If you have been dreaming about buying your very own home, there has really never been a better time than right now. Home prices are relatively stable, and interest rates have been at record lows for quite a while. Plus the months between March and July are usually the best times of year to find inventory on the market. Before you dive into your home buying experience, though, there are a few things you should know as a first-time homebuyer to ensure that you get the best loan and the best rates.
1: Know and Understand Your Credit Score
Your credit score is perhaps the most important number in your life when it comes to getting a mortgage loan. Even small changes in your credit score can have a significant impact on your interest rate, so before you start shopping for a home, check your credit score.
Credit scores are expressed as a number between 300 and 850; higher scores mean that lenders are more confident in your ability to repay a loan. Generally a score of 720 or above is considered excellent credit, 650 to 720 is good, between 500 and 650 is fair or poor, and below 500 is considered bad credit, although each lender might have its own ranges that differ slightly from the ones above.
2: Have the Best Credit Possible When Going for a Loan
If your credit score is lower than you would like, it might be a good idea to wait a little while before applying for a loan. Take these steps to improve your credit score:
- Pay all your bills on time
- Review your credit report for mistakes and fixing any problems
- Pay down high balances on your existing credit accounts
- Don’t take out any big new loans (student loans, car loans, etc.) in the months prior to getting a mortgage loan
Fixing a lower-than-desirable credit score can take some time, so you should start this process about 6 to 12 months before you plan to get your loan.
3: Have Your Documentation Ready
In order to get a loan you will need to have documentation of your income and taxes. Typically lenders like to see at least two paystubs, and two years’ worth of W-2s and tax returns, as well as bank statements from the last couple of months. If you are self-employed or you are paid on commission, be prepared to provide even more documentation of your income to qualify for a loan.
4: Set Your Budget
Ideally you should already have an idea of how much you want to spend on your monthly house payment, which will give you an idea of how much you can afford to borrow, but it’s always a good idea to track your spending for a few months to be sure. Keep in mind that most mortgage payments also include homeowners insurance, property taxes, and mortgage insurance (if you are not putting 20 percent down), so your calculations need to take that into account. Most lenders prefer that homeowners spend less than 28 percent of their income before taxes on a house payment, and less than 36 percent of take-home pay on a mortgage.
When you’re ready to get started, the next step is meeting with a knowledgeable mortgage lender in Utah to find out what loan options are going to work best for you and getting pre-qualified so you can start looking for the home of your dreams.