If you're in the market to buy your first home, you're probably experiencing a variety of emotions, ranging from excitement to trepidation. Owning your first home is a major accomplishment and lifestyle change, but it also brings with it a lot of responsibility. Not only will you have to make mortgage payments every month and pay property taxes on time, but you can no longer turn to your landlord when the furnace quits or your refrigerator dies. As former U.S. president Harry Truman once said, "The buck stops here."
Understanding Your Credit Rating
One thing you might want to become acquainted with before diving into a full-fledged house search is your credit report. Your credit score, as determined by the three major credit reporting companies, is a reflection of your ability and willingness to pay your bills on time. Banks and mortgage companies factor in this information when deciding whether to approve you for a loan. Your credit score also has an impact on the interest rate you're offered. Also called a "FICO" score, this scale ranges from a low of 300 points to a high of 800. The higher your score, the more desirable you're viewed as a potential loan customer.
If you'd like to find out where your credit score stands, you can get that information for free (once a year) from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Unlike lenders, they don't take into account factors like income and length of employment. The main things they look at are payment history, amounts owed, and length of credit history. If your credit cards are maxed out or you've been late with payments, then that will lower your credit score and make it more difficult to obtain the most favorable interest rates and loan terms. Fortunately, there are a number of commonsense measures you can take to improve your credit score. Side note: Errors may occasionally crop up in your credit report, so it pays to review them on an annual basis and dispute erroneous or outdated information.
Steering Clear of Other Pitfalls
While buying your first home can seem like an intimidating process, an experienced real estate agent can guide you and make the journey a lot easier. A licensed agent can help you get the process rolling, keep you on track, and resolve problems. There are plenty of situations in life where going it alone is a viable strategy, but buying your first home is not necessarily one of them. By working with a real estate agent, you'll avoid unnecessary frustration, stress, and costly mistakes. You'll also stand a greater chance of finding just the right home for your needs, desired lifestyle, and budget.