Scoring Your Credit
Most people assume that the home buying process starts with getting pre-approved for a loan or with choosing a real estate agent. In reality, the home buying process begins with your finances. Saving your money for a down payment is a good idea, but if you don't have a strong credit score to reinforce it, you could find yourself renting for another couple of years in Austin until you build up your score.
The Fair Isaac Company bases your FICO score on the summary of your complete credit history. Most people traditionally have a score of 650, but scores are tiered from 300 to 850. Job loss has been common in the last few years, but FICO scores aren't necessarily adjusted "on a curve." A low score is just that and often means you can't get credit extended to you in the form of a mortgage loan. Some of the pieces in reviewing your FICO score include:
- Credit to Debt Ratio — How much do you owe versus your available credit?
- Credit Inquiries — How many times has your credit history been accessed by someone other than you?
- Types of Credit — Do you have a healthy mix of loans and credit cards?
- Payment History — How often do you make late payments?
Lenders want to make sure that allowing you a loan is a safe move. Your credit score gives lenders an insight into what type of borrower you are based solely on your credit history. Because of the shift in the economy, most home buyers should have scores in the range of 740 or higher to get a decent interest rate. You'll still get approved for a loan with a lower score, but the interest accrued in the long run could be more than double that of someone having a better credit score.
I'm used to working with all levels of FICO scores. Contact me and I can help you get on the right track to the home of your dreams.
How do you get a better score? Improving your FICO score takes time. It can be rare to make a significant change in your credit score with quick fixes, but your score can improve in a few years by keeping tabs on your credit report and by using your credit wisely. The best way to do this is to know your FICO score. You'll improve your credit score by using these pointers:
- Keep up with payments. How often you're late with payments greatly affects your credit score. It's one of the reasons people who have recently been unemployed see the biggest hit in their credit score. Yes, it takes longer to build up your credit with payment history, but it's the most reliable way to prove that you're able to make payments to a lender.
- Correct your credit report. If you discover incorrect items on your credit report, write to the bureau asking that the item be removed. If you have a common name or the same name as a family member, you'll want to pay extra attention to make sure the activity reported is correct.
- Spread your debt around. At first, this doesn't seem like a good idea. But, you steer clear of having one card that is at the maximum and have the rest of your cards at a zero balance. It's better to have each of your cards at a smaller balance than to have the bulk of your debt taking up the balance one card.
- Apply for gas station cards or department store credit. For those who have non-existent credit or less-than-stellar credit, chain store credit cards and gas credit cards are ways to begin your credit history, increase your spending limits and stay on top of your payments, which will raise your credit. You should always beware of keeping a high balance for more than a couple of months because these types of cards more than likely have a steeper interest rate.
- Keep your cards in rotation. Whether you're just getting started with credit, or if you've got older cards, be sure to use your cards so that your accounts stay active. But, make sure you pay them off in no more than two or three payments.
Now that you're more informed about credit reporting, you'll be able to successfully take the first steps to homeownership, and that is improving your FICO score. Keep in mind that when you're ready to apply for a loan to purchase a house, you'll want to keep your applications within a two-week window to avoid a negative mark on your credit score. With my hwlp, the loan process is sure to go more smoothly so you, too, can achieve home ownership.
To learn more, visit www.myFICO.com, Fair Isaac's informational site and once per year, for free, you can review all three of your credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com. And, for a small payment, you can get your FICO score from each bureau on their websites: www.equifax.com, www.experian.com and www.transunion.com.
I won't judge you based on your credit history and can help you settle into home ownership with the best lender for you. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (512) 480-0848 for more information.