It's guaranteed.

No matter how many books you've read on the subject, when purchasing your first dream house, you're bound to make mistakes. Consider them initiation dues into that every-growing league my wife and I have just joined -- the American homeowner.

Making some mistakes is inevitable. While you're busy following the experts' advice, you're undoubtedly overlooking something important.

Now don't misunderstand my intentions, for I am certainly not advising first-time house hunters to forgo checking attic insulation or to neglect inquiring into last winter's heating bills.

But, in the process of falling more deeply in love with the little nuances that turn a house into a home, beware.

What is overlooked will return to haunt you later.

Though we began our search with what I believed to be a self-awarded doctorate in house hunting, in retrospect we received failing grades in a few basic course.

In the interest of our fellow real estate neophytes, we offer a bit of personal insight on avoiding the pitfalls when buying your first castle.

Pitfall No. 1. Stick to your budget.

Before we ventured into the market, I carefully calculated our projected income for the next few years and had established a price range.

The fatal mistake -- this one was mine -- came when out of curiosity we ventured just beyond our limits. You'll be amazed how quickly more expensive tastes can be developed, which are just that, expensive.

Add to this the fact that no one ever warns you about the dozens of necessary additional costs -- inspections, lawyers, termite checks -- that will boost your grand total by several thousand dollars. Know your limit, typically a fouth [and sometimes a third] of your gross income monthly, and don't explore beyond it. There's no turning back.

Pitfall No. 2. Know your needs.

Beauty is only wall deep, but it can still be quite expensive to do those minor cosmetic changes which you'll want to make.

Though we examined every inch of the house, we failed to pay special attention to those aspects we had deemed most important. Worse still, we neglected to estimate the cost of replacing or repairing various items.

High on our list of priorities was a working fireplace. Since there was one in the living room, we assumed it was functional. We discovered after making our offer that it was, in fact, bricked up. Estimated cost of opening the flue, if it is indeed possible, is $1,000.

Professional home inspectors carry a clipboard and a room-by-room survey form. Don't be intimidated, the natural tendency when doing anything for the first time. List your requirements and make certain that you're doing what's best for you.