Mortgage companies are tightening standards and reducing options available to homeowners. There are a couple of tips that may help individuals qualify at more favorable terms on their home purchase or refinance transaction.
Requesting a copy of a credit report to check credit history will not affect a consumer's credit score. If consumers find errors on their credit report, they should follow the directions included with the report regarding disputes or errors. Generally, consumers must write the credit bureau and advise them of the error or dispute. The credit bureau will then contact the provider of credit who reported the information, and that provider will have 30 days to respond. If the provider of credit agrees that there is an error, it will instruct the credit bureau to delete the item from the credit report.
Recognizing that one's credit score is a vital part of the home loan process is the first step. The following is a list of steps consumers can take to help increase their credit scores and further simplify the loan application process.
- Making Timely Payments. Making payments on time is the best way to increase a credit score. Delinquencies, foreclosures, bankruptcies and judgments will decrease the score.
- Limiting Trade Lines. The number of credit cards, lines of credit and other types of credit ("trade lines") a consumer has available will affect one's credit score. A high number of trade lines may decrease a credit score because the consumer is obligated to pay off multiple accounts, thus impacting the likelihood of mortgage repayment. Consumers may want to consider canceling credit cards they do not use regularly or choosing 2-4 cards and canceling the rest. If an account is closed or canceled voluntarily, it will not adversely affect one's credit score.
- Avoiding Unnecessarily High Credit Limits. Lenders also compare consumers' available credit (credit limits) with their income when making underwriting decisions. Having credit limits that are too high relative to a consumer's income can affect the credit score, just like having too many trade lines.
- Limiting the Amount of Credit Used. The outstanding amount on each credit card will also affect credit score. In general, the lower the outstanding balance, the higher the score.
- Do Not Apply For Unnecessary Credit. Whenever a consumer applies for credit, the creditor will obtain a credit report from one or more of the three credit bureaus. Each such inquiry stays on record and affects one's score. This is because each inquiry suggests that the consumer is increasing the amount of credit available. However, consumers should not let the fear of inquiries stop them from shopping for the best deal when they need home financing. Recently, the credit bureaus have recognized that borrowers may apply for credit at more than one place for the same transaction. Generally, the credit scoring companies will consider all auto or mortgage loan inquiries received within a 14-day period as one inquiry, so the additional inquiries will not affect a credit score. Borrowers should remember that if they order a copy of their credit report, to make sure it is accurate. This will NOT show up as an inquiry on their record.
A consumer's credit score is an important element of the home loan process. Whether one is seeking a home loan or interested in refinancing an existing loan, it is important to remember to use these vital tips to improve one's credit score.