As real estate agents, we get a lot of questions about financing a home. With the credit crunch that we're seeing right now with home loans, I wanted to write just briefly about how buyers can build credit before they buy. If you know that you'll be buying a home in the near future, you may as well take advantage of the time you have to work on building credit.
Two things are very important when building credit. First, you need to have a high limit and a low balance. The more you have of this combination, the better your score. Second, you need to make your payments on time. These two things will build a credit score in no time.
For example, we worked with a lady recently and recommended that she speak with a lender. She had a credit score in the low 500s and needed to boost it before she could buy the kind of home that she wanted. Her credit report showed that she had not paid a few things. She actually had paid these things, but the creditor did not update the report to show that she had paid in full. So, her loan officer made two corrections in her report showing that she had paid what she in fact had. Doing this changed her ratio of credit limit to amount owed (in other words, her true balance). Correcting this amount owed increased her credit score more than 100 points in about a week. That's about as quick of a change in credit score that you can hope for!
Another way to improve credit is to open a line of credit but only borrowing a small amount. And, be sure to pay it off. One way to do this is to get a prepaid credit card and use it to get gas, groceries, etc. - whatever you're going to buy anyway on a regular basis. If you do this for a year, it will show that you've paid as agreed. The longer you do that, the better your score. The prepayment on the credit card is actually a deposit. So, you'll get that money back at the end and have a true line of credit.
People who have had troubled credit in the past (bankruptcies, foreclosures) get scared of credit. So, they don't actively pursue credit or make big efforts to rebuild their credit profile. It's important to talk with your home loan officer before you buy. He or she can help you build credit and get the house you really want.