Many first time home buyers are not fully prepared when they start looking for their first home. One of the major mistakes they make is not knowing what their credit score is before they apply for a mortgage. While a credit score can make or break the bank’s decision to extend you a mortgage, it also greatly influences what your mortgage interest rate is going to be. Knowing your credit score beforehand and trying to fix any issues before you apply for a mortgage can be a huge cost-saving step before buying your first home. Also, make sure you know current interest rates for mortgages before you start, which you can do here. Here is when you should be checking your credit score before you buy a home:

If You Know You Have a Good Credit Score

If you are confident that your credit score is in good shape, you can check it right before you start house hunting. This way, if there have been any mistakes since you last checked, you have the month to get them fixed and get your credit score to the optimal level. (Once you file the paperwork to fix an error, the credit bureaus only have a month to either fix the error, or provide the evidence that the information is in face correct.)

Checking it before you house hunt and not right before apply for the mortgage will give you that extra time to discover any surprises in your credit report and get them fixed.

If You Aren’t Sure What Your Credit Score Is

If you have know earthly idea what your credit score is, but know you’ve been approved for credit cards or loans recently, then you should probably be in good shape. Just to be sure, check your score 2 months before you start house hunting. This will give you extra time to fix any errors on your credit report, as well as do a few last minute maneuvers to raise your score if it needs to be raised. Here are some quick ways to raise your credit score if you need to.

If you really have no idea what your credit score is and haven’t been approved for any credit lately, your score could be anywhere, especially if you’ve been late paying your credit card bill or have old utility accounts that have gone to collection without your knowledge. Give yourself at least 6 months to get your finances together before you start house hunting. If you check your credit and it’s good, then you have peace of mind. But if it’s not good, you have 6 months to fix the errors and raise your score through some quick maneuvering.

If You Know You Have Credit Score Issues

If your credit score has issues, it’s a good idea to check it at least a year before you are ready to buy a house, and that might not even be enough time. Bad marks on your credit report take 7 years to be removed, so if you have had majorly bad payment history within the last 7 years, it could be very difficult to raise it in time to get approved for a mortgage.

That being said, a year can give you enough time to at least raise your score a bit and hopefully get it to a point where you can get approved. First thing to do is fix all the errors on your credit report, including any mistakes lenders made with late payments or any accounts that have been sent to collections. Paying off collection accounts can be a great way to raise your score. Apply for another credit card. The higher your overall credit limit, the higher your credit score, as long as the balances on your credit cards are super low. Zero out your balances if you are able to; this will go a long way in raising your credit score. Here are a few other long-term tips to get your credit score to where it needs to be.