If you’re on the sidelines, at least get ready…

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If you’re on the sidelines to buy a home, there are things you can do to be ready when you do get back in the game.

Improve your credit score to qualify for the best mortgage rate available which are reserved for those with the highest scores. Get a copy of your current credit reports from all three of the main credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can get them at AnnualCreditReport.com without paying for them.

While you won’t see a credit score on these reports, you will see a history of your available credit accounts. According to the Federal Trad Commission, one in five people have at least one error on one of their credit reports which can lower your score or increase the cost or likelihood of receiving new credit. Identify and correct these mistakes.

Explain in writing the error in the report and include copies of documents that support your dispute. Both the credit bureau and the business that supplied the information must correct the information that is in error. There will not be a fee to correct it. You can get specific info for the process on each credit reporting companies’ website and from the FTC Consumer Advice.

There is a term call "credit utilization" which describes how much of your available credit on each revolving account is currently being used. If the limit on one card were $10,000 and you had a $5,000 balance, the utilization ratio is 50%. Amounts above 30% can negatively impact your credit score even if you do pay the balance each month.

Any delinquent items that may appear on your credit report need to be cleared up. Regardless of whether there is a legitimate reason, it needs to be explained to the credit bureau. Beginning in 2023, medical collections less than $500 will no longer be reported on consumer credit reports.

Continue to save for a down payment because mortgages less than 80% of loan-to-value require mortgage insurance which increases the monthly payment. The exception to the rule is for VA loans which do not require it. The cost of mortgage insurance could add 0.5% to 2% or more to the payment.

Lower your debt-to-income ratio by paying off installment loans for cars, boats, and other things.

While there are legitimate credit repair services available, you may be able to get excellent advice from a trusted mortgage professional. You’ll eventually want to be pre-approved before you start looking at homes. Your real estate agent can make a recommendation to connect you with someone who will get you ready to get back into the game.

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