Tips for Improving Credit for Future Homebuyers

When you’re considering starting home shopping, it’s important to put yourself in the best possible position. To do this, you’ll want to shore up your finances and increase your credit score. Follow these simple steps to get you closer to your homebuying dream.

Improving Credit for Future Homebuyers
Improving Credit for Future Homebuyers

1. Check Your Credit Score

Your credit score will be one of the main considerations in your mortgage application, so check yours to see what needs the most work. A credit score is based on a number of factors: payment history, credit usage, types of credit, age of credit, and recent inquiries. Though you can’t impact all of these in a short period of time, you can take steps to improve in some areas.

Make sure you’re paying all of your bills on time, as on-time payments have a huge impact on your score. Don’t apply for new lines of credit, but you can request a credit limit increase to current credit lines to improve your usage percentage. If you see any errors on your credit report, dispute them so that errors can be removed or corrected, and target credit usage when you make your budget.

2. Assess Your Finances

To know what you have to do to buy the home of your dreams, you need to know where you stand. Write down everything you have coming in and going out each month first. Some of these expenses, such as your car and student loan payments, stay the same over time and will come with you to your new home. Others are variable and change from month to month, including how often you eat out and your entertainment expenses, and these expenditures can most likely be shaved down or eliminated entirely with a budget.

Because homebuying comes with many expenses–a down payment, inspection fees, closing costs–your budget should be tighter in the period before you buy than normal. You’ll also want to budget for a home warranty; see if a home warranty is worth the money. When developing your budget, focus on eliminating your high-interest debt and saving for those homebuying expenses.

Lenders will also look at your debt-to-income ratio or DTI which is the amount of money you have coming in each month versus the expenses you have. Though it varies between lenders, many lenders will not give a mortgage to someone whose DTI is higher than 43%.

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    3. Understand Homebuying Costs

    For nearly every type of mortgage, a down payment is required. A down payment of no less than 20% is suggested to have better home options and lower monthly costs. Conventional loans allow 20%, however, you can also have a  down payment of as little as 3%; for down payments below 20%, PMI (private mortgage insurance) is required. Other types of loans, like an FHA loan, require between a 3.5-10% down payment, depending on your credit score. Make sure you understand how much you’ll be spending on your new home by using a mortgage calculator

    Other homebuying fees can add up quickly and be more variable. You will likely have a loan origination fee, inspection fee, appraisal fees, and other fees. You may be able to control some of these by choosing your own professionals. However, others will be selected by the seller, real estate office, or mortgage company.

    A brokerage commission may be paid to real estate agents on closing. Your home warranty, property insurance and taxes, and any points you wished to pay to lower your mortgage rate as well as current interest rates will all go into your final costs. Account for all of these expenses when deciding how much mortgage you can afford.

    Take steps to improve your creditworthiness and your DTI, and know what you’re looking for when you begin shopping for a lender to work with so you get the best rate possible. With the right moves, you’ll be closing on your dream home in no time.

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