As we continue to come back from the significant recession that the housing bubble caused, more and more people are thinking about buying a home. With many being first-time homebuyers, we’ve compiled a list of the essentials you’ll need to know to get mortgage approval.
1. Look At Your Debt-To-Income Data
The very first step to mortgage application preparation is to determine your monthly income as well as your debt payments. Your potential lender will want to see evidence of employment, generally going back two years, but often a few recent pay stubs can get you started with many lenders.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who are self-employed or have variable income such as performers, be prepared to have that process be much more involved. Getting the best mortgage overall, as well as the best payments and interest rates, is going to be dependant on your debt to income ratio.
2. Clean Up Your Credit Health
This is often one of the largest challenges for many people. Your credit history report and your credit score will be instrumental in your lender’s eventual decision. You should aim to have a FICO score of 680-700 as a floor. However, if your credit score is only missing 680 by a small margin, you may want to look into an FHA loan, which has a little bit easier approval requirements in some cases.
3. Calculate Your Mortgage Budget
Before you make an appointment with any potential lenders or mortgage officers, you will want to know for sure, how much house you can afford, and what you can commit to in terms of a monthly payment. This payment will include your taxes, fees, and insurance, and should not be more than 33%-35% of your pre-tax income. This can be a difficult stage, since many mortgages have variable interest rates, meaning your payment could fluctuate at some point in the future.
4. Plan To Save For Your Home Down Payment
This is a very significant step and can make or break your house hunt. Many lenders will require you to be able to put at least 10% down unless you are participating in an FHA loan or other special lending program. If you can put at least 20% down, you can avoid having to obtain PMI, or private mortgage insurance, to protect your lender against a possible foreclosure of the property before it has enough equity built up.
5. Figure Out The Best Time To Apply
You can often get a pre-qualification without a hard credit pull. It will however stay on your credit report for some time. A pre-qualification can give you a good indicator of whether you can obtain a mortgage at a glance, and is often a very strong indicator of being a serious buyer. You can often get a pre-qualification letter that will be good for 60-90 days depending on the lender, it’s non-binding, and will put you in a great position to start looking around.