August 16, 2009

Six Things You Should Avoid Before Buying a Home

Buying a home is not an impulse buy. In most cases you will have a few months notice before you actually go through with the sale. Planning ahead is crucial particularly if you don't have extensive financial resources. Since mortgage lenders will be sizing up your finances carefully, don't give them any reason to reject your application.

You never know what effect today’s actions will have on your mortgage application in three or even six months. Even something as simple as transferring money from your savings to your chequing account can negatively impact the mortgage process. So here are some suggestions of things you should avoid before buying a home:

1. Do not make any major purchases
Don't invest in any major purchases. Cars, weddings, jewellery, furniture and electronics can all wait until you're settled in your new home. When you make a major purchase, you limit the amount of money available for your down payment, and decrease the amount of liquid capital in your name.

If you do have to make a major purchase before buying a home, you might want to put it on a low-interest credit card until after your mortgage application is approved. Sometimes you can't control what life throws your way, but think carefully about your options before making a decision.

2. Don’t move money around
When a lender reviews your loan application for approval, one of the things they are concerned about is the source of funds for your down payment and closing costs. To do so, they will request statements from all of your accounts that contain liquid assets.

Moving your money around, even if you are consolidating your funds to make it "easier," could make it more difficult for the lender to properly document and measure your finances. So leave your money where it is until after closing.

3. Do not make large investments
It is also not recommended to make investments just before buying a home; again, you're decreasing the liquidity of your assets. If you've come across a new stock in which you'd like to invest or if it's a great time to buy bonds, wait until after you've settled the finances on your home.

Furthermore, you'll have to disclose all of your finances before buying a new home, which means accounting for every withdrawal and deposit in all of your accounts. This can get quite tedious, especially if you're trying to dig up cancelled cheques for the new home theatre or HDTV you just had to have three months ago.

4. Do not change your bank
Changing banks is always a hectic ordeal, so don't do it before buying a home. You'll have to provide information about previous accounts that are now closed, and therefore inaccessible. And if you diversify your money too much in money market accounts, savings accounts, chequing accounts and other places, you'll have a harder time with the disclosure process.

If you're frustrated with your bank and want to change, tough it out a little longer and switch after your mortgage is approved and you've set up shop in your new home. This will save you hours of headaches and frustration.

5. Do not apply for a new credit card or line of credit
Even though the inquiry won’t hurt your credit too badly if you already have a good credit score, the additional credit card will cause the lender to question your financial stability for buying a home.

6. Do not change your job unless absolutely necessary
Try not to change jobs. Your employment is a key factor in the mortgage approval process, and if you can't show steady employment, you might be denied. Of course, you can't help matters if you've just been laid off or an opportunity presents itself that you can't pass up.

This could become more difficult if you become self employed. In most cases, lenders want to see at least two years of self-employment before they will approve you for a loan. So if you can, wait until after buying a home to become self-employed. For part-time workers, changing jobs creates unpredictability in the number of hours you will work so the lender cannot determine your gross income to qualify you for a loan.

If you're going to change jobs before buying a home, wait another six months before going ahead with the real estate transaction. This gives you an opportunity to establish employment and to show a steady income from a single employer. This looks much better on a loan application than a long list of recent employers.

As mentioned above, there will be times when you can't avoid all of these things before buying a home, but know that it's in your best interests to wait until the dust settles. The goal should be to move into your new house with as few obstacles as possible.