Thinking about buying a new house this year?
There are very few things that can make you giddy with excitement, yet a giant ball of stress and nerves, both at the same time.
One thing that can help reduce the amount of stress from the home buying process is making sure your financial house in order before starting the process.
Courtesy of the Zillow Frontporch blog, here are 5 steps that can help make sure you’re as prepared as possible when you finally do find that dream house you’ve been looking for.
1. Avoid job hopping
Employment history and income are two of the biggest factors lenders look at when evaluating a mortgage application. A new job may be a good career move, but if you plan to buy a home in the new year, know that job hopping can be a red flag to some underwriters — especially if you’re moving to a different industry.
A steady job history and few or no gaps in employment over the past two years are ideal, as it helps lenders more easily forecast your future income.
If you do get a new job while home shopping, let your lender know as soon as possible. It doesn’t mean you won’t qualify for a mortgage — just be prepared to show extra documentation.
If you’re moving from a commissioned or hourly job to one that’s salaried with equal or more compensation, it may help your application. Lenders often prefer borrowers to have steady, predictable paychecks.
2. Limit monthly subscription services
Monthly subscription services are certainly convenient, but they can add up. Even if you pay off your credit card every month, you could be dinged for high credit utilization if your credit report is pulled midcycle.
If you’re thinking of buying a home this year, consider keeping your monthly subscription services to a minimum.
3. Build a solid credit history
One of the first things a lender will look at is your credit history. Lenders prefer borrowers who have a history of paying off credits cards and other debts on time — because it signals that you’re a responsible borrower and less of a risk.
If you don’t have credit, securing a home loan may be significantly more challenging and time-consuming, but not impossible. Records of paying rent and utilities on time, as well as student loan debt or cell phone bills, can help show a potential lender that you have a history of managing monthly payments.
4. Check your credit
Your credit score can have a significant impact on your ability to buy a home. A low credit score can negatively affect how much money a lender is willing to loan you, as well as your interest rate.
Just a few percentage point differences in an interest rate can cost you thousands over the life of a loan. Monitor your credit closely, especially for fraudulent activity, to prevent any surprises that could delay the loan application process.
If you’re unsure of your credit score, many financial websites offer credit score monitoring, or you can get a full credit report once a year.
5. Avoid large purchases
Avoid taking on large amounts of debt — whether it’s buying a car or planning a large vacation — before buying a house. This is advisable even if you’re already preapproved.
Your debt-to-income ratio, or how much money you make compared to how much debt you have, can significantly affect how much money a lender is willing to give you. Keeping debts to a minimum can help make the home-buying process go a lot more smoothly.
Just like proofreading your resume before you apply for a job, cleaning up your financial resume can help improve your chances of buying a home.
Take advantage of online tools and resources, like our affordability calculator, which can help you determine how much home you can afford. Our mortgage calculator can also provide custom down payment estimates based on home price and interest rates. And as you search for your future home, check out our extensive lender and agent reviews, which can help you find the best real estate partners for your needs.
- Can I Afford a House?
- 5 Questions to Ask Potential Mortgage Lenders
- Owning vs. Renting: What is the Right Decision for You?
Originally published January 2018