If you are preparing to apply for a mortgage, please consult with a mortgage professional before making any changes to your financial situation. Paying off all your credit cards or making a payment on an old debt could actually lower your credit score!
How long will it take?
Preliminary loan approval usually takes only a few days. Your home search can take longer, but will be easier if you provide your agent with a list of "must have" and "would like" features. Once your contract is accepted, allow 30-60 days for the paperwork to be completed. If you are dealing with a short sale, the time frame could be considerably longer. Don't forget to make application for homeowner's insurance within 7 days of contract acceptance!