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Bolster your credit score and get a better mortgage

It is the dream of many to own their own home. Whether you're eyeing a big, beautiful place by the water, or a cozy spot of your own in a residential neighborhood, knowing that a space is yours gives it a special meaning. Home ownership can be a challenge though, and if you don't have a strong credit score it can seem unachievable at times.

Situations vary, but most lenders won't even consider applicants with credit scores lower than 580. Major lenders are even more strict, requiring at least 620. If your credit score isn't as high as you'd like, don't worry, there are several ways you can polish it up and take your first step toward buying a home.

There are several strategies to shine up your credit score. Keep in mind, however, that these are not "get out of jail free" cards. Building a better credit score will take some time and effort on your part.

Clean up your history

A surefire way to bolster your credit score is to start cleaning up your payment histories. This means starting to pay your bills on time as soon as you can. Credit card bills, medical bills, vehicle finance bills, rent bills; the sooner you start hitting your due dates, the sooner you can start breathing life into your credit score.

In addition to driving down your total debt, having a good recent history on the books goes a long way toward counteracting a pattern of late or missed payments. It will take a few billing cycles to get the ball rolling, but once it does you will be on the track to repairing your credit.

Adjust your debt-to-credit ratio

A handy strategy you can also use to improve your credit score is to adjust your debt-to-credit ratio. Say you have a credit card with a maximum balance of $1,000 and you have charged $750. The fact that you have used 75% of your available credit is a negative on your credit score.

Credit card companies will often be willing to increase your available credit upon request. If you think you can resist the urge to spend, having your credit increased to, say, $3000 will greatly reduce the amount of credit you are using, thereby helping your credit score.

Expunge minor mistakes

Everyone has been late paying their credit card bill at some point. If you have a history of consistently paying on time, odds are your credit provider will be willing to wipe minor infractions like being one day late with a payment from your record. This will not only save you a late fee, but also remove a blemish from your credit.

Don't take any new debt

It's something we've all heard when short on cash, but it really is one of the best things you can do: don't take on new debt. Don't apply for new credit cards, don't finance a new jet-ski for the summer, don't take out a personal loan for a trip. Look at your expenses and create a reasonable budget for yourself. Stick to your budget and soon enough you will be pushing back your debt and building your credit score.

A good credit score is part and parcel to lenders giving you an affordable mortgage. If your score needs a little work, spend time getting it back on track by keeping on top of your bills and employing a few extra strategies. You will be glad you did when you're handed the keys to your new home.

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