10 things to avoid before applying for a mortgage

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As a homebuyer, you don't want anything to jeopardize your chances of closing on the home you've selected. Many folks can't buy homes without applying for a mortgage, and if you need one, it's important to prepare so you're a good candidate to get a loan. Making any of the following mistakes could reduce the amount of financing you qualify for, result in a higher interest rate on your mortgage or cause a lender to reject your mortgage application.

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1. Racking up Debt

Taking on additional debt before applying for a mortgage doesn't make much sense. Your debt-to-income ratio – or how much debt you're paying off each month in comparison to how much money you're making – is just one factor that lenders look at when reviewing your mortgage application. If it's above a certain threshold (typically 43%), you'll be considered a risky borrower.

2. Forgetting to Check Your Credit

Your credit score says a lot about you. It lets a lender know whether you're fiscally responsible and indicates the likelihood that you'll be able to pay off your debts in the future. Since it's often one of the criteria that lenders use when approving homebuyers for mortgages, it's a good idea to check your score before filling out an application for a home loan.

3. Falling Behind on Bills

Since credit scores matter to lenders, it's best to work on improving your score and protecting it before you try to get a mortgage. That means that you don't want to do anything that could potentially hurt your score, like missing bill payment deadlines.

Many lenders use the FICO scoring model, and submitting just one check after the due date can knock quite a few points off your credit score. If history shows that you can't pay your bills on time, your lender will likely assume that you'll make late mortgage payments too.

Get your free credit score now.

4. Maxing out Credit Cards

Exceeding your credit card limit or swiping your card too often will hurt your credit score as well. One thing that affects your score is your credit utilization ratio (or your debt-to-credit ratio). That's the amount of credit you've used relative to your credit line. For example, if you've charged $5,000 to a credit card and you have an $8,000 credit limit, your debt-to-credit ratio is 62.5%.

Ideally, that ratio shouldn't rise above 30%. And if you're in the market for a new home, it's important to keep it as low as possible.

5. Closing a Credit Card Account

If you're mired in credit card debt, you might think that closing an account will improve your credit score. But that's not necessarily true.

There are certain situations where shutting down a credit card account might be a smart move. If you need a mortgage, however, it won't do you any good. By getting rid of a credit card and reducing your level of available credit, your debt-to-credit ratio could skyrocket. And as a result, your credit score could sink.

6. Switching Jobs

Making a career change weeks before meeting with a lender might hurt your chances of qualifying for a mortgage. A lender is going to want to make sure you have a stable source of income and you can afford to pay a mortgage bill every month. If you start a new gig right before you begin your mortgage application, you might not even have a pay stub to show your lender how much you'll be bringing home going forward.

7. Making a Major Purchase

Buying something big – like new appliances or a new car – could lead a lender to reject your mortgage application. You'll need to have a lot of cash on hand when you're buying a house so that you can pay for your down payment, closing costs and insurance. What's more, if you have to take out a loan or swipe a credit card to make that purchase, that's could affect your credit score if you can't pay the bill in full on time or your debt-to-credit ratio rises.

If you're tired of renting and you're ready to buy a house, it's best to try and reduce your financial obligations before applying for a mortgage.

Try out our rent vs buy calculator.

8. Marrying Someone With Bad Credit

It's not uncommon for couples to buy homes after tying the knot. Keep in mind, however that if you're getting the house together, both of your credit scores and financial histories could be taken into account.

If you're marrying someone whose credit isn't in tip top shape, it might be a good idea to work on improving his or her score (and paying off the wedding loan or extra debt you both took on) before trying to get a home loan.

9. Co-Signing on a Loan

It's important to think carefully before agreeing to co-sign a loan for a child in college or another family member, particularly if you're trying to become a homeowner. By co-signing, you become partially responsible for that debt. If the borrower can't keep up with payments and defaults, your credit score could dip substantially.

10. Making Big Deposits

Your relatives can help you pay for your down payment. But there are rules related to down payment gifts. You can't deposit the money into your account without properly documenting it.

Generally, making a large deposit into your bank account prior to visiting a mortgage lender won't look good. Lenders normally want to see that you have plenty of money in your account that's been there for at least two months.

The Takeaway

If you can't buy a house without getting a mortgage, it's in your best interest to avoid any moves that could prevent you from qualifying for one.

Related: 15 things you can stop wasting your money on


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15 things you can stop wasting your money on
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10 things to avoid before applying for a mortgage

1. Cable TV

With the advent of Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Apple TV, there's hardly a reason to splurge on a fancy DVR system or even basic cable — so long as you're willing to be patient.

Most shows are added at least 24-hours after airing and some networks won't give them up until eight days.

See some great alternatives to cable TV here.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

2. Bank fees

Banks love to slap you with fees at the drop of a hat, but that doesn't mean you've got to put up with it.

"Consider going with a credit union, which are better than banks in many ways, to avoid some of these fees," says Andrew Schrage, founder of MoneyCrashers.com.

"If you travel abroad often, make sure you use credit cards without foreign transaction fees, otherwise you'll be paying an extra 3% to 5% on all your purchases."

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

3. Extended warranties

Retailers push hard to sell you extended warranties — and conveniently pump up their sales figures at the same time.

Don't do it, Schrage warns.

"The only instance I'd recommend a warranty is in the case of a laptop. Otherwise, the warranties themselves can often cost as much as simply buying a used or new replacement for your item, or repairing it," he adds.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

4. The roof over your head

If you're blowing most of your income on a loft in Midtown, you're making a big mistake, says Jeremy Gregg, executive director of the PLAN Fund.

His organization provides loans to low-income entrepreneurs, who Gregg says he often sees spend more than half their income on rent and utilities.

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development recommends spending less than one-third of your income on housing.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

5. Unnecessary smartphone data

"Many of us (including me) pick a cell phone plan, then never check to see if it's the right one for us based on our usage," writes author of "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," Ramit Sethi. "Because the average cell phone bill is about $50, that's $600 per year of money you can optimize."

When buying a new cell phone, Sethi likes to pay a little bit more upfront by choosing the unlimited data and text messaging plan. He then sets a three-month check-in on his calendar, and analyzes his spending patterns after a few months to see where he can cut back.

You can use this method for any usage-based services, he says.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

6. Online shipping

Nearly all retailers offer some sort of option that gets your purchases to your doorstep without additional fees.

Zappos and L.L. Bean are among the rarest breed of businesses offering free shipping on every single purchase, but most companies will demand a minimum purchase.

To help track down deals on shipping, use Freeshipping.org. The site stores information on expiration dates, tells you much to spend to qualify, and lets you search by store name or product.

Otherwise, check out CouponSherpa or Retailmenot, which offer discount codes for free shipping.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

7. Cheap art

Environmental designer Pablo Solomon says picking up knockoff prints and other art is a great way to blow cash for no good reason.

"Nothing sends me through the roof like the art sold on cruise ships and at resorts," Solomon says. "(They're) basically glorified posters being sold as originals."

The best way to score deals on art is to track up and comers, he says. You can nab their art early on and laugh your way to the bank after they've made it big.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

8. Fast food

You're only hurting yourself (and your wallet) if you're feeding yourself out of the bodega around the corner from your home or office.

"I am shocked at how many people live paycheck-to-paycheck and yet routinely spend $10 per day on fast food and convenience store food," Gregg says.

If you're looking for an alternative to brown-bagging it, check out how to shop for the healthiest foods at the grocery store for the least amount of money, and start preparing your own food.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

9. Piecemeal insurance

Buying overpriced insurance for things like accidental death and diseases is an easy way to blow your funds.

"Instead of buying piecemeal insurance policies, get good term life insurance and disability insurance," says Sally Herigstad, a certified public accountant and Creditcard.com columnist.

Take a look at the types of insurance you should buy at every age.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

10. Lousy gifts

Personal finance expert Dani Johnson suggests you think twice before rushing out to buy Dad another tie this Christmas.

"You should make a pact with your friends and family to give back instead," Johnson says. "Pool a percentage of money you were going to spend on gifts and give a secret blessing to somebody who is truly in need."

If you want to buy a great gift without completely breaking the bank, check out these holiday gift ideas for under $50.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

11. Weight loss traps

Weight loss pills and supplements marketed as miracles for overweight couch potatoes are most likely traps.

"Not only are there enough pills and potions that you could start a new one each week, but the negative effects on your health outweighs the money you will waste," says nutritionist Rania Batayneh.

"This is a billion dollar industry and the truth is that a lean body does not come in a pill," Batayneh says.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

12. Lottery tickets

"Sure, you can (buy a lottery ticket) every once in a while just for fun, but never make a lottery purchase with any real expectation of winning," Schrage warns.

"The odds are significantly stacked against you, and why waste your hard-earned money on lottery tickets when you could be saving for retirement or treating yourself to a nice meal?"

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

13. Brand new cars

"People get bored with cars quickly. They always want a new car and so they're always dealing with a car payment," says certified financial planner Michael Egan. "But it's a hugely depreciating asset. You don't want to be putting a lot of money into something that's going to be worth nothing after a certain number of years."

Look for used car options, which could save you a substantial amount of money. Check out Kelley Blue Book to get an idea of how much you should pay for a used car.

Another option is leasing a car. You can determine whether or not this is a good option for you by following this flow chart.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

14. Subscriptions

Subscriptions — to magazines, newspapers, and the gym — can add up, and oftentimes, we don't use them as much as we had originally planned.

Sethi recommends implementing what he calls the 'à la carte' method, which takes advantage of psychology to cut our costs.

"Cancel all the discretionary subscriptions you can: your magazines, TiVo, cable — even your gym," Sethi explains in "I Will Teach You To Be Rich." "Then, buy what you need à la carte. Instead of paying for a ton of channels you never watch on cable, buy only the episodes you watch for $1.99 each off iTunes. Buy a day pass for the gym each time you go."

It works for three reasons, Sethi writes: You're likely overpaying already, you're forced to be conscious about your spending, and you value what you pay for.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

15. A morning latte

Author of "The Automatic Millionaire," David Bach, coined the term, "The Latte Factor," which basically says that if you ditch your $4 latte every morning, you'd have quite a bit of money to contribute towards savings — about $30 a week, or $120 a month). Over the course of a few decades, that money could grow substantially.

Rather, invest in a nice coffee maker, even if the price tag is a bit steep. Oftentimes, spending more on high quality items can help you save in the long run.

It can seem counterintuitive to make purchases to save, but that's what some of the most successful money-savers do. They're not just buying things, they're investing in things — tools and services — that will eventually save them money over time.

Via Business Insider

Photo Credit: Getty

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