Nothing’s as disheartening as finding the house you want, only to learn you can’t afford it. So before perusing properties, check your credit report and clean up any disputes you find. Then, gather your paperwork (W-2s, pay stubs, and bank and brokerage statements as well as that credit report) and get preapproved by a qualified mortgage lender. Preapproval—a bank determination of how large a loan you qualify for—establishes parameters that should keep you from looking outside your price range. Plus, when you’re ready to make an offer, preapproval can give you an edge over other bidders who didn’t take this step.