1. Develop a household budget.
Instead of creating a budget of what you’d like to spend, use receipts to create a budget that reflects your actual spending habits over the last several months. This approach will factor in unexpected expenses, such as car repairs, as well as predictable costs such as housing, utility bills, groceries and entertainment.
2. Reduce your debt.
Lenders generally look for a total debt load of no more than 36 percent of your total gross income. This figure includes your mortgage, which typically ranges between 28 and 31 percent of your gross monthly income. So you need to get monthly payments on the rest of your installment debt — car loans, student loans, and revolving balances on credit cards — down to between 8 and 10 percent of your gross monthly income.
3. Look for ways to save.
You probably know how much you spend on housing and utilities, but little expenses add up too. Try writing down everything you spend for one month. You’ll probably spot some great ways to save, whether it’s cutting out that morning trip to Starbucks or eating dinner at home more often.
4. Increase your income.
Now’s the time to ask for a raise! If that’s not an option, you may want to consider taking on a second job to get your income at a level high enough to qualify for the home you want. Keep in mind it is never a good idea to overextend yourself too much physically or financially.
5. Save for a down payment.
Designate a certain amount of money each month to put away in your savings account. Although it’s possible to get a mortgage with only 3.5 percent down, you can usually get a better rate if you put down a larger percentage of the total purchase. A 20 percent down payment will allow you to avoid paying Private Mortgage Insurance.
6. Keep your job and avoid major shopping!
While you don’t need to be in the same job forever to qualify for a home loan, having a job for less than two years may result in difficulties when obtaining financing. Don’t go buy a new car or new furniture on credit cards or revolving accounts. These actions will impact your credit score and could impair your ability to purchase a home.
7. Establish a good credit history.
Get a credit card and make payments by the due date. Do the same for all of your other bills, too. Your credit score can make or break your ability to get a loan.