But wait. Are you ready? A new home is a huge financial decision and there’s a lot of work to do before you look for the first house. If you do these things now, you’ll make the entire process easier on yourself when you get ready to buy your Tampa home.

Pull Your Credit Report

You can get a free credit report each year from the three big agencies: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion. Do this now and look for problems or errors. If there’s an old debt you forgot about, call the company to get it paid or make a payment arrangement. If you see an error, start working on removing it. Getting a copy of your credit report now will save you from nasty surprises later. 

Check Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a number that tells lenders, at a glance, whether you’re creditworthy or not. The most common score used is the FICO score and it can determine whether you get a great interest rate or if your loan application is declined. Some credit card companies offer this as a free service so if you have that option, use it. Otherwise, pay the fee to monitor your score or check it one time so you know where you stand.

Be More Disciplined With Your Money

If you want to buy a home this year, now is not the time for a new auto loan, a bunch of new credit cards, or any other new debt - if you can help it. Of course, life gets in the way and sometimes it’s not an option, but keep your spending and your debt to a minimum. At the same time, work hard to pay down your existing debt, and if you get to a zero balance on your credit card, keep it there. This will help improve your chances of getting a good interest rate on your mortgage.

Figure Out Your Down Payment

Many people believe you have to have 20 percent saved for a down payment but that’s not always the case. Many lenders offer loans that allow three or five percent down payments. There are also down payment assistance programs that some buyers qualify for. Now is the time to look at how much money you have saved and how much you’ll need or if you should apply for local programs.

Talk to a Lender

If you’re not sure how much you should save or whether your credit is good enough, talk to a lender now. They’ll be able to explain their loan programs and what you need to do to get ready to buy. Best of all, you’ll have someone to call when you’re ready to get pre-approved for a home loan.

Talk to a Realtor

Even if you’re still fixing your credit or saving for a down payment, you can talk to a real estate professional now. This is your chance to interview several and find the person you most want to work with. The agent you work with should be willing to answer your questions, help you figure out what is most important to you - the size of your home, the schools, etc., and explain the process to you. 

It’s never too early to get ready to buy a house, especially if you need to fix your credit or save for a down payment. If one of your goals this year is to buy a new house in Tampa Bay or become a homeowner for the first time, start now!

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