It’s a new year and with it comes new goals and dreams. If one of your dreams is to buy a home this year, then improving your credit should be a top priority. Credit scores mean so much this day and age. Good scores help you qualify for better mortgage programs and receive lower interest rates, making home ownership more affordable. So, with that in mind, what can you do to improve your score? Here are a few tips.
1. Check and correct errors
Visit CreditKarma.com for free access to your credit report from 2 of the 3 credit bureaus. If you notice any errors, immediately work to have them fixed. You can each credit bureau and/or the creditor tied to the account in question. When errors are removed, scores tend to increase instantly.
2. Make payments on time
Payment history weighs heavily on your score. Therefore, paying your debts on time is one of the most important things you can do. Even one late payment can drop your score, so being a diligent and conscientious borrower will pay off and help you achieve your home ownership dreams.
3. Don’t apply for new credit cards
If you want to buy a home, then you’ll need to resist the urge of applying for new credit or charge cards. Although you may benefit from store discounts or low introductory interest rates, those cards can cost you more money in the long run if your score drops. Your mortgage interest rates could be higher for the 30 year life of your loan. So, skip the promos and discounts and focus on the bigger prize… the home of your dreams.
4. Don’t accumulate more debt
In addition to avoiding new card applications, it’s equally important not to increase balances on existing cards. How much of your credit line you are using impacts both your credit score and a lender’s assessment of your credit worthiness. If you have a $10,000 credit limit and are only using $1,000 of it, that looks much better than having a high $9,000 balance against that same credit line.
5 . Select a lender early
Find a local lender and connect with a loan officer early in the process. Although you may not be ready to request a pre-approval yet, you can start to understand what mortgage options are available and what you may do qualify. Does your score need to reach a certain figure? Do you need to save a specific amount of your own funds? Do you need to pay down some debts to get your debt-to-income ratio within an acceptable range? Improving your credit score using the tips above is one thing, but there are other aspects of mortgage approval that you may need to prepare for. A mortgage professional can give you the proper guidance on those other matters.
As a final thought, it’s also a great idea to connect with a local real estate agent. You can start narrowing down your target neighborhoods, monitoring the market for new listings, and track market price fluctuations. When you are ready to start actively looking for a home, your agent will also provide you with valuable guidance and advice at every step of the process.