Achieving home ownership is the dream for many Americans, but it isn't for everyone. Today, there are a growing number of obstacles for homebuyers, including a higher credit score standard and more restrictions on credit.
If you’re thinking about buying a home, here are some items to consider.
Know your credit situation
Your credit history is an important factor when applying for a loan. Most lenders rely on the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) credit score or the VantageScore when determining your loan qualifications. This score reflects how well you manage your debt and is calculated using data from your credit report. A low credit score will result in a higher interest rate on your loan. If your credit score is low, you may want to delay buying a home until you can improve your score. There are a number of things you can do to help your score, including paying your bills on time, only opening lines of credit you need and keeping your credit card balances below half of your available credit.
Determine what you can afford
You don't want to borrow more than you can afford. Keeping mortgage payments under 30 percent of your monthly income is a good rule of thumb. If you can’t keep mortgage payments below that, you may be better off renting for awhile. Use our mortgage calculators to help crunch the numbers.
Consider all the costs
Your lender will review costs like fees, closing costs, points, homeowner insurance and taxes. But you should also consider repairs and maintenance costs. As a homeowner, you are responsible for those additional costs – there won't be a landlord to call.
Plan for the future
A home is a long-term investment, so if you plan on being in an area only a short time, renting may be a better option. Typically, if you plan on staying in an area less than five years, buying a home may not be worth the cost of the investment with all the financing, closing costs and other expenses associated with owning a home. Instead, focus on paying down debt and building savings.
Be aware of first-time homebuyer programs
Contact your local community bank or state housing agency to see what programs might be available. Sometimes these programs offer better interest rates and terms than for previous owners.
Do your homework
The variety of mortgage types can make it difficult to know which one will best fit your individual needs. Be sure to work with an experienced mortgage lender who has your best interests at heart and who will take the time to help you understand the pros and cons of all your options.
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