STEP 1: PLAN YOUR BUDGET
You will need a budget for your monthly housing payment that frees up enough cash flow each month to account for maintenance and unexpected situations. When you start looking at homes, you will need the discipline to only look at homes that meet your budget. Lastly, you need to maintain control of the process. You should fire any agent or lender who doesn’t respect your rational approach.
STEP 2: IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT SCORE
You can improve your interest rate and lower your closing costs by taking basic steps to improve your credit score. Even a month or two of extra effort can go a long way. What can you do?
First, reduce your credit card balance to 20% of your credit limit on all of your credit cards.
If you don’t have at least 2 open and active credit cards, open a new credit card right away. Even if you have terrible credit, you can get a secured credit card (i.e., you give the lender a deposit that is eventually returnable).
Lastly, remove any “disputes” from your credit report. Disputes often give your credit score a phantom “boost”—but mortgage lenders will eventually have you remove them as a condition for getting your loan. Often that late removal results in an unexpected credit score drop that affects the terms of your loan. So, it’s better to take the credit score hit before you have your mortgage terms sorted out than get an unfortunate surprise late in process.
STEP 3: STAY OPEN-MINDED
Keep an open mind and allow yourself flexibility in the first stage of your home search. Predetermined ideas about the location, size, and condition of your home may keep your search overly narrow and prevent you from exploring options that may be more suitable. A good real estate agent will present housing ideas and solutions you probably didn’t know about. So keep an open mind, learn and explore as much as you can, and then make decisions with a more complete set of information.