Getting a mortgage is one of the biggest financial steps that most people will take. The long road toward home ownership requires patience, care and planning.

Here are a few key pieces of advice for those seeking out a mortgage and looking for the best possible chance to qualify.

Review Your Credit

In addition to checking your credit score, which you can do in a variety of ways, you should be extra sure that your credit information is up to date and free from errors. Your score tells a story, but the intricacies of your report fill in the blanks that a three digit number simply can’t. Correcting a mistake on your report, even a small one, might make a difference to your eligibility. It may be worth speaking to an advisor to iron out the details of your credit.

Accumulate Capital

Before you set out to apply for a mortgage, it’s important to do the hard work of saving your money. The more capital you have to work with, the better a lender may evaluate your situation, as you’re not cleaning your financial reserves bare just to afford your mortgage. Also, the more you save, the more room you have to pay the down payment cost on your mortgage.

The down payment on a mortgage is often expressed as a percentage of the total value: the more work you do to save early on, the larger a percentage you can afford to pay right up front. This lowers your cost of borrowing over time. If you can afford to pay over 20% down – a difficult, but not impossible choice – you also avoid having to pay for mortgage default insurance,commonly known in Canada as CMHC insurance, as long as your home is worth less than $1 million.

Time it Right

There’s a right time and a wrong time to apply for a mortgage. Lenders will look for a stable, solid financial history. Proving that you have held on to a long term, stable source of income is a major benefit, so it might not be the best time to apply if you have recently changed jobs. So too is the ability to prove that you have not gone on any recent credit spending sprees – and that your use of credit over time has been responsible.

Squash Your Debts

If your total housing costs are more than 32% of your income, or if your total debt load (including household costs) is over 40% of your income, your chances of approval are significantly lowered. As such, it’s wisest to take as many measures as you can to reduce your existing debts before seeking out a mortgage. This is just one of many reasons that Canadians should make debt reduction one of their highest financial priorities: cutting down your debt will not only increase your ability to save, grow wealth, and meet your goals, but it will improve your access to other financial instruments like mortgages.

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