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Get a good mortgage

By Jennie Bragg, CNN producer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- If you own your home, your house is your biggest asset, and often your biggest investment.

The good news is that home prices are starting to stabilize. Home prices rose 0.6% in July, according a recent S&P Case-Shiller Report.

But if you are trying to buy a home right now, it's tough out there. It's hard to get a mortgage. According to a Zillow Mortgage Marketplace report, a third of consumers who are looking for a home don't qualify for a mortgage because of poor credit.

The report found that people with credit scores below 620 were unable to get even a single quote on a home.

If your credit is so important, what does it take to get a good loan? And how can you repair it your score?

Getting a good mortgage

In order to get the best loan possible, you want to have to best credit score possible.

The first step to improving your score and getting a loan is to pay your bills on time.

"That is the single most important factor in your credit score," says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com. "And the good news is that poor credit isn't forever. Those past missteps carry less weight with the passage of time, so if you are paying your bills on time and you are paying down your debt over time, those two factors constitute two-thirds of your credit score. You are taking two big steps in the right direction."

If your credit score is above 740, you are going to get the best interest rates out there.

If your fall into the 700 to 740 range, you are a prime candidate to for a loan, but your interest rates may not be quite as spectacular.

And if your credit score falls below 680, not only will borrowing money become much more expensive, but it could become more difficult.

It is important to note that other elements factor into getting a good loan. Having a sizeable down payment and proof of income are key.

Credit score repair

If you are out there looking to borrow, there are a few things you can do to boost your credit score.

Before you try to fix a thing, it is essential to have an accurate picture of where you stand currently.

"Financial literacy is all about making sure that you have knowledge so that you don't have to be concerned about it," says Ryan Mack, president of Optimum Capital Management. "Are you going to annualcreditreport.com twice a year and getting at least one free credit report a year and then paying for the second one?"

Errors in your credit report can cost you, so dispute any negative items that aren't yours.

"We have complete control. Are you writing letters and disputing things that you might have disputes over?" asks Mack.

And remember, length of credit history counts towards your score. If you have only had credit for a short amount of time, don't open up too many cards too quickly. New accounts will lower the average age of your accounts and could lower your score if you don't have a lot of credit information.

Improving your score will take a bit of time and there are no fast fixes. One missed payment stays on your credit report for a total of 7 years.

The simplest way to re-establish a solid score is to pay your bills on time, every month and if you have missed payment, get current as soon as possible.

Greg McBride believes patience is a virtue when it comes to credit improvement.

"If you have a credit score below 650, the affordability you are seeing in the markets today isn't going to go away," assures McBride. "If you need to take six or twelve months to improve that credit score, boost your savings, pay down debt, by all means, go ahead and do that. Home prices aren't going to run away from us. Mortgage rates are not likely to skyrocket. You are still going to have affordability but you are going to be in a much better position to take advantage of that 6 or 12 months from now, if you have boosted that credit score."

Talkback: What active steps have you taken to improve your credit score? To top of page

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