Even though now is a fantastic time to purchase the home of your dreams, getting preapproved for a loan can be a nightmare if you don’t have the right information. Many would-be buyers disqualify themselves before they even begin by making devastating mistakes in the months before the approval process. Avoid these 10 common missteps to keep the same thing from happening to you.

1. Failing to Submit Important Documents

Your lender doesn’t ask for items like paycheck stubs, bank statements and copies of your credit report just to make your life difficult. All that paperwork is a critical part of the home loan approval process, and each missing item means you’ll ultimately have to wait even longer to get the keys to your dream home.

2. Failing to Correct Errors on Your Credit Report

Getting approved for a home loan is difficult enough when your credit report is accurate. The last thing you need is a slew of phantom defaults and  judgments that you aren’t even responsible for paying. However, it can take up to 90 days to correct errors to your credit report, so you’ll want to dispute and remove any discrepancies several months before you begin the loan application process just to be sure you don’t hit any snags.

You can order a copy of your credit report from any one of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion and Equifax) or get a free copy by going to   

3. Maintaining High Account Balances

Keeping your credit in tip-top shape is a delicate balancing act. Carrying too much or too little debt can have equally negative affects on your credit score. In general, people who carry high account balances are seen as high-risk to lenders because they appear to be struggling with their current monthly payments.

4. Making Late Payments

Just one or two late payments on an account can be enough to cause damage to your credit. This problem can be easily avoided by signing up for online banking. Most creditors these days have this feature available on their websites, either for free or a low fee per transaction. Many also allow you to set up recurring payments that are automatically drafted from your account each month.

5. Failing to Pay Fines or Other Old Bills

Think no one will notice if you let that old library fine or parking ticket slide for a few months? Think again. Yep, information about those tedious little bills is being reported to credit agencies as well, and over time, they can drag down your credit score without you even realizing it.

6. Closing Old Accounts

Once you’ve made the effort to pay off those lingering credit card bills, the next logical step for many people is to shut down the accounts altogether. Not so fast. Counterintuitive as it seems, closing credit accounts can actually lower your credit score even further. Each time an account is closed, it increases your debt to credit ratio, which once again makes it look like you’re overwhelmed by debt (See Mistake #3). If you must close an account, make sure it is fairly new and has a low credit limit to minimize damage.

7. Not Using Credit Cards At All

Along the same lines, buyers should know they can also be penalized for keeping credit card accounts open for too long without using them. In contrast to pre-recession days, credit card companies are now not only more hesitant to award credit in the first place, but also quick to close down lines of credit that don’t have enough activity.

8. Applying for Too Much New Credit

So, does that mean you should apply for every new credit offer you receive in the mail from now? Not quite. Repeatedly applying for new credit can also hurt your credit score in two ways: 1) It lowers the average age of your credit history, and 2) multiple inquiries decrease your credit score, especially when they occur over a short period of time.

9. Being Self-Employed

Is owning a small business a bad thing? Absolutely not. However, simple tasks like presenting a paycheck stub as proof of income can be much more difficult for buyers who are self-employed, which is why many banks won’t approve them. For these people, proper documentation and high credit scores are even more important in terms of making their case to potential lenders.

10. Waiting to Receive Gifts

If you will be receiving a gift for your down payment, make plans to receive it at least two months before submitting your loan application. If the funds show up any later than that, buyers are then required to verify where the money came from. Plus, the lender considers it added debt that will impact your your debt to income ratio as well (See Mistake #6).

The Bottom Line:

Applying for a home loan doesn’t have to be a nightmare, but it does require more than average planning and organization. Keep all your financial records up to date and your bills paid on time, and you’ll be exactly the kind of borrower most lenders are looking for. Good luck!

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155 Responses to “10 Mistakes Buyers Make Before Applying for a Home Loan”

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