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The 2 biggest mistakes first-time homebuyers make

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Buying your first home can be exciting but also fraught. It's not a choice you want to get wrong.

To help you out, CNBC spoke with Michelle Brownstein, a certified financial planner at Personal Capital, who helped boil down the complicated process into eight steps.

She also revealed the two biggest mistakes she sees first-time homebuyers make: Buying more home than you can afford and settling down in an area that you haven't fully explored.

To determine how much home you can afford, a good rule of thumb is to make sure you don't spend more than 28 percent of your gross income on housing in any given month, says Brownstein. Keep in mind that monthly payments encompass more than just the mortgage — they also include interest, property taxes and insurance.

Plus, when you become a homeowner, you also become your own super, Brownstein notes: "There are a lot of things that, as renters, we take for granted. Going from renting to owning is a big adjustment because all of a sudden you can't call your landlord if the washing machine breaks. You have to pay for it."

You'll want to plan ahead for surprise expenses, including maintenance and any renovations you might want to make.

The second biggest mistakes first time homebuyers make is "buying in an area that you don't fully explore," Brownstein says. Don't just drop in once. "Actually go walk around the neighborhood, and not just during the day — go there at night. Make sure you feel safe and good about it."

After all, one of the most important factors to consider when settling down is the actual location of your home, says Brownstein: "You can buy a brand new condo in a great building, but if it's in a terrible neighborhood with no amenities and you can't have the lifestyle you want, you're in the wrong place."

Think about what's important to you. Do you want to live within walking distance of a grocery store? What about a dry cleaner? Is there a particular school zone you're trying to be in?

Ultimately, you can always change the finishing of your home, Brownstein notes, but you can't change the location.

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Don't miss: 8 steps to take before buying your first home