1. Start saving early
Here are the main costs to consider when saving for a home:
- Down payment: Your down payment requirement will depend on the type of mortgage you choose and the lender. Some conventional loans aimed at first-time home buyers with excellent credit allow as little as 3% down. But even a small down payment can be challenging to save. For example, a 3% down payment on a $300,000 home is $9,000. Use a down payment calculator to decide a goal, and then set up automatic transfers from checking to savings to get started.
- Closing costs: These are the fees and expenses you pay to finalize your mortgage, and they typically range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount. You can ask the seller to pay a portion of your closing costs, and you can save on some expenses, such as home inspections, by shopping around.
- Move-in expenses: You’ll need some cash after the home purchase. Set some money aside for immediate home repairs, upgrades and furnishings.
2. Decide how much home you can afford
Figure out how much you can safely spend on a house before starting to shop. NerdWallet’s home affordability calculator can help with setting a price range based on your income, debt, down payment, credit score and where you plan to live.
3. Check and strengthen your credit
Your credit score will determine whether you qualify for a mortgage and affect the interest rate lenders will offer. Take these steps to strengthen your credit score to buy a house:
- Get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — and dispute any errors that could hurt your score.
- Pay all your bills on time, and keep credit card balances as low as possible.
- Keep current credit cards open. Closing a card will increase the portion of available credit you use, which can lower your score.
- Track your credit score. NerdWallet offers a free credit score that updates weekly.