1. Get a free credit report
If you If you plan to finance your home, your credit score is a key factor banks use to determine your interest rate for a mortgage. Checking your credit report before you start house hunting will help you better understand what kind of monthly payments you can afford, and it will give you the chance to spot any unusual behavior or unfamiliar accounts. You can get a free credit report every year from annualcreditreport.com.
2. Choose a team you trust
Buying a home takes a village of professionals on both the buyer and seller sides (think real estate agents, attorneys, an appraiser and a home inspector). Since each of these people will have access to your personal info, it’s important to vet the pros you have control over hiring. Ask friends for referrals, read online reviews, and check that licenses and credentials are up-to-date. Make sure you’re comfortable with all potential hires and trust them to thoroughly explain legal documents, including what’s required of you and what you’ll be held accountable for. Also, if you’ve purchased a home before, don’t be afraid to ask your trusted realtor for suggestions, they have an arsenal of people they have grown to know professionally.
3. Sign up for credit monitoring
One of the most stressful parts of home buying is revealing in-depth personal and financial info—think pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, social security numbers and investments—to people you don’t know. Since there’ll be a lot of credit activity under your name in a short period of time, it’s easy to overlook identity theft, even if you’re vigilant with guarding your online information and monitoring your accounts. Purchasing a credit monitoring service that’ll notify you when someone runs a credit check on you, takes out a loan, or opens a new credit account in your name.
4. Use caution when online
Throughout the process, you’ll be filling out a lot of forms and divulging personal information across a variety of sites. To prevent identity theft, only use a secure computer (ideally, your personal one) on a private Wi-Fi network to download or send the documents you need. Also make sure all of your passwords are distinct and varied (using the same password for every login is a big no-no). Avoid phishing schemes by manually entering URLs in your browser, rather than opening links from emails. And if you do need to print hard copies of sensitive info, hide your social security number and credit card and bank account numbers unless absolutely necessary, and shred documents when no longer needed. It’s always better to be overly cautious, then to be sorry later.
Article Contribution by Cassie Krietner