Checking your credit is free, and it only takes a few minutes.

The first thing that you should do before buying a house is investigate your credit. If anything is inaccurate or you have negative marks, you'll need time to repair it. Bankrate recommends a thorough check one year before you buy, which helps you move ahead with the best possible situation.

Your credit score does more than determine whether or not you qualify for a mortgage. There are a lot of subtle nuances within the real estate world where your credit plays a role. With a great score, you naturally get the best all-around deal. If yours is not so great, you need to know what to look out for.

What Affects Your Score

You probably know that missed payments, judgments, bankruptcies and collections result in a poor credit rating. But did you know that even with an excellent payment history, your score might still suffer? Credit card utilization is a big factor in your score. If most of your cards are nearly maxed out, Credit Karma says to expect a major hit.

Opening several new accounts in a close timeframe also reflects badly, as do a lot of hard credit report inquiries without any open credit lines. The former implies that you're in need of credit, and lots of it. The latter implies that after checking your report, each of those lenders declined to extend credit to you.

Good Credit Puts You in the Best Situation

Good credit is worthwhile in just about every way. It helps you qualify for the best mortgage with the most favorable terms, and it opens up avenues for financing that someone with poorer credit wouldn't have. For example, a conventional mortgage can offer a good interest rate and lower total amount financed, which means you will pay less for the loan.

With credit that's less than stellar, you might still qualify for a conventional mortgage, but the terms won't be as great. For example, you might have private mortgage insurance (PMI), and a higher interest rate. Both of those equal higher monthly payments and more repaid over the life of the loan.

Good credit lets you shop for the best insurance rates instead of taking whatever you can get.

Credit Also Affects Your Home Owners Insurance

This one might surprise you. Your credit score can also determine which homeowners insurance companies will insure you, and what your policy rates might be. That might not seem fair, and some industry experts agree. But creditworthiness does play a role, and Anne E. Koons Real Estate explains why.

Insurance is paid in advance, whether it's annually, quarterly or monthly. And if it's not paid, your insurer can cancel the policy. But insurance companies also believe that your personal finances are a nod to whether or not you're likely to file a claim. Part of insuring anything from a home to a vehicle is risk assessment, and a lower credit score implies risk.

Checking your credit report well in advance shows whether you're ready to move ahead with buying a home now, or it gives you time to clean it up if you're not. It also lets you spot errors that need correcting, which can take a lot of time, too.

Paying down debt is always a good plan. And Fair Issac Corporation (FICO) says that there are other things to do. Set payment reminders if you tend to forget, and always pay your bills on time. Get current on anything you're behind with, and don't close credit cards that you have paid off. It's better for lenders to see available credit that's not being used than it is to see a closed off account.

You don't have to pay to access your credit report. You're entitled to a free copy from each of the major reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. And check out more of our mortgage articles at eppraisal to learn the ins and outs about buying a house.