and recreational facilities. Ask a realtor or contact CASA to help you identify three to four target neighborhoods based on your priorities.

4. Start Saving

Have you saved enough money to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20% of the purchase price set aside for a down payment, but some lenders or private owners will allow as little as 5% down. A small down payment preserves your savings for emergencies.

5. Ask About All the Costs Before You Sign

A down payment is just one home buying cost. A local Costa Rica realtor can tell you what other costs buyers commonly pay in your area — including home inspections, attorneys’ fees, and transfer fees. Tally up all the extras you’ll also want to buy after you move-in, such as window coverings and patio furniture for your new yard.