A good credit score gives you access to a ton of exciting credit options, especially at a lower interest rate. That's one of the many reasons you would want your credit score to stay high when shopping for long term forms of credit, such as a mortgage.
Most credit rating agencies issue a new score every month, and the changes in your credit score reflect your recent financial decisions. Buying a property involves making several financial choices, and bad ones can make credit score slump, which must be avoided at all costs.
So, here are a few key points that may help ensure your credit score remains healthy while you shop for a mortgage.
Your credit score is crucial in deciding your mortgage eligibility and the associated interest rates. Even if you already have a good credit score, improving it will only make different forms of credit more accessible.
The following steps—in order of their relevance—may help anyone who wants to shop for a mortgage wisely.
Pay off your existing debt
An existing debt, especially a large debt, can affect your credit score adversely and shut the gates to the best mortgage lenders. You must pay off as much debt as possible before applying for a mortgage.
Credit card spending also counts as your debt in the credit report. If you have a high utilization against your credit card limit or make only partial payments against your credit card bill, you will need to change these habits before applying for a mortgage.
As changes in credit scores take time to reflect, it’s better to plan your debt repayment in advance and systematically decrease your overall credit utilization.
Stop applying for new credit
Buying a property involves many hidden expenses, such as repairs, new furniture or installations, appliances, etc. A mortgage will only cover the price of your home, but other house-related expenses fall on you. While you might be tempted to apply for new credit cards or take a personal loan, new credit accounts must be avoided before applying for a mortgage.
The number of remaining forms of credit and the overall credit utilization contribute hugely to your credit scores. Additionally, every lender runs a credit inquiry through the credit rating agency, and frequent inquiries in a short time frame can hurt your credit score severely.
Check for and fix errors in your credit report
Let's say you pay off your older debt, refrain from getting new ones and are ready to shop for a mortgage. But despite these actions, your credit score remains lower than satisfactory. In this scenario, checking your credit report can help spot the reason and put you on the path to fix your credit to buy a house.
While these computer-generated reports are usually correct, fraudsters can steal your identity to apply for credit in your name. Your unpromising credit report can be a vital way to identify scams. If you find flawed credit information in your credit report, you must immediately report it to your credit rating agency and the credit lender.
Get pre-qualified for the mortgage
Most people first look for a dream house and then shop for a mortgage. But what happens if the price of the property exceeds your mortgage limit? In this case, you may need to start searching for your new home from scratch—a process with its own set of challenges. It’s always better to have a rough estimate of your mortgage eligibility before you narrow down your potential purchases. Your eligibility may depend on the amount you’re able to put towards the down payment on a home as well.
As mortgage lenders don't perform a hard inquiry on your credit report during the pre-qualification process, your credit score remains intact. Additionally, pre-qualification helps you complete your mortgage shopping within the credit pull window (explained below).
Shop for the mortgage within the mortgage credit pull window
Shopping for a mortgage involves comparing different lenders' interest rates and mortgage amounts. All lenders perform a hard inquiry on your credit report to give you the estimated interest rate and amount. Since hard inquiries deduct points from your credit score, numerous hard inquiries can shrink your credit score. That's why credit rating agencies combine different hard inquiries done within a small timeframe and treat them as a single inquiry.
This timeframe is usually called a mortgage credit pull or credit check window and typically ranges between 14 and 45 days, based on your credit score provider. Completing your mortgage search within the mortgage credit pull window is recommended, and keeping a 14-day mental target can be a good thing to keep in mind when browsing.
Although shopping for a mortgage is tedious, it can be less taxing if you follow these tips. To try and maintain your credit score during mortgage shopping, you should manage your finances before the actual shopping. You should start by paying off your existing debts and refrain from applying for new credits. You must also try getting pre-qualified to estimate your eligibility. Lastly, confirm your mortgage pull window from your credit rating agency and finalize the lender within this window to shop for mortgages without hurting your credit score.
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