"If (your score is) below 600, you're probably not going to buy a home in the short term," said Mike Sullivan, director of education at nonprofit credit and debt counseling agency Take Charge America. Given the slew of stringent regulation introduced following the housing crisis, most lenders simply won't risk extending this demographic credit. [...] even consumers with good scores should polish up the old credit report. [...] if you plan on hitting up the housing market this April, make sure to pull a copy of your credit report and check to see where your score stands. Delinquent accounts are a huge red flag to mortgage lenders because they demonstrate a lack of ability to repay debts. Lenders typically say the "back-end" debt-to-income ratio - or the amount of your income that is needed to cover all your monthly debt obligations, including credit card bills and other loans - should be 36 percent or lower. [...] if you recently missed a loan payment because you, say, didn't know about the bill, try calling up the issuer (or lender) to see if they will refrain from letting the credit bureaus know about your faux pas. [...] avoid applying for other loans, including store credit cards, particularly in an attempt to improve this aforementioned credit utilization rate.