Buying your first home can be one of the most exciting and most stressful events in your life. Here are some ways to prepare for your pathway to ownership.
Check Your Credit Report
The very first thing you should do is check your credit report. You can go to https://annualcreditreport.com for a free credit report, but you'll have to pay for your score. The report will show you if you've been the victim of identity theft, but you need the score to see if you'll qualify for a loan. If your score is is mid-to-low 500s, you may have some difficulty. At 640, you should be ok for a VA or conventional loan as long as other factors are acceptable.
If your score is low, call a loan originator, show her the credit report, and ask for ways to improve your score.
Lenders like to see a minimum documented two-year work history. If you've only been working part-time, to to a loan originator and see if you'll qualify for a loan.
Save For Down Payment
For a primary residence, conventional loans require a minimum 3% down payment, FHA requires 3.5%, and VA will provide 100% financing (0% down payment) up to a maximum loan amount which tends to increase each year.
If you're in South Florida, lenders require a minimum 20% down payment for a condo.
If you're having trouble meeting one of these standards, don't despair. They'll always be homes for sale. Do what you have to do to get ready and then sit down with a loan originator, bring the requested documents (tax returns, pay stubs, etc.), and ask for a pre-approval letter from a lender. This letter will state that the lender has reviewed your documentation and is providing a pre-approval for a specified loan amount and interest rate. This pre-approval letter is typically good for 90 days. You'll give that letter to your Realtor, and it will be submitted when you make an offer on a property.