Figure Out What You Can Afford
This is an obvious tip but many people do not do the calculations in depth enough and this can lead you to getting in over your head. When you buy a house, your mortgage payment is only going to be one part of the expense—you also need to figure in property taxes, insurance and all your other expenses. An online mortgage calculator can be very helpful in helping you figure out what mortgage payment is in your reach. Ideally, mortgage, insurance and taxes will not exceed 28 percent of your gross income.
Make Sure Your Credit is in Order
Your credit score can offer a very revealing picture of your relationship with money and will be a primary factor in determining whether you qualify for a loan and at what interest rates. At least several months before you begin shopping for a mortgage, make sure your credit report is in order. If you notice any mistakes, it can take several months before your score gets adjusted to reflect any corrections. While on the topic of credit, multiple loan inquiries typically reflect negatively on your credit report but when shopping for major loans, like a mortgage, you have a 30-day window to shop for loans where all the inquiries count as one—take advantage of this opportunity to find the best rates.
Down Payment Considerations
The more you can put towards your house the better. Putting down less than 20 percent may be seen as risky, resulting in higher interest rates. You will also need to take out mortgage insurance, which protects the lender in the event you cannot pay your loan. If you have limited funds for a down payment or have trouble getting a regular mortgage due to poor credit or other factors, there are special government programs that offer loans and you may be able to buy a house with as little as 3.5 percent down; you may not be able to borrow as much with this type of loan as you would from a standard lender, however.
Getting a mortgage pre-approved before you begin your house hunting is a good idea for many reasons. You will know what you are working with financially right out of the gate, which will help you narrow down your housing search. You will not have to worry about falling in love with houses you totally cannot afford or buying a house that you can technically afford but actually cannot because your house payment makes up a huge chunk of your income and will stretch you way too thin.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who has covered a range of financial topics. If you are located in Canada, the quote comparison site Kanetix compares Canadian mortgage rates to help find you the best deal.