You’ve paid rent year after year and what do you have to show for it? Zilch. Zero. Nothing.
If you’re starting to dream about building equity, now is a great time to make the leap. Interest rates are still low, and real estate prices haven’t started to spike yet. Before you apply to a lender, though, there are a few things you should know.
Applying won’t damage your credit
“If you are shopping around for a mortgage and worried that the inquiries will ding your credit score, don’t worry,” said Roman Shteyn, co-founder of Credit-Land.com. “The credit bureaus know that people may go to different providers to check interest rates especially for a big purchase like a house. Loan inquiries within 30 to 45 days of each other for the same thing are lumped together and treated as a single request, and your credit score should not be impacted.”
Your past matters to lenders
They will look at previous mortgages on your credit report to determine your creditworthiness
“We all know a foreclosure has a negative impact on your credit score,” says Shteyn “but many people don’t realize a short sale can be damaging as well. It can knock your score down 85 to 160 points depending on your score at the time and how it was reported to the credit bureau.” Occasionally, a lender will agree to report a short sale as paid which will not negatively affect a credit score. But this is rare.
A short sale is not as bad as a foreclosure, which will make it more difficult to get a loan. It will remain on your credit score for seven years, and lenders will see this black mark whenever you apply for credit during this period.
Lenders handle couples with different credit scores in a special way
If you’re applying for a mortgage loan as a couple, the mortgage lender will check both of your credit reports and credit scores. The bank reviews your debt, the length of your credit history and current credit activity.
Paying bills late and too much debt can negatively impact a mortgage approval, plus influence the mortgage rate. However, some couples believe that they’ll receive a low interest rate as long as one person has excellent credit — but this isn’t always the case.
Typically mortgage lenders use the lowest credit score to determine the mortgage rate. Therefore, if you have a 790 credit score and your partner has a 670 credit score, you’re not likely to receive the most favorable rate due to your partner’s less-than-perfect credit history.
To ensure the best rate, both of you need to maintain good credit before applying for a loan. This includes paying bills on time, paying off debt and checking your credit reports for errors.
For a lender, there’s nothing like responsibility
Make other loan and debt payments on time, especially over the months leading up to the filing of your mortgage application. Every 30-, 60- or 90-day delinquency on a loan or credit card is going to reduce the credit score the lender considers as part of the loan file. That score, in turn, will determine how good a loan you get — if you get one at all.
You need to be strategic about your personal finances
Consider paying off more debt and putting down a smaller amount at closing. This move leaves borrowers with larger mortgages, but it will allow them to replace non tax-deductible, high-interest rate debt (like credit card debt) with lower-rate mortgage debt that features deductible interest.
If you have a financial setback and need to miss a payment on your other debts, miss the credit card payment first, followed by the payment on any installment loan you might have and finally, the payment for an existing mortgage. That’s because credit scoring systems look at the performance of similar loans first when deciding what type of score to assign.
Before you apply, think about the future
If your next few years are full of big life changes and multiple new financial obligations, apply for a mortgage first. Numerous credit inquiries, such as new applications for credit cards, can hurt a borrower’s credit score, especially if they’re filed in the months prior to the home loan review process.
The value of your potential home can make or break the deal
Sometimes it’s not your fault that your mortgage application is denied. If your home isn’t worth enough, lenders might not approve your request for a mortgage. Say you agree to pay $200,000 for a home and are asking for a mortgage loan of $190,000. If an appraiser determines that the home is worth only $160,000, a mortgage lender might not grant you a loan, even if you are willing to pay the higher amount.
The 3 big don’ts
We can talk about the things you should do when applying for a mortgage all day long, but realistically, avoiding the big mistakes should be your first concern. Here are five things you should remember.
- Don’t make any big purchases over the next couple of months. It makes less money available for the down payment and it might require you to get yet another loan.
- Don’t upgrade too fast. Lenders consider what’s known in the industry as “payment shock” when approving loans. Somebody who goes from a relatively small monthly housing payment to a huge one either won’t qualify for a mortgage or will end up having to cover too much loan with too little money.
- Don’t just get pre-qualified for a mortgage, get pre-approved. Home buyers must allow their lenders to pull credit reports, check debt-to-income ratios and perform other underwriting steps. But that puts a borrower much closer to obtaining a loan and locking in a rate and term.