Buying a house is a huge milestone with lots of steps involved. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, if you choose the right lender and complete a few steps ahead of time, the mortgage process can go surprisingly smoothly! Take a look at what you can do now to make your home buying journey as seamless as possible.
If you want to keep the mortgage process quick, you should first make sure you have a good chance of qualifying for a home loan in the next few months. So how do you do this? Start by checking your credit report and credit score. It might turn out your score is too low to qualify for a loan, in which case you could be wasting time talking to a loan officer when you could be spending that time improving your score.
So what score is too low to buy a house? In general, you need a 620 or higher to qualify for the typical home loan. Some government-backed loans do allow you to buy a house with a score of 580, so you don’t have to give up hope if your score is around that. But when it comes to credit scores and real estate, the higher, the better!
Checking your score a few months before you start the mortgage loan process gives you time to dispute any errors. It also gives you some time to improve the score by paying down credit cards so you can reduce the debt-to-income ratio that loan officers pay close attention to! This means if you want to buy a house next year, now is the time to start looking at credit reports and scores and making improvements as needed.
The next step to take to speed up the mortgage process is getting an idea of how much house you can afford. Don’t start looking at houses until you do this! Otherwise, you could fall in love with a house that’s way out of your budget. And you definitely don’t want to overspend on this huge purchase. So instead of spending your Saturday driving by dream houses, sit down and look at your finances to figure out what you can afford to spend on your house payment every month.
When you look at the numbers, make sure you’re not just taking principal into account. You also need to include interest, taxes, homeowners’ insurance, private mortgage insurance (PMI) if applicable, and more. You can get an estimate by looking at a mortgage calculator online. Of course, you’ll get more accurate numbers when you meet with a loan officer, as he or she will take loan amount, loan term, interest rate, and other details into consideration. But for now, just get an idea of what you can afford based on your income and current bills, keeping in mind that experts say your house payment shouldn’t take up more than about 28% of your income.
When you think of a typical home loan, you might assume you have to have a really good credit score and about 20% down to qualify. That’s often true for a conventional loan, which is the most well-known option. But there are other loan programs that are much more flexible and may be right for you.
For example, with an FHA loan, you can have a down payment as low as 3.5%, and your credit score can be as low as about 580. Granted, this loan often costs more overall than a conventional loan, so be prepared for this possibility as you start the mortgage process.
A USDA loan may be ideal if you’re buying a house in a rural area. With this home loan program, you can usually avoid a down payment altogether, financing the entire cost of the home. You typically have to have a credit score of 640 or higher, and your income must fall below certain limits.
Finally, if you’re a member of the US military, a veteran, or a surviving spouse, you might qualify for a VA loan. If so, you won’t have to have a down payment to buy a house, and you’ll likely get a low interest rate. With this loan, your credit score can usually be as low as 620. When you sit down with a loan officer to start the mortgage process, you’ll find out which home loan programs would be right for you.
There are several documents you’ll need to prove your income and creditworthiness to get a mortgage. Getting all the paperwork together before meeting with a loan officer will make the mortgage loan application process quicker.
So, what paperwork will you need? You should gather the following:
- Proof of income, such as W-2s or paystubs
- Bank statements that show the amount of money in checking and savings
- Proper identification, such as a driver’s license
- Residential history for the past two years, such as your addresses and landlord contact information
- A statement about your down payment source
No matter how affordable your monthly mortgage payment ends up being, you’re going to have some upfront costs to pay when you buy a home. For instance, depending on the loan program you go with, you might have a down payment due before you can close.
You’ll also typically have to pay earnest money, a loan origination fee, home inspection fees, and much more. Your loan officer will always keep you updated on your expenses and a loan estimate during the mortgage process. But having all or at least most of the money before you begin the loan application will make the process easier.
Another way to streamline the mortgage process is to seek out mortgage pre-approval. This just means you meet with a lender before you even find the home you want to buy, and you find out how much you’re approved for. Basically, you would gather all the paperwork listed above right now, hand it to a loan officer, and get a pre-approval letter within a few days that tells you how much you can borrow.
Once you have that letter in hand, you can start looking for homes. If you find your dream home and let the seller know you’re pre-approved, you usually have an advantage over other buyers. This is because it’s clear you’re serious about buying and have access to the funds you need now, rather than having to wait 30 days or more after putting in an offer! So if an easy, quick close is what you’re looking for, pre-approval is a good start.
Finally, it’s important to choose the right lender that has a team you can trust with your home purchase. More specifically, you need to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and be honest about your finances as you work on getting a home loan. So look at reviews of lenders online, and contact a few to get an idea of what each one can offer you.
Just one lender you should reach out to is LemonBrew Lending. We offer competitive mortgage rates, seamless loan approvals, and a friendly attitude that will help you feel comfortable during the mortgage process! Plus, we have lots of ways to make the whole process easier on you, such as the ability to upload your documents online, e-sign the loan application, and make online payments. Contact us today to learn more about what we offer home buyers!