The Minnesota Homeownership Center oversees a statewide network of nonprofit organizations that offer education and counseling for low- to moderate-income homebuyers. Potential buyers can meet, at no cost, with an adviser to determine whether they are mortgage-ready or might qualify for assistance with a down payment or closing costs. If a prospective buyer is not quite ready for home ownership due to credit issues or other barriers, the adviser works with the buyer to put a plan in place. Framework (www.FrameworkHomeownership.org) is a new online homebuyer education program that walks people through the process of buying a house.
There are also several programs, including MCASA and Project: Reclaim, that provide affordable housing for qualifying families.
To find out about the programs, talk to a Homeownership adviser or to sign up for Home Stretch homebuyer workshops, go to the Minnesota Homeownership Center at www.hocmn.org or call 651-659-9336.
Good credit 101
Considering buying a house? Here are ways to improve your credit score to help you qualify for a mortgage. The credit score is a number based on a credit report that shows lenders how likely you are to repay your debts — the higher your score, the better. Most Minnesota mortgage lenders require a credit score of 640 or more. To boost your score:
• Pay your monthly bills on time. For help, try a service such as www.mint.com.
• Stay below 25 percent of your credit limit. For example, if you have a credit-card limit of $1,000, charge less than $250 each month.
• How long you’ve had access to the credit makes a difference, so it’s better to keep your cards open rather than closing them.
• The type of credit, such as an installment loan or revolving credit, has a varying impact on your score.
• You are entitled to a free credit report each year, available at www.annualcreditreport.com and from the main agencies, Equifax, Experian and Transunion. You also can monitor your credit free of charge by using www.creditkarma.com.