(ARA) – It’s in the newspapers and on television and the radio – the housing market is changing. The news is promising for home buyers. The U.S. Commerce Department reported that January housing starts jumped 14.5 percent from December estimates, reaching their highest point in almost 33 years. This could be attributed to having one of the warmest Januarys in history, which permitted building starts that would have occurred later in the year. Additionally, the inventory of existing homes is up. As a result, home buyers can expect some good buys in the near future.
Smart home buyers need to take steps to ensure that their financial house is in order – before those opportunities arise. No one wants to miss a great deal because of their credit history, which can affect your ability to qualify for a loan and impact the size of the loan and interest rate you can secure. Many financial advisors encourage home buyers to start their process several months in advance of looking at homes – by checking their credit report.
Clean Up Your Credit Report
When you review your credit report, check for inconsistencies such as accounts you did not open, charges you did not make or delinquencies you did not cause. Contact the credit reporting company and provide written documentation regarding the item in question. The credit reporting company will investigate and respond as appropriate. You also want to contact the creditor and the other two major credit reporting companies to make sure their information is up-to-date.
Know Your Score
Your credit score plays an integral role in determining the interest rate on a new mortgage. Equifax, the leading credit reporting company, offers a product called Score Watch to help you understand what your score is today, the average interest rate for people with similar scores and specific steps you can take to manage your score. Score Watch monitors your FICO score – the score many lenders use to qualify you for credit – and notifies you when a score change impacts the interest rate you are likely to receive. Using Score Watch, you can select a target score and receive an alert when you reach that score, giving you the green light to start looking at houses.
Determine Your Price Range
Start by examining your current income and expenses. Track these items for at least several months to calculate an average of your monthly budget. Determine how much money is available to spend on housing. Estimate any additional costs you will incur with a house such as higher utilities, association fees, homeowner’s insurance, appliances, home repairs and yard maintenance. Many Web sites, including www.equifax.com, offer mortgage calculators and other tools that help you assess how much you can borrow, what your down payment should be and what closing costs will be.
Make Your Wish List
To avoid falling in love with an impractical house, identify which features are ‘must have’ and which are ‘nice to have’ in your new house. Consider the square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, neighborhood, schools, and distance to work. Prioritize your extras so that when you are looking at houses, you will have an easier time evaluating your choices. If you know that you would rather have an updated kitchen than a nice outdoor living space, you will be less likely to be swept away by the beautiful screened-in porch on the house that has only two working burners on its stove.
A house is the largest purchase most people ever make and it is worth taking some extra steps to make wise decisions. To learn more about how Equifax can assist you in preparing for a major purchase, visit www.equifax.com
Courtesy of ARA Content
Editor’s Note: Score Watch is a registered trademark of Equifax. FICO is a registered trademark.