Is your house a beloved castle? Or a monkey on your back?
The answer might depend on your mortgage. Getting an affordable property at a great rate can make you feel as if life couldn’t be any sweeter.
But ask anyone who bought a house with a mortgage they didn’t understand and couldn’t afford, and they will tell you the house has brought them frustration and tears.
If you’ll be in the market for a new place soon, avoid the following six mortgage mistakes.
1. Not reviewing your credit first
You need a top credit score to get the best terms on a mortgage.
At least six months before you go to your first open house, go to AnnualCreditReport.com. That’s the official site where you can get free credit reports issued by the big three credit-reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each agency annually.
When you get your report, identify and correct any errors before you apply for a mortgage.
Check your credit score. Some banks and credit cards now offer access to the most widely used credit score, the FICO score, as a monthly free perk for their customers. If your bank or card does not, check out this article, which offers more ways to get that all-important number for free.
If you find your credit score simply stinks, learn how to boost it fast by reading “7 Quick Ways to Raise Your Credit Score.”
Bottom line: Spend the time to get your credit in the best possible shape so that you can get lenders’ most favorable terms.
2. Failing to get preapproved
Getting preapproved by a bank for a given loan amount is one way to avoid the heartbreak that comes from falling in love with a house out of your price range. It may also give you an edge: A seller feels more confident selecting a bid from someone with a mortgage preapproval rather than from a person who hasn’t begun the process.
However, don’t get carried away by the preapproved amount the bank gives you. Remember, what the bank thinks you can afford and what you can actually afford may be two different things. For more, check out, “Stop and Think: How Much House Can You Really Afford?”
3. Not shopping around for the best rate
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says nearly half of mortgage borrowers don’t shop around, and that’s a big mistake. Seasoned shoppers search for the best deals on soap, furniture and cars, but some fail to look for a better mortgage rate.
It may be convenient to use your primary bank for a mortgage, but that could also be expensive if its rates aren’t competitive.