You know how to look for a house. But the money part is trickier. You need to start working on the financial details of buying a home three to four months before you want to move into your new digs. Here's a step-by-step breakdown:
1. Gather the financial documents you'll need to get a mortgage:
- pay stubs
- statements from banks, brokerages and retirement accounts
- income tax returns
- records of debts such as auto loans, mortgages, student loans and credit cards
2. Find out your credit score. You can go to our mortgage page and review your credit score and a get a copy of a credit report from our preferred lender. Your credit score is a distillation of your bill-paying history expressed as a three-digit number between about 300 and 850, the higher the better. A score above 720 is most desirable, the equivalent of a getting an A.
3. Fix any errors on your credit report. Errors appear regularly on credit reports, and they can lower your credit score and keep you from getting loans with lower interest rates. Clerical or computer errors cause most mistakes on credit reports. You can correct them by sending a letter to the credit bureau describing the mistake and requesting an investigation. Getting that incorrect report off your credit report will take at least a month.
4. Find a broker or lender, who will look at your pile of paper and estimate how much you can afford to borrow.
5. Get pre-approved for a mortgage so that when you make an offer for a house, it's taken seriously. When you're pre-approved, a lender has agreed to lend you a certain amount of money for your home purchase at specified terms and conditions. Pre-approval gives you leverage in the deal-making process, because it establishes your buying power. The letter of preapproval you get from your lender makes the bid you put on a property as reliable as a cash offer. Now that you're pre-approved for a mortgage, you're ready to shop till you drop.