May 18, 2015 12:48 am
Prepare your finances well in advance of searching for a home. Here’s how.
1. Make a Financial Plan
Knowing where to start means conducting a complete review of how your household budget is managed. Comparing income and expenses, reviewing debt, and tracking savings are just a few of the ways to measure readiness for homeownership.
2. Review Your Credit Report and Score
Because a mortgage is the largest debt a person is likely to carry in their life, credit history can be a deal breaker or a dream maker. A credit report may be obtained without a score for free once every 12 months from each of the three bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
Once a copy is obtained, review it for discrepancies and dispute any differences. Do this at least six months in advance of applying for the loan, allowing time for inaccuracies to be corrected.
Along with the free credit report, a score can be purchased for a small fee. Because the score is critical to mortgage approval and competitive interest rates, it is worth taking a look before submitting the loan application. Lender guidelines vary, but a FICO score of 760 is typically the threshold for the most favorable interest rates.
3. Start Saving
A down payment is typically no less than 20 percent of the purchase price of a home, and coming up with the money may be a significant pain point. A down payment is essential to limit the amount borrowed, as well as increasing the chance of having more favorable mortgage terms.
4. Decide the Type of Loan
After you’ve selected a lender, decide whether to take on a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate loan, which are the most common of the many different types of financing available. For those planning to remain in the home for a long time, a fixed-rate mortgage helps add stability by keeping the payment the same for the life of the loan. Those expecting their stay in the home to be no longer than five to seven years may be better served by an adjustable-rate loan, where they could benefit from lower rates in the short term.
5. Pre-Qualify for a Loan
It is important to know the limits of what is affordable before beginning to shop for a house. A good place to start is by becoming pre-qualified with a lender. This free service can typically be done in-person, online or by phone. The lender will need to gather some financial information and will offer a general idea of the amount of mortgage loan available based on the information provided. This non-binding estimate is the best way to know how much house would be affordable.
6. Become Pre-Approved for a Loan
Applying for a mortgage typically involves a cost and is done by supplying detailed financial documentation to the lender. The lender will use this information in conjunction with information obtained by pulling a credit report to determine the amount and terms for the loan. This is not a final approval for a loan, but is a significant step toward that outcome.
7. Lock in the Rate
If you like the interest rate being offered when pre-approved, lock it in by getting the commitment in writing. It can take time to find a home, negotiate a price and secure funding. Locking a rate for a reasonable period of time helps make room to complete the process without risking a less-favorable interest rate.
Published with permission from RISMedia.