Lenders don’t make it easy to get a home loan these days, but can you blame them? After the housing market crash lenders had to wake up and realize they can’t just approve anyone that comes to them. If you want to be approved for a home loan, there are things you need to do both before you start and during the process, to make sure your home buying experience is a positive one.

1. Create a budget

Do you know how much you earn each month and where that money goes? If you don’t have a budget, how can you prove to a lender you can afford a mortgage payment? Sit down and establish a budget. If you have a two-income family, then your budget needs to include both incomes and expenses. Keep in mind you don’t have to share accounts to have a solid budget.

2. Pick your ideal mortgage type

A mortgage is a long-term financial commitment so it’s important that you choose the right type for you and your family. There isn’t just one type of mortgage. In fact, you have a few options. The two most common types of mortgages are fixed-rate and adjustable rate. Each have their own set of guidelines that may be beneficial to your personal circumstances.  If you are a retired veteran, look into a VA home loan first. Also, if you are a first time homebuyer with good credit, you may qualify for a FHA loan. It’s important to know all terms of each mortgage type and can be beneficial to hire a professional to help you align your mortgage type to your financial situation and goals.

3. Decide if you want a broker or lender

There are advantages and disadvantages to hiring a broker versus a lender. A broker is in regular contact with many lenders and banks, which will save you from having to call different lenders to compare terms and rates. A broker will save you time and take care of the process for you. Because brokers have connections with lenders and know what it takes to get a home loan approved, a broker may be able to (somewhat) negotiate with lender fees and services on your behalf. When deciding whether you want to hire a broker, make sure that his or her financial interests and goals match yours. Being on the same page is important to ensure you get the right mortgage for you as the homeowner.

A lender will deal directly with you and your loan, which can speed up the process rather than having the middleman broker as a step. If you really want to be approved, and you’re new to home buying, you may want to go with a broker. However, if you already know you’ll be approved and this isn’t your first home buying experience, then going straight to the lender may work better for you.

4. Know your credit

You need to not just know your credit score, but what is on your credit report. Even a great credit score can be denied if you have any negative items on your report, including late payments or judgments. Review your report to make sure it’s accurate and correct inaccuracies before you apply for a loan.

5. Get the paperwork in order

When you apply for a home loan, there is a lot of paperwork you have to bring along. Gather this all up to avoid any slowdowns in your approval process. Some documents your lender will need to see include:

  • Two forms of identification per applicant
  • Federal tax returns for the last two years
  • W2 earning statements for the last two years
  • Proof of any assets you currently hold

Being approved for a home loan isn’t too difficult, as long as you know the steps to take. There are plenty of resources out there based on the type of loan you’re applying for (FHA, VA, Conventional, etc.). Use these resources to guide you through the process. If you are a first time home buyer, read more about the home loan process or get connected with a real estate agent on Realtor.com. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to be approved and know what it takes to be approved the first time around.