Preparing for Your First Mortgage | iTHINK Financial

By: iTHINK Financial | Jul 31, 2023


Are you a first-time home buyer? Buying a home and getting a mortgage is an exciting and significant milestone in life, but it can also be a daunting experience, especially if you're a first-time buyer. Learn how to prepare financially to achieve your dream with our expert guide.

Simply put, a home mortgage is a loan that allows you to buy a home by borrowing money from a lender. However, obtaining a mortgage is not always a simple or straightforward process. Very often, a lengthy time of careful planning, research, and preparation is required to ensure you get the best agreement for your situation.

As a first-time homebuyer, you may have many questions about how to secure a mortgage, what type is suitable for you, and how much you can afford to borrow. At iTHINK Financial, we are dedicated to your success. In this article, we will guide you through the essential steps you need to take to plan your first mortgage successfully. By following these steps, you'll be better equipped to navigate the mortgage process and make an informed decision that meets your financial goals and needs.


Where To Start With Getting Your First Mortgage

Before getting into the different types of mortgages that are available, there are a few factors you need to consider right at the start. Firstly, make sure you have a stable income and employment history. Lenders will want to see that you have a steady source of income that will enable you to make your mortgage payments consistently. You will also need to check your credit score. This score is one of the most important factors lenders will consider when evaluating your loan application. A higher credit score can lead to lower mortgage rates and more affordable payments, resulting in major savings over the life of your loan. A poor credit score can result in higher rates, making your monthly payments more expensive. Work with a mortgage professional to check your credit history along with obtaining your credit score. Your credit score is used in determining your interest rate. If there are things you can do to improve your credit score before you're ready to buy a home, you should so you can obtain a better interest rate and lower payment.


Another key factor to evaluate ahead of time is your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). This measures how much debt you have compared to your income. If your DTI is too high, this can be another challenge to getting approved for a loan. Remember that a mortgage is a financial obligation like any other debt. Keep your debt under control and ensure that you can successfully manage any payments you have before applying for a mortgage.


The third consideration you should make is the size of the down payment you are prepared to make. A larger down payment can often result in lower rates and potentially save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. Having a large down payment prepared can also make you more attractive to lenders.


Different Types of Mortgages Available

Once you are confident with the preliminaries, you need to decide which type of mortgage is right for you. The two most common categories mortgages fall into are fixed-rate and variable-rate mortgages. Fixed-rate mortgages have a set interest rate that stays consistent over the life of your loan. This means your monthly payments remain the same, making it easier to budget in the long term. Variable (or adjustable) rate mortgages have an interest rate that can change over time. This means that your monthly payments can fluctuate, making it more difficult to budget. On the other hand, if interest rates fall, your payments can go down. This can lead to significant cost savings.


Step 1: Establish a Solid Financial Foundation

Establishing a solid financial foundation is essential for getting your first mortgage. We recommend starting with a budget. A budget helps you track your expenses and income and ensures that you live within your means. Stay honest and realistic as you create your budget incorporating all of your income and expenses. This will help you identify areas where you may be overspending and where you can cut back.


Start using your budget to track your expenses and set realistic financial goals. For example, you should get a lower DTI to be more favorable when negotiating your mortgage rate. In that case, you might set financial goals toward paying off your debt. Ensure that these goals are specific, measurable, and time-bound. Feel free to review them and adjust as necessary. You must fully understand your financial position and have it completely under control before applying for a mortgage.


We also recommend having a filled emergency fund before applying for your first mortgage. Less than half of all adults in the U.S. have enough money saved to cover at least three months' worth of expenses. This leaves people needing more preparation for a financial crisis and can make it harder to get a mortgage. You should save at least 3 to 6 months' living expenses before getting your first mortgage.


Step 2: Managing Existing Debt And Improve Your Credit Score

You don't necessarily need to be debt-free before applying for a mortgage, but you do need to ensure that your financial situation is under control and reduce as much debt as you have. This will get you in a better position to get a good mortgage rate. Start with an evaluation of your existing debts and see what obligations can be minimized, paid off, or eliminated. Specifically, look at high-interest debt payments and try to pay off as many of those as you can.


For example, credit cards often carry high-interest rates that can really cost you if you fail to pay them off in full each month. Other high-interest debt to get rid of includes personal loans, payday loans, auto loans, store credit cards, and student loans. While you may not be able to eliminate all of these debts before applying for a mortgage, reducing your obligations will put you in a better financial position, giving you confidence as you apply for your first mortgage.


Tips For Improving Your Credit Score

A better credit score often results in better-negotiated mortgage payments. Although situations may vary (FHA loans and VA loans do not require a credit score), it's important to know your credit score and the ideal score before applying for a mortgage. The easiest way to see your credit report is online.


What's the ideal score? There isn't really an ideal score to reach with your credit before applying for a mortgage. Having as close to the maximum of 850 will put you in a great position no matter what lender you work with. Be aware that many lenders do have minimum requirements, which tend to fall between 620 and 700.



Improving your credit score is fairly straightforward. The two biggest steps you can take are consistently paying your bills on time (including credit card payments and utility bills) and reducing your use of credit. Experts recommend keeping your credit utilization below 30% of your total credit limit. Avoid maxing out your credit cards and pay off as much debt as you can. Also, if you have any open credit accounts open that you aren't using, close them. The more credit accounts you have open, even if you're not using them, the worse your score will be.


Also, remember to regularly review your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) and correct any errors. By filing a dispute for an inaccuracy promptly, you can ensure that your credit report reflects accurate information.


Step 3: Saving For A Down Payment

Once you have stabilized your financial situation and paid off as much debt as you can, the next step in preparing for your first mortgage is to start saving for the down payment. Depending on the size of the budget for your new home, your down payment may be large. Saving for such a significant upfront payment can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Start by cutting any unnecessary expenses like eating out or buying expensive clothes. Then, look at anything else in your lifestyle that you could cut out to direct more money into this savings goal. Remember that anything you give up doesn't have to be permanent. Entertainment subscriptions can always be restarted after you make the down payment, and your favorite restaurants aren't going anywhere. Create a clear budget and stick to it. Additionally, be aware that there are tax-advantaged savings accounts like Roth IRAs, and 401(k) plans that enable you to save your money tax-free.


Step 4: Mortgage Pre-Approval Process

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is an essential step in the home-buying process. It helps you determine the price range of homes you can afford and gives you a competitive edge when making an offer. To obtain pre-approval, you must provide documentation such as proof of income and employment, credit score, and bank statements. Choosing the right lender is also crucial, as they can offer different rates and terms. Working with a trusted mortgage lender can simplify the process and help you find the best loan options for your unique situation.

Step 5: Protect Your Investment

As a first-time homeowner, protecting your investment by considering mortgage insurance is essential. This type of insurance can provide financial protection in the event of unforeseen circumstances, such as job loss or disability, that may prevent you from making your mortgage payments. By investing in mortgage insurance, you can have peace of mind knowing that your investment is safe and secure.


Here at iTHINK Financial we would love to help you fulfill your financial dream of having your own home and getting your first mortgage. Start the prequalification process here. If you're already qualified, apply today!