First-Time Buyer's Guide to Better Credit
Most people assume that the home buying process starts with getting pre-approved by a lender or with choosing a real estate agent. In reality, the home buying process begins with your finances. Putting back your money for a down payment is a good idea, but if you lack an acceptable credit score to reinforce it, you could find yourself renting longer than you expected in Laguna Niguel, California until your FICO score is acceptable.
A FICO score is a collection of your years of credit history based on an instrument developed by Fair Isaac and Company. The score ranges from 300 to 850, with most people normally having a score of 650. With the change in the economy, however, some people have seen their score lowered after unemployment, delinquent credit card accounts, or credit card accounts terminated because the card didn't carry a high balance. Some of the pieces in deciding your FICO score are:
- Types of Credit — Do you have a healthy mix of loans and credit cards?
- Payment History — Do you pay your bills on time ?
- 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?
When you pull your credit report, you'll see that you actually have three reports. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — three of the major credit reporting agencies — use a slightly different systems to calculate your credit rating. FICO is used by Experian. Equifax's model is called BEACON and TransUnion uses EMPIRICA. Because of this, you have three scores, one for each bureau.
Lenders want to ensure that giving you a loan isn't a risk for them. Your credit score gives lenders an insight into what type of borrower you are based solely on your credit history. You'll need a score of at least 740 to get a satisfactory interest rate. If your score is less than that, you can still qualify for a loan, but the interest accrued over the life of the loan could be more than double the amount of an individual with a near perfect credit score.
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You want a stronger score, but how do you get there? Improving your FICO score takes time. It can be difficult to make a large-scale change in your number with quick fixes, but your score can improve in a year or two by monitoring your credit report and by wisely using credit. The best way to do this is to know your FICO score. Here are some ways you can improve your credit score:
- Apply for service station cards or store credit. For those who have no credit or below average credit, retail credit cards and gas credit cards are ways to get credit, increase your spending limits and have a solid payment history, which will raise your credit. You should always avoid maintaining a large balance for too long because these types of cards normally have a larger interest rate.
- Keep your cards active. Whether you have older cards, or are just getting started with credit, be sure to use your cards to make sure your accounts maintain an active status. But, pay them off in no more than two or three payments.
- Stay on top of payments. How often you're late with payments greatly affects your credit score. It's where people who have recently been unemployed see the biggest dip 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 bank.
- Ensure that your credit history is correct. If you discover mistakes on your credit report, contact the bureau requesting 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 sound 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 about less than 40% of their credit limit than to have the most of your debt transferred to a single card.
Knowing the methods you can use to build up your credit score, you're one step closer to becoming a homeowner. Know that when it's time to apply for a loan to purchase a home, you'll want to keep your credit inquiries within a two-week window to avoid a negative mark on your credit score. With the help of Tom Bertog, shopping for a mortgage can be a stress-free experience so you, too, can become a homeowner.
Get more information by visiting www.myFICO.com, Fair Isaac's informational site and you can review all of your credit reports for free each year 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 FICO scores and can help you settle into home ownership with the right mortgage lender for you. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 949-280-0102 for additional information.