Thinking about buying your first home? The race to homeownership is more like a marathon than a sprint: diligent planning, pacing and strategy are the keys to success. Are you ready to approach the starting line? Here are five ways to shape up and boost your financial fitness so you’re set for success.

  1. Check your credit score

First things first: order a copy of your credit report and credit score. Your credit score, which is calculated using the information in your credit report, is what lenders look at when considering you for a mortgage. Your score impacts whether or not you get approved and what interest rates you’re offered.

A score of 750, for example, is very good. Do you know your credit score? Check out these tips for boosting your credit score, courtesy of the federal government’s Office of Consumer Affairs.

  1. Reduce (or eliminate) credit card debt

Ideally, your credit card balance should be zero. But if, like 46% of Canadians, you carry a balance each month, make it your priority to chip away at it. You’ll boost your credit score while reducing the amount you’re paying in interest, freeing up more cash for saving and investing.

Use one – or, better yet, both – of the following strategies to make a dent in your debt:

  • Make more money (i.e., take on a side gig, work overtime hours, pick up odd jobs)
  • Save more money (i.e., sacrifice your satellite TV package, swap your gym membership for running outdoors, cut back on eating out) 
  1. Bulk up your savings

Now’s the time to save aggressively, stashing that cash in a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or tax-free savings account (TFSA). Use automated savings to ensure that money goes straight from your checking account to your savings, investment accounts or both.

Remember: As a first-time homebuyer, you can withdraw money from your RRSP to put toward a down payment. (Generally, you’ll have up to 15 years to pay it back into your RRSP.)

  1. Stick to a budget

 As points 2 and 3 illustrate, getting financially fit takes determination and commitment. It can feel less overwhelming when you’ve got a snapshot of goals and actions right at your fingertips. Sit down with your partner to create a monthly budget. And stick to it.

A smartphone app can be a game changer in keeping you organized, accountable and on track with your financial fitness plan. 

  1. Keep your eyes on the prize

Stay inspired, motivated and positive by remembering why you’re working so hard to boost your financial fitness: to buy your first home!

Crunch preliminary figures online to come up with ballpark estimates on how much home you can afford.

Raise your real estate IQ by watching HGTV shows, researching neighbourhoods, perusing listings and attending open houses.

That will make you a more educated shopper once you’re ready to enter the market qualified with a mortgage pre-approval. Do your research now, so you can hit the ground running when you’re ready to buy.

Want more ideas? Check out these Homeownership.ca features:

  • Buying your first home is all about successful number crunching. Here are 3 great home-buying calculators and tools that make it easier to estimate your mortgage and home-ownership costs.
  • You’ve been saving money to buy your first home for so long and it’s one of the most significant purchases you’ll make in your life. Here are some tips to ensure you get the most for your money…
  • Is first-time homeownership on your list of 2015 goals? If so, assess how close you are to making your real estate dreams come true. Our basic, Yes/No quiz will tell you if you’re ready for homeownership this year.
  • This three-digit number is surrounded by a lot of misconception and misunderstanding, we can help you better understand how your ‘credit score’ works.
  • Your credit score reflects your financial health. It is represented by a number determined by a mathematical formula. Your credit score helps determine if you are a risk to lenders. And good credit is very important to qualify for a loan. In addition to your ability to pay, a mortgage…
  • Thinking about buying your first home? Saving for a down payment sooner rather than later is easier than you think. Here are nine strategies to boost your financial fitness and fast-track your way to homeownership. GAUGE YOUR FINANCIAL FITNESS You need an honest assessment to know which areas of your…

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