Hi Michelle: This is honestly not an issue for a Realtor to answer - it's more of an issue for your financial advisor. A competent financial advisor will help you consider and evaluate all of your options with regard to the $250,000 that you have in reserve. I would have to hope that you currently have that money invested and that you're getting some kind of return on that investment. The question would come down to whether it would be wise to forego your current return and exchange it for this investment, or some other possible investment.
The whole point of having money is to retain it, and hopefully use it to earn more. You would only buy a property for $250,000 cash if that was a wise use of your funds, otherwise you should consider using someone else's funds (getting a mortgage). That's a financial advisor's expertise, and it would depend on things like your risk averseness, future needs, etc. For example, you mention that your father is elderly - will you have any responsibility for providing for his eventual health care needs? If you tie all of your liquid funds up in a property, you will find that there is a long turnaround in reclaiming that investment for other needs.
I hope you understand what I'm trying to get at - these are excellent questions, but Realtors are not in the best position to advise you, especially without knowing your unique personal circumstances.
To check on your credit, you can go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
There are a whole lot of other sites and services being advertised out there, but this is the only one that the US Government has set up to provide the one free credit report that the credit bureaux are obligted to provide each year. The other sites talk a good game, but they exist for the sole purpose of selling you some other service, such as credit monitoring. Don't be fooled!
I do hope this helps.
With best regards,
Villa G Realty, Inc.