Buying a home is a major commitment. It’s a bit like, well, getting married: you’ve got to be ready and you have to find the right “one.” And, like a marriage, homeownership is a dynamic experience that requires a tremendous amount of care and attention.
If you are ready to shift from renter to buyer, you’ve got some legwork to do. Here’s how to prepare:
Quite simply, the past can either haunt or help you. If your debt-to-income ratio is too high, financial institutions will likely be wary of extending you another loan. If you have had problems repaying past obligations, a lender will have trouble trusting that you will pay your mortgage on time.
You can increase your FICO score (a credit scoring model that helps lenders assess risk) by reducing debt, making timely payments, not shopping aggressively for credit, having a variety of credit instruments, and keeping at least one credit card for a long period of time. Significant improvements can be made in as few as six months.
Understand what you can afford
Most lenders require that total housing costs not exceed 28% of gross monthly income, and total debt payments per month (including the mortgage) not surpass 36%. In real terms, this means that if you owe no consumer debt and have a household income of $75,000, then $1,750 in housing costs is within your range.
If you don’t have at least some cash in your coffer, start a savings plan now. How much you will need depends on many factors, including the home price and how much you will put as a down payment. Closing costs, points, moving expenses, and a post-purchase reserve fund of two to three months worth of housing payments can add up to many thousands of dollars.
Finally, remember that at home is not only where the heart is—it is also where the money is. You can get the most from your relationship with real estate by giving it the time and attention it requires, just like a marriage.
To get started on understanding your personal finance picture, Hanscom Federal Credit Union is offering a free guide that includes worksheets and tips to create a manageable budget. Download your copy of the Money Management Planner now.
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