A big factor in receiving the kind of mortgage loan you want is your credit. If you're seriously considering buying a home, it pays to start getting your credit in shape long before you even think of pre-approval.

Review each credit report

To begin surveying the state of your credit, check all three credit bureau reports from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, plus your credit score. Review each for inaccuracies and signs of identity theft.

Ways to boost your credit score

  • Pay off small loans as early as possible
  • Keep credit card balances low
  • Each month, pay your credit card bills and loans on time
  • Do not make unnecessary inquiries for new credit
  • Do not ask a for an increase on current credit limits
  • Clean your credit reports of expired negative records (collections, bankruptcy)
  • Clean your credit reports of fraudulent records (identity theft records)

What will not help your credit score

  • Closure of credit card and loan accounts will lower your credit score
  • Delaying payments of credit card bills and loans
  • Applying for a number of new credit accounts
  • Removal of correct records from credit reports
  • Removal of positive expired records from the credit reports

Requesting changes and corrections

Identity theft and fraud crimes should be reported to the credit bureaus immediately. If you find inaccuracies on one of your credit reports, you'll need to submit a letter of dispute to the appropriate bureau. Gather evidence to prove the information on your credit report is in error and any related documentation. Be sure to make copies of the documents that you send. Include your full name, address, date of birth, and social security number. Once your documentation has been received, the credit reporting agency has thirty days to review your claim and repair your credit report.

The final step

Allow 30 to 60 days for updates and corrections to show up in your credit reports. Give yourself time to check your reports again and confirm that the changes have been made and your scores adjusted accordingly.

Avoid future credit report errors

If your credit report shows any outstanding balances, it's your responsibility to repay the creditors. Keep watching for other credit-damaging incidents, such as clerical errors, an ex-spouse's credit troubles listed under your name, or signs of identity theft.