Sometimes learning a lesson can be a painful experience. That goes double for financial mistakes, which can rob you of decades of carefully-saved resources, trash your credit, and put your goals further out of reach. That is certainly the case with buying a home, typically the most expensive and consequential purchase you’ll ever make, unless you’re up for the “Land Yacht” or the “Rideable Battle Mech”. Making a mistake with a mortgage can cost you a little more each month, at best; in the worst-case scenario it could blow up the deal and delay homeownership, or even lead to financial disaster and foreclosure, costing you your home. Clearly, these are the kinds of lessons you’d rather learn through someone else’s blunders, right? Realtor.com has a great article examining some common mistakes that homebuyers make, and how you can avoid those pitfalls:
Shop more than just the big banks. Just because they have the name brand and advertising clout, make sure to check with local community banks, credit unions, and non-bank lenders. A smaller lender might provide better customer service and be able to match rate and terms. Additionally, if your financial situation doesn’t allow you to fit into a typical loan product, you should check around with different types of lenders – again, community banks, credit unions, and non-bank lenders, who may offer a niche product that would be a perfect fit for you.
Lock in your rate ASAP. Mortgage rates can be fickle, and change at moment’s notice. If you have a low rate now, don’t wait any longer than necessary – lock it in. Paying an extra $50 a month will add up fast.
Pay more each month (if you can). This may sound contradictory compared to the previous point, but paying more than the minimum amount each month can help you pay off your mortgage years early, as you’ll pay down your principal quicker (which will lower your interest costs).
One mistake can cost you. Opening a new credit card, or missing one payment on a department store charge card, credit card, or other debt can result in a big (and long-lasting) hit on your credit score. Realtor.com advises that one missed payment can drop your FICO score from 60 to 110 points, and stay on the report for up to seven years. That lower credit score could mean a more expensive mortgage, or even result in an inability to qualify at all.
Keep an eye on rates. Even after your mortgage closes, don’t lose track of rates entirely. Lower rates mean a refinance could make sense, saving you money every month. Bankrate.com is a great way to easily check the current rate environment.
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