Source: CNN Money
Mike Valdez fits the profile of a savvy first-time homebuyer perfectly. A 34-year-old financial analyst from New Rochelle, N.Y., he and his family had grown sick of living the renter's life. So two years ago he decided to test the market and find a townhouse for his growing family. But despite his financial aptitude, he quickly ran into a setback.
"We found a place we liked and ran the numbers," he says, but the young couple soon discovered that they had underestimated the burden of their college debt. They were forced to back out.
Mike's lesson goes to the heart of what every first-time homebuyer needs to know -- buying a home means so much more than paying a mortgage.
Fix Your Credit
The first step toward buying a home takes place months before walking into your lender's office. It's crucial to check your credit score at least three to six months ahead of your mortgage application, says Rod Griffin, director of Public Education at Experian. You can request a free copy of the report from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) atÂ annualcreditreport.com.
Even if you don't have sterling credit (generally a FICO score of 720 or above), the most important thing to do is to take stock of what the figure means. "Every score is educational," says Griffin. "It's more about why the number is than what the number is."
This is especially true since there are different proprietaryÂ scales used to gauge credit: the Vantage score, for instance, ranges from 501 to 990, while the FICO score runs from 300 to 850. Make sure to read the accompanying credit report to understand what your score actually means.