Julie Sagan GRI - Sagan REALTORS ®, Swampscott, MA Real Estate, Marblehead, MA Real Estate


If you plan to buy a house, you'll want to apply for a mortgage before you launch your house search. That way, you'll have your finances in order and can narrow your home search accordingly.

Ultimately, there are several steps that you should take prior to applying for a mortgage, and these are:

1. Check Your Credit Score

A bank or credit union likely will analyze your credit score as it reviews your mortgage application. However, you can find out your credit score free of charge before you kick off the mortgage application process.

You are eligible to receive a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Submit a request for your credit report today, and you can receive comprehensive insights into your credit history.

2. Examine Your Earnings and Debt

How much you currently earn and your outstanding debt could play pivotal roles in your ability to acquire a favorable mortgage. Thus, you'll want to examine these factors closely so that you can better understand how lenders will view your mortgage application.

Also, if you have lots of outstanding debt, there is no need to worry. If you allocate the necessary time and resources to learn about your debt and pay it off, you can increase the likelihood of obtaining a favorable mortgage.

3. Establish a Budget

Although a mortgage may prove to be essential to buy a house, it is important to consider various homebuying expenses as well.

For example, you may need to pay closing costs, home inspection fees and other expenses throughout the homebuying process. If you're worried about having the necessary finances to cover these costs, you may want to start saving money for them as soon as possible.

It often helps to account for the costs associated with cable, electricity, internet and other home must-haves too. The aforementioned homeownership expenses can add up quickly, but those who plan ahead can ensure they have sufficient funds available to cover these costs.

As you prepare to search for a house, it usually is a great idea to hire a real estate agent. This housing market can help you prepare for each stage of the homebuying cycle and ensure you can achieve your homebuying goals.

Typically, a real estate agent will meet with you and find out what you want in a dream house. This housing market professional then can keep you up to date about residences that match or exceed your expectations.

Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent understands that no one should be forced to overspend to acquire their ideal residence. As such, this housing market professional will make it simple for you to discover a terrific house at a budget-friendly price.

Lastly, don't hesitate to reach out to a real estate agent for guidance before you apply for a mortgage. With a real estate agent at your side, you can learn about lenders in your area and find one that can provide you with the financing that you need to purchase your dream house.


For many individuals, the homebuying journey often begins with getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Because if a buyer has a mortgage, he or she can enter the real estate market with a budget in hand.

Ultimately, there are many signs that now may be the perfect time to apply for a mortgage, and these include:

1. You're ready to upgrade from an apartment to a home.

If you're tired of paying monthly rent for an apartment, purchasing a house offers a viable alternative. And if you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you can move one step closer to moving from an apartment to a house.

In most instances, a home offers a significant upgrade over an apartment. Many residences are available in cities and towns nationwide that offer more space than apartments. Plus, as a homeowner, you won't have to worry about dealing with a landlord.

2. You feel good about your credit score.

If you have a strong credit score, you likely are a great candidate for a mortgage. In fact, you may be better equipped than others to get a favorable interest rate on the mortgage of your choice.

Understanding your credit score is a key part of the homebuying journey. You can request a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Then, once you find out your credit score, you can determine whether you are in good shape to pursue a mortgage.

3. A buyer's market is in place.

In a buyer's market, there usually is an abundance of top-notch houses and a shortage of buyers. This means a homebuyer may be able to get a wonderful deal on a house, especially if he or she performs a comprehensive house search.

To find out whether a buyer's market is in place, you should check out the prices of recently sold houses in your area. Also, you may want to find out how long recently sold houses were listed before they sold. By reviewing this housing market data, you can differentiate a buyer's market from a seller's market and decide whether now is the right time to apply for a mortgage.

If you're interested in getting a mortgage and starting a house search, you may want to hire a real estate agent too. Because if you have a real estate agent at your side, you can receive extensive support at each stage of the property buying journey.

A real estate agent will teach you everything you need to know about pursuing a house. He or she will offer insights into the local housing market and ensure that you can conduct a successful house search. And if you ever have concerns or questions along the way, a real estate agent is ready to respond to them.

Want to launch a home search? Get pre-approved for a mortgage, and you can take the first step to acquire your ideal residence.


If you’re finding that your finances are a bit tighter these days, you might need to adjust your budget a bit. Have you ever thought about alternatives in helping you to pay your mortgage? There’s a few things that you might be able to do in your home to save a few bucks and be more comfortable with your budget and finances. 


Share The Space


This might sound crazy, but it works for many people. If you’re willing to share your living space with others, it could help you to make a dent in your mortgage. This works especially well if you have a home with a separate entrance like an in-law apartment or something similar. 


Make Adjustments To Your Expenses


There are many different costs that come along with owning a home. If you reduce some of these expenses, you’ll be able to cut your overall spending. You don’t need to completely adjust your entire way of living to do this. Some ideas:


  • Cut the cord on cable and install streaming devices
  • Go on a family cell phone plan
  • Skip the gym membership
  • Use public transportation
  • Cook at home instead of eating out
  • Use coupons


Put Tax Refunds To Good Use


If you normally get a tax refund, you can apply that money to your mortgage instead of using it to buy something else. You could also adjust your withholdings. This would allow you to get a bit more money in your paycheck each week. You’ll get less of a refund during tax time, but the extra money may help you to pay down bills throughout the year. 


Pay More Towards The Principal 


To make the most of your hard-earned savings, use your money wisely and pay down the mortgage faster. Just be sure that there’s no penalty for a prepayment of the loan. You can either make an extra loan payment each month or you can pay a bit over what you owe on the mortgage each month. If you pay the mortgage faster, you’ll save potentially thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. You’ll need to check with your mortgage company to see what their process is for paying more towards the principal of the loan. Keep in mind that the first few years‘ worth of your mortgage payments will be going towards interest unless you specify extra payments to go elsewhere.


Whether you’d like a little more of a financial cushion or are just looking to get rid of all those pesky monthly bills, it’s never a bad idea to focus on paying your mortgage down as quickly as possible.


What do buying a house, opening a credit card, and getting approved for an auto loan have in common? They all depend on your credit score.

Building credit is a multifaceted undertaking. In a way, this is a good thing--you wouldn’t want lenders to base their opinions solely on one aspect of your financial history. The downside is that understanding just what makes up your credit score can be difficult.

To complicate matters further, there isn’t one standard method for scoring your credit, and different credit bureaus each use their own criteria.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the factors the major credit bureaus use to calculate your credit, and give you some ways you can boost your credit.

But first, let’s talk about some of the implications of having a good credit score.

Why credit matters

Typical credit scores range anywhere from 250 to 850. The three main reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Most lenders use a combination of those scores that is reported by FICO.

Most credit reports will rank your category from “bad” to “excellent.” Here’s an example of what a credit ranking might look like:

  • Excellent: 750+

  • Good: 700 - 749

  • Fair: 650 - 659

  • Poor: 550 - 649

  • Bad: -550

U.S. legislation makes it possible for Americans to receive a free report of their credit score and to challenge and correct the score if it contains inaccuracies.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, opening a new line of credit, or taking out a loan of some kind, then the provider will likely run your credit score. Those providers are going to want to see a return on their investment, so they’ll charge interest.

If you have a high credit score, it tells the lenders that you are a low-risk investment, and therefore they can offer you a lower interest rate, saving you money in the long run.

Components of a credit score

There are five main factors that credit bureaus take into consideration when formulating your credit score. Not all of the factors are treated equally. Your ability to pay your bills on time, for example, is considered to be more important than the types of bills you have. Here’s a breakdown of the five components that make up a credit score:

  • 35% - Bill and loan payments

  • 30% - Current total amount of debt

  • 15% - Amount of time you’ve had credit (since you took out your first loan or opened your first credit card)

  • 10% - Types of credit (cards, loans, etc.)

  • 10 % - New credit inquiries

Quick tips for building credit

It takes time to build credit and improve your score. So, if you’re hoping to buy a home within the next few years, now is the time to start working on your credit. Here are some best practices for building credit:

  • Set up autopay for your bills to avoid late payments. Even if the service doesn’t offer autopay, you can likely set up recurring payments through your bank.

  • Settle outstanding debt. Avoiding debt that you can’t pay off will only hurt you more in the long run. Call your creditor and see if they offer debt relief programs. More likely than not they’d rather work with you to ensure they receive some repayment rather than none at all.

  • Start budgeting the right way. New budgeting software like Mint and “You Need a Budget” are easy to use and link up with your accounts. They’ll help you monitor your spending and start paying off debt.

  • Don’t open new lines of credit close to when you want to take out a loan. New credit inquiries can briefly lower your credit, especially if you make more than one. Viewing your free credit reports doesn’t count as an inquiry, so feel free to do that as often as needed to check your progress.

  • Get credit for bills you’re already paying. You can report your monthly rent payments, switch bills into your name that you contribute to, or take out a credit builder loan. All three will help you build rent without changing your spending habits.


Once you have gone through the pre-approval process and have narrowed down your home search, there’s a good chance you’ll soon find a place that you want to make an offer on. This can seem like a huge step for any first time homebuyer. Even seasoned home buyers feel butterflies when the time comes to make an offer on a home they love. Before you even start your home search, you should become educated on how to make a good offer in order to land the property that you really want. There’s so many factors that effect your offer including the surrounding properties and the current state of the market. Here are a few very important pieces of advice that you should heed in order to have a successful time securing a home and closing the deal. 

Craft A Persuasive Offer

In many areas there’s a low inventory of homes and a high number of those seeking to buy. This means that you’re not guaranteed to get a property that you have made an offer on. Lowball offers might not be at all competitive and even insulting to sellers in certain markets. Often, you may need to make an offer of more than the asking price if you’re in love with a home. By working with your real estate agent and doing the right research, you can craft an offer on a home that will be compelling for sellers.    

Decide On Your Contingencies 

Once an offer has been accepted, it’s time to get to work on those contingencies. Be especially mindful of financing contingencies. If something falls through in the process, you’ll want to be sure you can get the deposit you made back. Also keep in mind that sellers love reliable buyers who have already been preapproved.  

Home inspection contingencies are another area of importance. After you sign the purchase agreement and the inspection is complete, you’re allowed to ask the seller to make repairs or provide you with a counter offer. While this can be one of the more nerve-wracking aspects of home buying, it has many positives. Home inspections protect buyers from purchasing a home that they can’t live with in cases of extreme mold, termites and other environmental and structural issues. 

The appraisal contingency is also important. In order for you to qualify for a loan, the property must be appraised. The property must be valued at or above the purchase price. A loan will only be approved by a lender up to the appraised value. If your home loan is $400,000 but your home of choice is appraised at $390,000, you’ll have a problem.       

Your Finances Matter Until You Get To The Closing Table

Don’t go crazy with all kinds of purchases before you reach the closing table. Opening a new credit account at your favorite furniture store, for example, could lead to a disastrous surprise on closing day. Hold off on big purchases until after you secure your home. Also avoid making large transfers or deposits from your bank account. don’t do anything to negatively affect your credit score

  

Know What To Bring To The Closing

Don’t show up to the closing for your home purchase unprepared. You’ll need to have the following items: 


  • Photo ID
  • Checkbook
  • Cosigners 



Think Ahead


Be sure that you think of the future when you’re purchasing your home. You’ll need to have enough cash flow to pay for things like property taxes, home insurance, utility bills and even new furniture for your home. Plan your future mortgage payments accordingly. Some companies have payments that are monthly or bimonthly. 


While buying a home is a huge undertaking, with the right plans in place, the process will be as seamless as possible. With the right plans, the moving truck will be pulling into the driveway before you know it.      




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