Get Your Finances on Track

Back to Overview

Jump to a Chapter:

Getting a mortgage is all about your finances, so it makes sense to take a hard look at yours before you jump on the mortgage train. Here are some things you can do to make the application process much easier.

Check on Your Credit

The better your credit score, the better your interest rate will be (check out this cool calculator to see what a difference your credit score can make to your monthly payment).

If you’re not happy with your score, fixing your credit begins with knowing what’s wrong with it in the first place. Go to and get a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus—Transunion, Experian, and Equifax.

If you see any mistakes on your report, get them fixed right away. When you fix a problem, the lender must report the correction to all three credit agencies, so you shouldn’t have to fix the same problem three times. Look for:

  • Payments incorrectly posted as late
  • Bills marked unpaid that you actually paid
  • Loans or credit cards you didn’t sign up for

Get Financial Docs Ready Now

We need financial documents from you when you apply for a mortgage. Here’s a short list of things we’ll be asking you for.

  • Personal tax returns (2 years)
  • W-2s or 1099s (2 years)
  • Bank statements (2 months)
  • If you own a business, business tax returns (2 years)
  • Proof of alimony or child support payments

We may ask for more documents based on your financial situation, but this is a good place to start.

Pay Down Debt

We use a ratio called the debt-to-income ratio (DTI) that compares your monthly debt payments to your monthly income.

Basically, DTI is your monthly debt obligations (car payment, student loans, monthly minimum credit card payments) divided by your monthly gross income.

This number is important because it helps us determine how much money we can lend you. We don’t want your monthly debt obligation to be too high.

If you have debt that you don’t want to count in your DTI, pay it off right now, before you apply for a loan.

Stop Other Borrowing

If you’re applying for a mortgage soon, it’s a smart move to stop other kinds of borrowing. In other words, now is not the time to get your dream car and a house full of furniture. There will be plenty of time for those after you’ve closed on your new home.

Decide on a Down Payment

You’ll need to put money down to buy a home. You may have heard that you need 20% of the home’s price, but that’s actually not true. You can buy a home with as little as 3% down. Just remember that the more you put down, the lower your monthly payment will be.

Now is a good time to sit down with your finances and decide what you feel comfortable putting down on your new home and how long it might take you to get there. It will be much easier (and quicker!) to get pre-approved for your new home if your finances are straightened out. After that work’s done, it’s time to move on to pre-approval!