Whether you’re scoping out a vacation property or looking into becoming a homeowner for the first time, applying for a mortgage is a lengthy and complicated process. While your real estate agent and lender will be there to walk you through the details, knowing what possible errors could lay in waiting will help you make the best decision. Let’s review some of the most common mortgage mistakes so you can avoid making them.
1. Weak credit history
Loans are all about credit history – it’s hard to land a mortgage without one. But having a credit history doesn’t mean you have a lot of credit; it simply means you have been given credit in some form and have a documented history of repaying it. How much credit? Lenders often like to see at least three lines of credit with a minimum two-year history on each.
And of course, you don’t just need a credit history; you need a good one. Pay down credit cards and loans regularly to heighten your score.
Pro tip: Paid off that credit card? Don’t cancel the account. Keeping the account active, even if it’s unused, helps build a strong credit history.
2. Weak work history
You’re less likely to get a loan if you can’t prove you’re able to hold down a job. And even if you do get approved with a weak work history, you may not be able to qualify for a good interest rate. What is a strong work history? Aim for at least two current, consecutive years of employment in the same occupation.
Of course, certain circumstances may provide an exception to this rule. If you are a recent graduate with proof of future income, or someone who is coming back out of retirement, some lenders may not hold a lack of recent employment history against you.
3. Opening new credit accounts
Maybe you got a big raise and are applying for a mortgage and leasing a brand new car all in the same month – bad idea. If you’re thinking of applying for a loan, avoid opening brand spanking new credit lines. Lenders like to see solid, stable credit histories, and a brand new line of credit can’t offer that. Unfortunately, some people make this mistake thinking that it will help their credit score, when in truth it can hinder it.
4. Making big purchases
Slow down there, big spender. Just like lenders want to see stable credit history and employment, they want to see stable spending. If you make large charges to your existing credit accounts around the time you’re shopping for a mortgage, you can increase your debt-to-income ratio. So hold off on that new furniture set or big screen TV until after you’ve purchased your home.
5. Not reviewing your credit report
When is the last time you checked your credit? Often, credit reports have errors, and you want to right these before it’s time to apply for your mortgage.
6. Not knowing what you can afford
These days, it’s very easy to figure out how much home you can afford. Simply find a mortgage calculator online, take a look at how much you can pay each month, and plug in the numbers. This will give you a solid idea of how much house you can afford, which can help you avoid disappointment down the road. It’s also important to get pre-approved for a loan before you begin your home search. There have been many instances where a home sale falls through because the buyers made an offer that they couldn’t back up with a mortgage. By showing that pre-approval letter, the buyers are showing the sellers they can afford to make good on their offer, and may also be in a better position to negotiate. And these days, many real estate professionals won’t work with a buyer who isn’t pre-approved.