Must-do’s before buying a home

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With lenders still skittish from the beating they took in the housing market, buying a home can be tricky these days. Fortunately, few simple preparations can insure your homebuying process goes smoothly. I’m Claes Bell with the personal finance minute.

To ensure you’ll qualify for a mortgage, pull your credit report and score. If there are errors on your report, contact the credit bureaus to get them removed. Also, don’t apply for any new credit cards or loans in the year leading up to your home purchase; doing so can temporarily lower your score. You’ll want a credit score above 640 to get a good mortgage rate.

Another key step is figuring out how much house you can afford. Your mortgage, insurance and property taxes shouldn’t exceed 28 percent of your gross monthly income. A dream home that stresses your budget can become a nightmare quickly.

Saving up a down payment is also more important these days than in the past. Depending on whether you get a conventional or FHA loan and your credit score, you’ll need between 3.5 percent and 20 percent of the purchase price, plus $2,300 to $4,000 for closing costs.

For more on this and other personal finance issues, visit I’m Claes Bell.