Buy a home timeline from The Lawhead Team.
Planning to buy a home next year? Check out our helpful step by step timeline for preparing yourself to buy a home.
Ideally, you should start preparing a year in advance to buy a home. It takes time to arrange our financing and get our credit squared away. Follow our steps in order to get yourself ready to buy.
- Pull your credit reports. Errors on your reports can force you to pay a higher interest rate on your mortgage or even torpedo your chances of getting a loan. You can get free copies of your reports from the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — at AnnualCreditReport.com. Look for accounts that aren’t yours, collection accounts for debts you don’t owe and negative marks (other than bankruptcy) that are older than seven years.
- Work on improving your credit scores before planning to buy a home. Your credit scores, which are three-digit numbers used to gauge your creditworthiness, help determine the rates and terms you can get for a loan. There are hundreds of different credit-scoring formulas, but the one used by the vast majority of mortgage lenders is the FICO.
- You may want to consider a credit monitoring service for the year leading up to buying your home. With the risk of identity theft and the importance of your credit and credit scores when you buy a home, an early warning if a collector tried to post a bogus post may be beneficial.
- Focus on lowering your debt. The debt which affects most home buyers is debt associated with credit card balances and pay day loans. These are signs you are living beyond your means. Owning a home involves plenty of big costs so if you don’t get your overspending problem fixed now, it will only get worse when you own a home.
- Start saving. Eliminate spending money you don’t need to. Stop eating out as much, drop your cable/TV subscription and use that money you would have spent to put in a savings account.
- Stay on top of your bills. One 30 day late payment can knock your credit score down 100 points. If you don’t have a reliable bill-paying system consider using automatic debits so payments come directly from your checking account.
- Now that you have your finances organized and are building good credit, it is time to sort through your mortgage options to buy a home. Many people have lost their homes today because they didn’t understand what kind of mortgage they had or the accepted bad advice when looking at various mortgages. If you want to be safe, stick with a fixed rate mortgage.
- Plan out all the costs of owning a home. On top of your mortgage, you’ll have property taxes and insurance on the home. Check to see if there is a homeowners or condo association fee as well. Also, make sure to include the utility bills and make sure you have a bit saved away for emergency repair costs. Ask The Lawhead Team to help fill you in on what to expect when owning a home.
- During the last couple months before you actively put offers in on homes and until the mortgage process is complete, don’t open or close any new accounts. Avoid any actions which could potentially harm your credit such as getting new credit cards or closing old ones.
- Shop around for mortgage rates, but be careful. Every time you give a lender permission to check your credit, a “hard inquiry” appears on your credit report, and that can ding your score a bit. Fortunately, the FICO scoring formula lumps all mortgage-related inquiries made within a specified period when you are looking to buy a home and counts them as one. You want to do your serious mortgage shopping in a fairly concentrated period of time, typically after your offer on the home you want is accepted.
- Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Pre-approval, in which a lender gives a commitment to make you a loan, is different and more valuable to sellers than pre-qualification, which merely gives you an idea of the size of the mortgage you might afford without making any commitments. You don’t have to get a loan from the lender that offers you a pre-approval letter. Getting a pre-approval does involve giving permission for a hard credit inquiry, but the small potential ding on your credit is worth it because you’ll be in a stronger position with sellers.
- Now it’s time to begin researching and looking for your home. Attend open houses and ask The Lawhead Team to help with all your home-finding needs.