1. Saving for a down payment
Your down payment is a portion of the total price of the house (or plot) you’re looking to buy. It can range anywhere between 2% to 20% of the purchase price; the exact amount will depend on the terms and conditions of your particular loan. Either way, establishing a monthly budget will go a long way towards helping you put aside enough money for the down payment. If you feel you don’t have enough time though, consider an FHA loan. It’s designed to help home buyers who can’t afford more than a very small deposit.
2. Paying attention to your credit score
The better your credit score, the more favourable the terms of your home loan. Get a copy of your credit report (you’re entitled to a free one every year) or check your score online before you start applying for your loan. Your credit score is basically your financial resume. So if it’s not up to par, start working on it before approaching banks about a loan. By the way, if you need some help with improving it, we’ve got some tips for you here .
3. Getting your papers in order
Not everyone is organized but for the next few months you need to be. Because applying for a home loan will require you to provide your lender with a bunch of financial documents. At the very least, you’ll need to show your last three paychecks, your last Form W-2, two years’ worth of tax returns and all your current bank statements. Repeat: that’s the least you’ll need to show. It’s entirely possible you’ll have to provide even more paperwork so start assembling it together now.
4. Comparing different offers
Not all mortgages are created equal but most of them are competing for your attention so tread carefully. Keep in mind that two offers with the same interest rate have differences in fees or points that make one more expensive than the other. Do your research carefully and read through all the terms and conditions and fine print. You need to understand every single facet that goes into a loan before you start comparing them.
5. Tracking interest rates
One of the most important factors determining the cost of your loan will be the interest rate. Rates change nearly every day so keep track of which direction they’re heading.
6. Getting pre-qualified
Pre-qualification for a home loan is often required if you want a real estate agent to work with you. Luckily, the process is fairly simple. You need to provide documentation on your current income and your savings (including investments). Pre-qualification will also give you a better sense of how much you can borrow which will help narrow your search down to a realistic figure.
7. Understanding your loan options
Some loans have a fixed rate, others are adjustable. You might prefer the stability of the former or the lower initial payments of the latter. The one thing you do need to take into account is your long term financial situation. For example, an adjustable rate might work for you right now, but will it in two years?
8. Taking care of your credit while your loan is being processed
Don’t be surprised if your lenders check your credit report once more during the loan application process. Even if you’ve made the initial cut, any negative trends in your credit score will affect the final result. Pay your bills on time, don’t apply for new credit cards and don’t take out any other loans until your home loan has been secured