Whether you’re applying for a loan or an apartment, at some point, the state of your credit will likely matter. Before entering into a monetary arrangement with a customer, a lot of businesses and business owners will check your credit.
As important as your credit is, a lot of people know very little about credit and how it works. That’s why we’re going to break down a few of the most common questions regarding credit, credit scores, and why they’re checked.
What is a Credit Score?
Your credit score is an average score based on your credit history. This credit score is affected by several factors, the biggest of which is your payment history. Your payment history is basically a record of your payments that takes into account whether or not they were made on time.
What is a Credit Check?
Simply put, a credit check is a report to understand your financial behavior. It can show if you paid back your credit on time, how much credit you currently have and how well you are managing it.
A company doesn’t need your consent to do this, but they must have a legitimate reason for looking it up.
Who Can Check My Credit?
Anyone from banks, credit providers to landlords, and even employers can run a credit check. However, to do so they’ll need the right information. To check someone’s credit you’ll need their social security number, address, and employment information. This is why landlords will often ask for this type of information on the rental application.
Why Do Landlords Run Credit Checks?
When it comes to renting to a potential tenant, landlords want to make sure the applicant is dependable. Late payments and broken leases can be a real inconvenience for landlords, so they typically avoid situations like as much as they can by choosing less “risky” tenants.
To avoid entering into a contract with someone that regularly submits late payments, Landlords will often run a credit check. While your credit is mostly determined by your payment habits, several other factors can affect your credit score.
What’s Included in a Credit Check?
A lot more than your credit history goes into a credit check. In addition to credit-related payments, a credit check will provide your potential landlord with a history of your finances, criminal convictions, and lawsuits.
A credit check will provide your potential landlord with information regarding your financial stability. They can check your employment status as well as your income during the screening process.
A credit check will also provide landlords with information regarding their applicant’s debt. However, debt doesn’t usually play as big a part in the landlord’s final decision. Typically, they’re more interested in your income and your credit.
What Do Landlords Look For in a Credit Check?
Different landlords have different standards when it comes to who they’ll sign a lease with. In some cases, landlords won’t even run credit checks, although most choose to do so.
Landlords have the right to refuse an application due to criminal convictions. However, according to the law, they aren’t supposed to let an arrest affect their decision unless that arrest was followed by a conviction.
When it comes to a credit check, the two biggest factors for a landlord are your income and your credit history. Landlords typically want to make sure you make enough money to pay them. Furthermore, they want to make sure you have a habit of paying your bills on time.
What Are Some Dealbreakers for Landlords?
Again, different landlords have different standards when it comes to what they would consider a dealbreaker.
Most landlords want to rent to tenants that have a credit score of 620 or higher. A credit score lower than 620 might be a dealbreaker for some landlords. Similarly, past evictions are another red flag that landlords will often take into consideration.
A credit check doesn’t provide your landlord with information regarding past evictions. However, they can find out about evictions through other means. While a single eviction might not be a dealbreaker for a landlord, it’s still a red flag that will likely affect their decision.
Another potential dealbreaker for landlords is the applicant’s income. Your potential landlord wants to make sure that your income is substantial enough to cover the cost of your rent.
How Do I Check My Credit Score?
Checking your credit is particularly easy. All you’ll need is your social security number, address, and employment information. However, you should be very careful when it comes to giving your social security number. Be sure to only check your credit score with trusted platforms.
One of the most commonly used and trusted credit check sites is Experian. To check your credit, just click the link! It’ll redirect you to Experian’s online credit check.
A Good Credit Score is the Key to Financial Freedom
At the end of the day, having good credit mostly comes down to paying your bills and rent on time. There are a few other ways to increase your credit score. However, as long as you live within your means and spend responsibly, your credit score will usually be okay.
If you’re worried about what a potential landlord might find on your credit report, look first. You’re entitled to a free annual credit report. Plus, there are several ways to check your credit for free online.
You can’t control how a landlord or property manager might interpret your credit report, but if you know what’s on it, you’ll be more prepared to answer any questions they might have.
The good news: We live in an age where you can pretty much do anything with the assistance of software.
The bad news: Software has only come so far in replacing the services of professionals.
You can purchase software for everything from filing your taxes to improving your credit score, but when it comes to the latter, it is best to entrust your precious credit standing to professionals. The main reason is that credit repair software will require you to do 99% of the work and unless you are a credit wiz, this kind of software will not benefit you much. Here are the reasons why hiring a credit repair company is advisable overusing credit repair software.
Hiring A Professional Saves Time
Unless you know somehow that improving your credit will be as simple as sending a request for investigation to one of the three credit bureaus then repairing your loan can be a very time-consuming ordeal. In some cases, lawyers will even need to be involved in your case involves taking a creditor to task for false reporting.
When you hire a professional, you will need to be involved. For example, most companies have a consultation and what’s known as an intake session where they gather as much pertinent documentation from the client as they can. Apart from attending these sessions and finding and submitting these documents, though, you will not need to commit very much more time in this endeavor. Most credit repair companies work every month in the background. All the client usually has to do is forward correspondences they receive from creditors or bureaus.
With software, the individual will need to pore through their own documents so that they can input critical information into the system, which is essentially a glorified spreadsheet. They will also need to read through all correspondence letters and reply to them directly – all very time-consuming activities.
Software Cannot Fight For You
First of all, no software no matter how advanced can interact with the credit bureaus or credit issuing entities so forget about disputing frivolous reports or getting things like liens and charge offs stricken form your credit report.
There are certain legal time limits that the bureaus have to process requests for investigation and disputes. A professional credit repair company will stay on top of these deadlines and keep track of the process as it develops. They will make sure that the bureaus are doing what they need to do for your best interest and fight against the irritating bureaucracy on your behalf.
At best, credit repair software can update you as to the process of disputes, but you will be responsible for filing the conflicts in the first place and deciding what to make of these process reports.
A Sounder Investment
There is never any guarantee that you or anyone you hire will be able to improve your credit score, but at least when you hire a professional, there will be some sort of money-back guarantee if they can’t do anything for you.
When you “invest” in the credit repair software, there is no money-back guarantee. If you cannot improve your own credit score by using the software you are on the hook for however much you paid for it and for however long you subscribed to the service.
The higher-end credit software suites can cost up to $400 too. Most people’s credit can be improved by at least a little within 2 months, which sounds favorable when you consider that most professional credit services charge $30 to $100 a month.
A More Comprehensive Approach
At least at the time of this writing, the personal approach cannot be quantified. When you hire a credit repair company, you will have the option of working with a human professional to devise a financial plan that you can follow to better credit. This includes an in-depth analysis of your current debts, finances, your financial goals, and in some cases, one-on-one financial coaching services.
No software can provide this thorough analysis and come up with a financial plan specifically suited to your situation. In fact, most credit repair software simply offers dispute letter templates that you can fill out and send to creditors. If you opt for the more expensive software packages, you might be given access to a real live credit expert who can walk you through the process, but at that point, you will be spending as much as you would if you hired an expert only without all the additional services.
They Put the Law on Your Side
Fixing credit is not always just a matter of getting negative marks off your record. Sometimes collection agencies have lawyers, and they will not yield to the average citizen that their actions are unlawful or that their grounds for collection are false.
Software does not know the law, and they cannot talk to these collection agency lawyers to show them that a mistake has been made or that their actions are illegal. But a high-caliber credit repair professional will know the law and put it to work for you.
There are also specific laws that have been enacted such as the Fair Credit Billing Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act to protect consumers and can be leveraged for the benefit of your credit. For example, there are only specific ways a collection agency can go about trying to collect a debt under the FDCPA, and when they violate this act, a professional can leverage the violation as a way to dissolve the deficit for the client.
Simply put, no software can do this for you. In the end, hiring credit repair professionals can save you time, money, and make sure that you have a sustainable way to good credit in the future.
So, you applied for a credit card and you were approved. You’ve been granted a maximum limit of $2,000 – Perfect! There’s a pair of shoes you’ve had your sights set on for months. After all, isn’t that why you need a credit card? You swipe your shiny new card and are beyond ecstatic with your killer new shoes. Virtually overnight, you’ve maxed out your credit card. You’re completely baffled. How did this happen? You’re now responsible for paying off borrowed funds and available funds in your checking account won’t be enough to cover the balance.
Like many people, you decide to apply for another credit card, so you can pay your bills and keep your head above water. This is certainly no way to live.
What do you do? This feeling can be overwhelming and believe me, there are tons of people who have encountered the same problem. You will need to repair your credit score and get your credit cards bills down, but when you have obligations every month that conflict with your minimum payments, it may seem harder than you realized to accomplish these goals. Facing this challenge will require you to start planning.
I’m sure that plenty of people throughout your adulthood have offered advice surrounding the importance of budgeting your income. And like most people, you immediately assumed that these individuals had no clue what your situation entailed. Everything is easier said than done, right? While creating a budget and sticking to it is undoubtedly difficult, getting into a healthy financial routine will help you successfully manage your credit card spend.
Create a Budget
First, it’s important to acknowledge and firmly understand what you can and cannot afford. Take some time to examine your monthly income against your expenses and purchases to determine if you are spending more than what you’re bringing in. By doing this, you’re just setting yourself up for disaster. And it’s certainly not good if you are only paying the minimum on your credit cards or even less, only because you cannot afford the monthly payments. This means you need to start adequately planning for your monthly expenses so you can settle your debt and erase bad spending habits moving forward.
It’s important to prioritize. Of course, enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant with friends or treating yourself to some new clothes is fun, but if your monthly income can’t accommodate for these additional expenses than you need to focus on covering the necessities. Don’t let yourself dive into a black hole of lousy credit just for a few nights of cocktails. Once you come up with a budgeting plan and eradicate your debt, you’ll be able to set aside funds as needed for these special occasions.
Create a Spreadsheet
Staying organized is a crucial factor in tackling what you owe on credit cards and how you should be managing your monthly income. A great way to do so is to create a spreadsheet. While this may seem like a tedious task at first, you will find that when you clean up the clutter, you will be able to become more successful at managing your bills.
A spreadsheet will help you put everything into perspective, essentially laying out all the numbers in one place. If you have three credit cards, a student loan, utility bills, and monthly rent payments, that’s a lot of moving parts to be responsible for. And you could find yourself panicking over attempting to shuffle it all together in your mind. By putting it all in front of you, you will have gained a more realistic perception of your financial situation, and you will finally be able to break away from shouldering the weight of your debt.
Look For Good Benefits
Another tip with credit cards is being sure to get a credit card that has benefits. There are plenty of credit cards in the marketplace that you can choose from, and you should select one that best fits your needs. Many credit companies provide cash back incentive or sign-on bonuses that you should undoubtedly research and take advantage of. You can either use the money that you earn back to help pay off your credit card or use it to pay off other bills.
If you have a credit card that comes with a high interest rate or an annual fee, there is often the option to transfer your balance over to a credit card with a lower interest rate and no annual fee. The problem with interest rates is that a lot of times if you are paying the minimum per month then you could be mostly spending your hard-earned pay on interest and be forced to prolong your payments when you could have been finished paying off a credit card at an earlier time.
Set Payment Reminders
Also, make sure you set alarms for yourself. When I say this, I am talking about when to pay your bills every month. We are all human with busy schedules, and sometimes we forget deadlines. The problem with that is that you could run the risk of a bill stacking up and penalties caking on. Also, not paying your credit card bills on time could negatively impact your credit score, which will only make things harder for you moving forward.
It can certainly be a little overwhelming when you think about trying to tackle a battle such as getting your credit card spending in check. You may feel that it is impossible, but understand it is a journey that will take time. By being dedicated and disciplined to staying organized and being financially responsible, you’ll find yourself having a much easier time covering your expenses. Once you get to that comfortable playing field, it will no longer feel like budgeting and instead, feel natural.
Considering buying a home? Wondering how to get started? Or when to start the process? You stomach gets all tight just thinking about purchasing what could be your biggest financial investment to date. Understanding the process and having a plan may remove some of those butterflies. The biggest key to a successful stress reduced transaction is to start early and reduce the chances of last-minute surprises.
Up to 1 Year Out from Purchase
- Check your credit report. If you have items on your report the earlier, you tackle the issue(s) the more time there is to raise your credit scores. You can check your credit for FREE through AnnualCreditReport.com, the only free online credit report authorized by Federal law.
- Check your FICO credit score. The FICO score indicates your creditworthiness and determines your interest rates and terms of the loan. The higher the FICO credit score the more options are open to you as a buyer.
- Reduce your outstanding debt. Get your outstanding debt (Credit Cards & Store Cards) below 30% of the approved limit on the credit account and if possible, get it down below 10% of the limit. Be sure you are paying on time and early if you must use the card, to keep it below these levels before reporting date. If you have a large number of cards and balances you might want to meet with a credit counselor, like Joe Camacho with Phenix Group to get a plan together.
- Saving! The higher the down payment you have the more options you have with mortgage companies. So, start saving what you will need now. You will need to prove you have had your down payment balances in your account’s months in advance of closing as proof of funds.
The above-mentioned items may mean a change of your spending patterns. You are going to want to look at cutting back on frivolous expenditures, expensive vacations and forgo luxury purchases at least until after closing. It is so sad to see someone do all this hard work, get approved for their dream home then go out and make a last-minute purchase of furniture or a vehicle. Then no longer be able to qualify for their home loan. It unfortunately happens more than you would think.
Around 6 Month Point Prior to Purchase
- Start researching you mortgage options. There are many different types of mortgages and first time buyer programs. We will expand upon these programs in future articles. Do research and find out the risks that can incur with different types of mortgages? At this point, you may want to sit down with a FREE consultation with Real Estate + Credit Professionals.
- Look into Typical Unforeseen Home Ownership Costs. These can include, but not limited to, Homeowners Associations (HOA) fees, Home Warranty Products, Special Assessment Zones, and Utilities Rates to name a few.
- Recheck you credit status and scores. Have you made the progress you need to qualify for a mortgage? If not, you will need to kick you credit repair into overdrive. At this point, you need to consider hiring a credit counselor, like Joe Camacho with Phenix Group to assist you getting to the scores you desire.
3 Month Point – Critical Credit Period
- You will need to reduce credit usage. FICO score is affected by how much of your available credit lines you have outstanding. Learn when your credit provider reports balances outstanding on your card to the bureau. This typically, does not correspond with your debt’s payment date. Try to pay down any balances before reporting date. Keep your balances below 30% and as close or below 10% if possible.
- It is very important at this point to not open or close any accounts. You are now close to starting the home buying process and these steps can have a serious impact on your credit scores. This is critical to remember even after you have a letter from your mortgage lender qualifying you for a home mortgage and up and to and including closing the transaction.
- Begin researching neighborhoods and real estate agents. What is considered a great neighborhood is going to be the items important to you like; distance to work, good schools, shopping, parks, activities and great amenities. We are adding this suggested task at the 3-month period, but nothing wrong about starting this process much earlier.
The “Home” Stretch – 2 Months Out
- You need to be very cautious during this period in having your credit pulled for any type of financial transaction. You should have considered the different mortgage options out there already and only have a limited amount of mortgage companies pull your credit report. However, if you are shopping mortgage companies do them in a short period of time and they will be counted as one pull
- Check mortgage rates and programs like 1st time buyer assistant programs. Know you FICO score to get mortgage rates, they don’t have to pull your credit to discuss rates with you
- Once you have selected your mortgage company you want to get pre-qualified for a mortgage. This way you know how much you can afford. Plus, you will need this letter for your agent to submit offers for you. The seller wants to know you can afford to purchase the home for purpose of reviewing and accepting the contract.
You should now be prepared with a better credit score, larger down payment and information on mortgages to go out and find your dream home to make a confident offer on! Good luck out there.
By: Bryan Shobe, JB Goodwin REALTOR®
Website: Real Estate + Credit Professionals
This information is Provided by: Bryan Shobe, JBGoodwin REALTOR®, Direct Line: (210) 753.4110 E-mail: email@example.com, Texas Real Estate Salesperson License #701379. Texas Law requires all real estate licensees to give the following information about brokerage services: Texas Real Estate Commission Information About Brokerage Services:
Credit repair companies say, if you’re thinking of buying a home, the general rule of thumb is that you must have at least a 20 percent down payment before you even think about getting a loan. However, with home prices being what they are today, many people can’t afford even that.
According to a recent survey of 10,000 American adults, two out of three people said that getting the money for a down payment was the biggest hurdle they faced when buying a home.
The good news is that this doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. There are many down payment assistance programs that can help you so you can get the home of your dreams.
In this article, we look at how down payment programs work, how to get assistance, and who is eligible for help.
How These Down Payment Assistance Programs Work
In most cases, a down payment assistance program is funded by the government, whether it be state, local or federal. However, sometimes these programs are available from non-profit or charitable organizations as well. If you’re thinking about getting help from the government for your down payment, you’ll have to apply and see if you’re eligible.
The first things agencies look at when considering people for down payment assistance are the the potential borrower’s income and financial obligations. For example, the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC) is one agency that offers down payment assistance, and they state that their income requirements vary according to your profession, the size of your family and the county you live in. Also, they will take your credit score into consideration as well. Keep in mind that every state has different rules regarding who’s eligible, but in most cases, agencies look at similar factors regarding each person’s eligibility.
Another thing to keep in mind is that each program treats the money you get different. In some cases, the money you receive could be from a grant, an interest-free loan, or another type of loan that you have to pay off. Also, in many cases, you have to agree to live in the house for a period of time if the money you received came via a grant that varies from agency to agency. And, if you received a loan and you decide to move, you’ll have to pay off that loan prior to selling and moving.
Types of Programs
As mentioned, these down payment assistance programs come from a variety of sources, including:
- Grants — The assistance you get through a grant doesn’t have to be paid back.
- Second Mortgage Programs — This type of assistance is usually available as a 0% interest second loan with repayment terms that can range from 5 to 30 years.
- Deferred Programs — With this program, the repayment is delayed until the buyer meets particular criteria, which could be when the buyer sells or moves out of the home.
- Forgivable Second Mortgages — With this program, you may be forgiven some or all the money you received for your down payment.
The good news for home buyers is that there are over 2,000 down payment assistance programs available throughout the country, so whichever state you’re in, help is available for you.
Who Is Eligible?
In most cases, down payment assistance programs are only available to first-time home-buyers. For example, My First Texas Home program is open to home buyers from virtually all professions, first-time buyers and veterans. In contrast, the TSAHC says they offer assistance to prior homeowners as well a first-time buyer. Also, the 5 Star Texas Advantage Program doesn’t have a restriction on first-time homebuyers, but those taking advantage of this program will have to complete an online course to be considered.
Also, while many of these programs are only available to first-time buyers, it’s important to keep in mind that first-time homebuyer is generally defined as someone who hasn’t owned a home in three years. So if you owned a house once, but are now renting a home or apartment, you may still qualify as a first-time buyer.
The good news is that, regardless of your situation, there’s usually a program available to you.
What About Credit?
Typically, these down payment assistance programs are geared toward people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a down payment, which includes people with bad credit. However, if you do have bad credit, it’s still a good idea to start rebuilding your credit as much as you can before you apply for one of these programs. You can do that by making sure your bills are paid on time and to pay down your debts quickly.
Owning a home is part of the American dream, and down payment assistance programs are helping that dream become a reality for thousands of people every year.
You are about to embark on one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences that can ever come from spending money: buying a home. If you are buying a home in 2019, you should know that the entire process is not quick, but when all is said and done, there are few things more exhilarating than buying a house. This guide will help equip you with what you need to buy a house this year.
1. Check Your Credit Score
Before applying for a loan and certainly before ever making an offer on a house, you should know your credit score. Why is your credit score important? Well, it’s not only the difference between getting a low-interest rate on a home loan versus a high one, but it will also directly impact how much a bank or lender will actually loan you. There are several websites you can use to check your credit score, here are a few to consider: TransUnion, Equifax, Experian.
You can check your own score as much as once a day without affecting your credit, also known as a soft inquiry. Hard inquiries are when financial institutions check your credit score, typically when you’re applying for a loan or credit card. Hard inquiries lower your credit score a few points, so try to keep hard inquiries to a minimum.
2. Improve Your Credit Score
Maybe you just checked your credit score and realized it’s not as high as you had expected. Don’t worry, there are a few things you can do now that will help raise your credit score so you can capitalize on a great interest rate.
Though you can easily implement steps to help your credit score, fixing or raising a credit score doesn’t happen overnight. It’s imperative to start now so when you go to apply for a home loan your credit score will (hopefully) be where you want it. Here are a few tips from The Phenix Group to help improve your credit score:
- Get Your Free Credit Report: Knowing what’s on your credit report is the first step in moving your score upward. When you obtain your report, review each section of your credit history for accuracy. Any credit-related mistakes you find and resolve should help boost your score, at least to some degree. Even the smallest bump to your credit score is movement in the right direction.
- Establish a Solid Payment History: If you want to improve your credit score, one of the easiest things you can do is start making all of your required payments on time. Even if you’ve had a history of making late payments, by making 100% of all your payments on time going forward, you’ll see your credit score rise.
- Improve Your Debt to Credit Ratio: Whether it takes days or years, paying off debt will help you improve your ratio as well as your financial future. Which in turn means a big jump in your credit score. Try focusing on paying down high-interest debt first, like credit cards. If you have a credit card nearing its limit, then targeting that one would be a good strategy to start with.
3. Know What You Can Afford
The best way to determine how much house you can afford is to simply use an affordability calculator. Though calculators such as these do not necessarily account for all of your monthly expenditures, they certainly are a great tool for understanding your larger financial situation.
After you figure out what you can comfortably afford, you can then start online window shopping for houses and really begin to narrow down what you want in a house versus what you can afford. Are you looking at specific neighborhoods? How many bedrooms do you want? Do you need a large yard, big deck, swimming pool, man cave, she shed, etc?
Understanding what you can afford in the area you want to buy will help keep you grounded and focused on what you actually want in a house versus what might be nice to have.
4. Save Up For a Down Payment
Unless you want to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), you really want to save up for a sizable down payment. PMI is an added insurance charged by mortgage lenders in order to protect themselves in case you default on your loan payments. The biggest problem with PMIs for homeowners is that they usually cost you hundreds of dollars each month. Money that is not going against the principal of your mortgage.
How much should you save for a house? Twenty percent down is typical with most mortgage lenders in order to avoid paying for PMI. However, there are other types of home loans, such as a VA loan if you have served in the military and qualify, that may allow you to put down less than twenty percent while avoiding PMIs altogether.
As an added benefit to having a sizable down payment, you may also receive a lower interest rate that will save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest over time. So start saving now!
5. Build Up Your Savings
Lenders like to see a healthy savings account and other investments or assets (i.e. 401k, CDs, after-tax investments) that you can tap into during hard times. What they really want to see is that you are not living paycheck to paycheck. A healthy savings account and other investments are a good idea in general as it will help you establish your future financial independence, but it is also a necessary item on your checklist of what you need to buy a house in 2019.
6. Have a Healthy Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)
Another key component banks and other lenders consider when issuing loans, and at what interest rate, is your debt-to-income ratio. The debt-to-income ratio is a lender’s way of comparing your monthly housing expenses and other debts with how much you earn.
So what is a healthy debt-to-income ratio when applying for a home loan? The short answer is the lower the better, but definitely, no more than 43% or you may not even qualify for a loan at all. There are two DTIs to consider as well.
The Front-End DTI: This DTI typically includes housing-related expenses such as mortgage payments and insurance. You want to shoot for a front-end DTI of 28%.
The Back-End DTI: This DTI includes all other debts you may have, such as credit cards or car loans. You want a back-end DTI of 36% or less. A simple way to improve this DTI is to pay down your debts to creditors.
How do you calculate your DTI ratio? You can use this equation for both front-end and back-end DTIs:
DTI = total debt / gross income
7. Budget for Extra Costs
There are a lot of little costs that go into buying a house that are overlooked by new home buyers all the time. Though there are some things, such as sales tax and home insurance, that can be wrapped into a home loan and monthly mortgage, there are several little things that cannot be included into the home-buying package and need to be paid for out of pocket.
Though these items can range in price depending on the area, size and cost of the house your buying, here is a list of extra costs you should consider (not all inclusive):
- Home Appraisal Fee
- Home Inspection Fee
- Geological study
- Closing costs*
- Property taxes**
- Home insurance**
- Utility hookup/start fees
- HOA fees
- Home remodeling/updating
- Existing propane gas
*Closing costs can sometimes be wrapped into the home loan, depending on the agreement with your lender.
**Property taxes and home insurance can be paid separately or your lender could include it into your monthly mortgage payment.
8. Don’t Close Old Credit Card Accounts Or Apply for New Ones
Closing a credit card account will not raise your credit score. In fact, in some cases, it may actually lower it. Instead, try to pay down the balance as much as you can, while continuing to make your monthly payments on time. If you have an old credit card you never use anymore, just ignore it, or at least don’t close it until after you have purchased your new home.
Opening new credit cards before buying a home is also not a good idea. You don’t want creditors checking your credit or opening new cards under your name, as you may lose some points on your credit score.
The absolute worst thing you can do is max out one of your credit cards, even if the limit on the card is low. If you do, your credit score may plummet. Try tackling your credit cards with the highest interest rate first, then as one gets paid off, focus on the next card until you’re free and clear.
9. A Solid Employment History
If you haven’t gotten the picture yet, lenders like consistency, including your employment history. Lenders like to see a borrower with the same employer for about two years.
What if you have a job with an irregular or inconsistent pay schedule? People with jobs such as contract positions, who are self-employed, or have irregular work schedules can still qualify for a home loan. A mortgage known as a ‘Bank Statement’ mortgage is becoming rapidly popular with lenders as more self-employed or what has been referred to as the ‘gig economy’ has taken off.
10. Know the Difference Between a Fixed Rate and an Adjustable Rate Mortgage
The difference between these two types of mortgage rates really lies within their names. A fixed rate loan is exactly that, an interest rate that will never change the moment it’s locked in. You will pay the same amount the very first month you pay your home loan and will continue to pay that same exact amount over the course of thirty years (or however long the loan term is).
An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is typically a mortgage that starts out as a lower rate than fixed interest rates but then is adjusted each year typically resulting in a rate higher than a fixed rate. A 5-1 ARM is a popular mortgage offered by lenders, which is a hybrid between fixed and adjustable rate mortgages. Your mortgage would start out at a lower fixed rate for the first five years, then after that time period has elapsed, the rate would then be adjusted on an annual basis for the remainder of the loan term.
11. Follow Interest Rates
It is important to know what interests rates are doing. The big question is are they on the rise or are they falling?
When the economy is good the Federal Reserve typically raises the interest rate in an effort to slow down economic growth in order to control inflation and rising costs. When the economy is in the dumps the Fed does the exact opposite. They lower the interest rate in order to entice more people to make larger purchases that require loans (i.e. land, cars, and houses) to help stimulate the economy.
As new soon-to-be homeowners, it’s a good idea to know how the overall economy is doing, and more importantly, how it’s impacting the interest rates you’ll soon be applying for. In 2018, after years of bottom of the barrel interest rates, the Fed raised interest rates three times and is projecting to raise it three more times in 2019.
Why are small hikes in interest rates so important to you? To put it into perspective, even a one percent increase in your interest rate on a home loan is the difference of paying or saving tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments on your home loan over time.
12. Know How Much Time it Takes to Buy a House
The home buying process from start to finish is time-consuming and very relative to individual circumstances and the housing market in your area. However, there are some general universal constants that you can expect, such as a cash offer on a house is usually much quicker than a traditional loan, and if there is a perfect house in a good neighborhood and at a great price, you better expect competition and added time for a seller to review offers.
Depending on the housing market in your area and possibly which season you’re buying in, it can take you a couple of weeks to find a home or more than a year. But after you find your home you can typically expect the entire process from making an offer on a house to walking in its front door, to be as little as a few weeks to a couple of months on average.
13. Find a Knowledgeable Real Estate Agent
There are several ways to find a knowledgeable real estate agent. Many people rely on recommendations from friends and family, while others look to online reviews. While both of these scenarios work really well and can land you a great real estate agent, the reason these agents rise above the others as the best of the best or the crème de la crème is because of their intentions.
A good real estate agent isn’t trying to get you into a house as quickly as possible so they can earn a commission. Instead, you want an agent that will act as your guide through the home buying process, while having your best interests in mind. A good agent will be able to tell you straight if they think a house is a good fit for you, or if you should keep looking. They should also be expert negotiators so that you get the best deal possible.
14. Find a Mortgage Lender
There are a few things to keep in mind when researching a mortgage lender. The first thing that comes to most people’s’ minds is what mortgage rate can they get. You may have to shop around to find the best rate because lower the rate the more money you save.
Secondly, how does that mortgage lender rate compared to other lenders? By looking at positive and negative online reviews you can usually establish a theme pretty quickly of the strengths and weaknesses of the lender, and what you can possibly expect for a level of service down the road.
Ask the lender what their average length of time is to close on a house after the offer has been accepted? A good lender versus a bad one can be the difference of moving into your new home two to four weeks earlier. You want to find out how streamlined their processes are.
15. Get Pre-approved
When being approved by a mortgage lender, you should be aware that there is a small but relevant difference between the typical fast preapproval for a home loan versus an underwritten pre-approval.
The fast pre-approval usually encompasses a credit report and a loan officer review and can be done in less than a couple of hours. This basic pre-approval allows you to quickly know how much you can afford and then make an offer on a house that may have just come on the market.
The underwritten pre-approval usually takes about twenty-four hours and includes a credit report, loan officer review, underwriter review, and a compliance/fraud review. Though this process takes longer, your offer on a house is actually stronger. Eventually, if you’re planning on buying a house, you will have to go through the underwritten pre-approval process anyway, so it’s better to jump on it from the start.
16. Research Neighborhoods or Areas You Want to Live
There are many variables to think about when researching your future residents. The key to beginning your research is to determine those variables most important to you. Are you looking for a good school district, a large house, convenience to commuter options, or a specific neighborhood that is extremely friendly and ranks high on Walk Score?
Your real estate agent will most likely tell you to figure out your list of the things you absolutely want in a house versus the extra features that you would like to have, but wouldn’t deter you from a house if it wasn’t there.
Your list will help your agent narrow down the number of houses they’ll show you, saving you time by only showing you houses you’d actually be interested in.
17. Shop For Your Home and Make an Offer
Now that you know where you want to live and you’re pre-approved, the fun begins. You get to look at houses! Once you find the house you know would be a great fit for you and your family, you’ll want to make an offer.
There are numerous variables to consider and hopefully, your knowledgeable real estate agent will help you through this process. Understanding the market conditions, how houses have been selling in the neighborhood and at what price (above or below asking), and knowing if there are other competing offers will help you assess and determine how you’d like to make an offer.
Negotiating an offer on a house can be emotionally taxing, so do your research and rely on your agent’s advice so you come to the table prepared.
18. Get a Home Inspection
Congratulations are in order! The sellers have accepted your offer. Now you want to get the home inspected to make sure there are no underlying issues that could cost you money down the road, such as a bad roof or foundation. Usually, a home inspection is a contingency built into the initial offer, and your real estate agent can help you set this up. However, it is recommended to hire an inspector that is certified by a national organization (such as ASHI or Inter-NACHI). Though you can waive this contingency if you’re trying to make your offer more competitive in a hot market. Just be aware that if you do waive a home inspection contingency, you may be taking on considerable risk.
There are several types of home inspections, but in general, a typical home inspection involves a certified inspector that will go in, around, under, and top of your house looking for anything that could be of concern, such as structural or mechanical issues. The inspector would also look for safety issues related to the property. Though they will go into crawl spaces and attics as part of their inspection, they will not open walls. They will inspect the plumbing and electrical systems and should point out any defect in the property that could cost money down the road for the homeowner.
Then they will put their findings into a nice written report for you with pictures, which then basically becomes a miniature instruction manual for your house. No house is perfect, but the report will give you a great snapshot of the property at the time of the inspection. If there are fixes that need to be addressed, this report will certainly let you know.
You should also know that the sellers are not required to make any repairs to the property. However, you can request them through your real estate agent, which will let you know what repairs are reasonable or not.
19. Have the Home Appraised
Home appraisals are an important part of the process because oftentimes house prices can quickly skyrocket when the housing market is hot, and banks do not like to loan out more money than what a home is worth. A home appraiser will not only tell you what the home is actually worth for the area and for the current housing market, but this appraisal will also directly affect the size of loan the bank will give you.
If the home appraisal comes back and states that the house is worth $300,000, but you made an offer of $310,000, the bank will most likely only lend you $300k. You will then either be stuck with paying the additional $10k out of pocket, or you may try to renegotiate the price with the sellers to see if they would be willing to come down. Or you may lose the house altogether.
Also, the mortgage lender will usually set up the home appraisal so you can take this time to focus on other home-buying tasks that need to be finished up.
20. Close the Sale and Sign the Papers
Congratulations, you’re a homeowner! Your real estate agent should help you map out the last details, such as when and where you should sign all the papers to take ownership of the house and, of course, the handing over of the keys. Welcome to your new home.
This article was contributed by Redfin for The Phenix Group blog.