You've cut back your spending, researched your favorite neighborhoods, and have started saving up for your dream home.
But no matter how much cash you have, before you begin the homebuying process it's important to get your finances in order, says Scott McGillivray, the host of HGTV's "Income Property" and a real estate expert who's invested in over 100 properties.
"One of the biggest challenges is that once somebody realizes that they're ready to buy a home, then they realize that they haven't prepared properly, and it takes a while," McGillivray told Business Insider.
Outside of saving up enough cold hard cash to afford a down payment — ideally, 20% of the sale price of the home — that means also understanding where your credit score is and how to improve it (or maintain it), getting pre-approved for financing, and talking to an adviser or broker to determine if you've set a reasonable budget, McGillivray says.
McGillivray's advice echos that of Sophia Bera, a certified financial planner and founder of Gen Y Planning, who told Business Insider during a Facebook LIVE interview that the smartest thing to do before buying a house is to get your credit in order.
"A big thing when it comes to your mortgage is being able to qualify for the best interest rate you can," she says. "Think about it: If you're going to have this loan for the next 15 to 30 years, you're going to be paying a ton of interest, tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on that loan. So a difference in interest of a quarter of a percent or half a percent or one percent makes a huge difference over the life of the mortgage."
Start by checking your credit score and ordering a full credit report. Bera recommends going to AnnualCreditReport.com, where you can order one free credit report from each of the three federal credit bureaus annually. To keep tabs on your credit score throughout the year, she recommends monitoring free sites such as Credit Karma and Credit Sesame.
Once you know where you stand in terms of credit, you can get an idea of how good of an interest rate you'd be able to qualify for on a mortgage. If your credit score sits at 700 or higher, you're probably in good shape to get the best interest rates out there, Bera says. But if it hangs below that, work on paying down debt and taking care of any old debts that might have ended up in collections.
At the end of the day, buying a house isn't solely about having enough money. Getting your financial house in order plays a huge role as well.
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