If you’re identifying 2015 — or even 2016 — as the year you make a major housing change, you’ll want to confirm that your credit behaviors are at their best. Buying a house is probably the biggest expense most of us ever take on in life. Your credit plays an important role in affording you access to the best terms available from your lender.
If credit is on your list of things to improve next year, there are many options to tune up the ways you think about and interact with your credit. Knowing the smart solutions to improve your credit habits can take you far in the new year — especially with a big purchase ahead.
1. Being disconnected
Habit to break: Not checking your credit report
Resolution to make: Check your credit report regularly to know where your credit stands, and to make sure you’re prepared when it comes time to buy a home. Consider your credit report the road map to all your credit behaviors: It’s important to know how your report will look to lenders and others when they see it for the first time.
Habit to break: Running up or maxing out your credit cards
Resolution to make: To show others you’re using credit responsibly, keep your spending under control and in accordance with the budget you’ve set. Keeping tabs on your spending now will also help you benchmark how changes to your budgeting will affect how you spend after your home purchase.
3. Managing balances
Habit to break: Just paying the minimum balances due on your accounts
Resolution to make: Bring down the balances you’re carrying by upping your payment amounts above the minimum — this can also save you interest over the long term. You’ll want to keep that extra money in your pocket (and hopefully earning some interest) while you look for that dream property.
4. Seeking too much
Habit to break: Applying for credit indiscriminately
Resolution to make: Seek out and accept new credit sparingly, so your credit-utilization rate won’t be seen as too high when applying for credit during your home-buying process. Lenders can be wary of applicants they feel might be trying to amass excessive credit and overspend.
5. Getting behind
Habit to break: Making late payments on your accounts
Resolution to make: Stay on top of your accounts to keep all your payments on time, every month — it’s even more important in the months you’re considering a big purchase like a home. It may be the most basic but most important way to show you’re consistently being responsible with your credit obligations.
Challenging yourself by making it your New Year’s resolution allows you to take advantage of the months before your new home search begins to kick bad credit habits to the curb for good. You’ll want the peace of mind of knowing that when you discover that perfect listing, your credit is already in tiptop shape.