Buying In 2017? 7 Steps You Must Take Now
You can’t just plunk down your credit card to buy a house. Here’s how to prepare for the purchase.
If you’re thinking about buying a home in 2017, October to December is the perfect time to “warm up” for the house hunt so you can hit the ground running in the new year. And whether you’re looking in Athens, GA, or Athens, NY, the prep work is relatively the same.
We’ve asked real estate and mortgage professionals to chime in about what prospective homebuyers should do to ready themselves for buying a home. From organizing your finances to save money to finding a real estate agent and mortgage lender, there is plenty to keep you busy!
1. Check your credit score
A credit score is a numerical representation of your credit report. FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher your score, the better. “Good credit is like gold when obtaining a mortgage,” says Denise Supplee, a Pennsylvania agent. Typically, you’ll get the best interest rate on a loan if your score is 740 and above. “A higher credit score should net you a lower mortgage rate,” says Lee Gimpel, co-creator of The Good Credit Game, which specializes in financial education. “That lower rate, even if it’s only 1 or 2% lower, can mean saving thousands of dollars per year.” If your credit score falls short, get busy repairing it. Correct any errors that might be on your report, start paying all your bills on time, and get your credit limit raised. Note, though, that you shouldn’t max out your card each month. It’s best to use 30% or less of your total available credit.
2. Don’t open new credit cards
If you think resisting taking a selfie when you’re face-to-face with your fave celebrity is a testament to your willpower, that’s sissy stuff compared with turning down every offer to open a credit card, even if you could save 20% (or more!) on your holiday purchases. Tempting as saving at checkout can be, opening new credit may hurt your chances of getting a mortgage, or at least of getting the best rate on a loan. “By opening the account, you have created another line of credit,” says Paul Anastos, president of Mortgage Master, a division of loanDepot, a nonbank lender. “That credit line, and what is borrowed, can change the application numbers and jeopardize the application.” What could save you a few dollars now could cost you far more in the long run if your mortgage payments will be higher. And along those same lines, “Don’t overspend during the holiday season,” says Dean Sioukas founder of Magilla Loans, an online lending exchange. “Especially on impulse purchases that can be tempting during the holidays.”
3. Suggest financial gifts for the holidays
Besides the mortgage loan, you’ll need a sizable amount of cash to buy a house. There’s the down payment to consider, closing costs, and moving costs. You should also set aside money for unexpected repairs and costs, says Brian Betzler, regional sales manager at TD Bank. Not being prepared “is probably why nearly half of millennials incurred up to $5,000 in unexpected costs during the mortgage process, according to a recent TD survey,” he says.
A potential solution? Bulk up that emergency fund. “Instead of getting gifts for the holidays, [prospective homebuyers] can suggest cash instead that will be put toward their home,” says Paul Sian, a Kentucky and Ohio agent. And remember, you might be getting some money back after you file your tax return. Don’t blow it on vacation. “A tax refund is a great way to add to your cash reserves for a down payment,” says David Hosterman, branch manager of Castle & Cooke Mortgage in Colorado.
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