Hurdles to homeownership are steep. First, you have to determine what you want and need in your dream home — and find property within your budget.
As if that weren’t enough, you then have to wade through a sea of red tape to qualify for a mortgage.
It’s enough to make you throw up your hands in despair and prepare for a lifetime of renting, as that seems like the only option.
But it’s not.
Despite the difficulties, you can get your hands on an affordable home and start living the American Dream — if you’re careful and make these maneuvers in financing and property hunting.
1. Do Your Research
Do you know what a debt-to-income ratio is? You should, as it’s one of the major factors a lender will consider before they grant you a mortgage.
This ratio refers to how much money you owe monthly compared with what you make, which is simple enough.
However, there’s a whole lot of other terminology you need to wrap your head around. Know the lingo and what to expect before you start house hunting. That way, there will be no surprises.
2. Revamp Your Monthly Budget
You want the debt-to-income ratio to be as low as possible to qualify for a mortgage — which means you need to pay off debt.
You’ll need money, but rather than wait for it to fall from the sky, reduce your spending and watch your bank balance grow.
For the best results, use an app to track your outgoing dollars and cents.
3. Develop a Debt Strategy
With more money in the bank, you can start paying off your debt, but don’t go about it haphazardly. Start with credit cards, as they usually carry the highest interest rates of all.
If you have more than one credit card, tackle the lowest balance and work your way up.
This may take some time, so be patient.
4. Boost Your Credit Score
Efforts to pay off debt improve your credit score, which is another important piece of the puzzle when it comes to a mortgage.
That’s not all you can do, though. Get copies of your credit report and scan it for errors. Also, set up alerts on your smartphone for future payments to make sure you don’t fall behind.
Remember: Lenders consider everything in the credit report; they need to know you can pay off the debt, so don’t give them a reason to believe otherwise.
5. Raise Cash for a Down Payment
By improving your credit score, you’ll boost your odds of being approved for a mortgage, but better terms are possible if you can make a down payment of 20 percent or more.
Of course, the only way to do that is scrimp and save more money, which could take some time — or is it?
There are many ways to raise that cash, including getting a part-time job or taking on a side-hustle. (In other words, selling cakes if you’re a good baker, opening an Etsy store if you want to make a profit from that jewelry-designing hobby, or otherwise capitalizing on your strengths.)
6. Shop for a Mortgage
There’s a popular saying in the dating world — “there are other fish in the sea” — and the same is true for the lending world.
Home loans are extremely competitive, both for the lender and buyer. So don’t settle for the first loan you’re offered, as there could be something better just around the corner.
Borrowers who seek up to five quotes could end up saving $3,000 or more, making it worthwhile to do a little legwork.
7. Choose the Right Agent
Speaking of mortgages, a real estate agent could help you secure one, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Agents know the local property market better than anyone, including the inside scoop on homes in your price range.
Give them a wish list and they can match your home needs with your budget — and, in some cases, even a lender.
Talk with an agent’s previous clients and determine the best one for you based on word-of-mouth referrals and online reviews.
8. Look at Fixer-Uppers
Tell your agent that you’re willing to do renovations and you just might wind up with a steal.
Of course, there are limits to the wear and tear you’re willing to take on. You may need specialized inspections to locate potential deal-breakers.
It’s a long process when you decide to buy a house, but there’s no way to avoid it. You’re in for the long haul, so be patient, and you’ll get what you want.