If you’re hoping to buy a home in the near future there are several financial prerequisites that you should aim to meet. Ideally, you’ll want a sizable down payment, a verifiable income history, and a good credit score.
It takes time to build credit. For most people, it can be several months or even years before they see a double-digit change in their credit score. However, if you have a low credit score and want to give it a quick boost, there are ways you can make a big difference.
But first, why should you focus on your credit score?
Credit scores and mortgages
When you apply for a mortgage there are several factors that your lender will take into consideration. One of their top concerns will be your credit score. This score is like a snapshot of your financial reliability. It tells lenders how much risk is involved in lending to you.
As a result, lenders will increase your interest rate if you are high risk and lower it if you are lower risk. To be a low risk homeowner, you’ll want your score to be in the high range, (usually 700 or above).
Credit change potential
Depending on your financial history, it can be more difficult to raise your score in a shorter period of time. If you are young, don’t have a long credit history, or haven’t had many bills to pay in your lifetime, your score will be more malleable than someone who has had low credit for years due to late payments.
In the United States, you have to be eighteen to open up a credit card or take out a loan by yourself (this is different from getting a loan co-signed by a parent or guardian). You can also ask your parents or guardians to add you as an authorized user of their credit cards. This will let you build credit without having to settle for the high interest rate credit cards you would be eligible for.
If you happen to have a low score (anywhere between 300 - 600), the good news is you can achieve a larger change over a shorter amount of time than someone who already has a high score.
So, how do you achieve that change?
One of the easiest ways to quickly improve your score is to check for errors in your credit report. You can get a free report each year from the three main credit bureaus--Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
Look out for bills that have been mistakenly put under your name and for collections that shouldn’t be on your account.
Avoid new credit
One thing that can do short-term harm to your credit score is opening or attempting to open new lines of credit. That can be a store card, a loan, or getting your credit checked by a lender.
If you want to build credit quickly, making several inquiries could land you with a lower score than where you started.
Pay your regular expenses with credit
A good way to gain credit points in a few months is to pick a monthly expense to use your credit card for. Pay off your full balance at the end of each billing cycle to earn the most points while avoiding building up too much interest.
If you are thinking of buying a home in the near future, there’s one three-digit number that could be oh so important to you. That number is your credit score. Read on to find out how a credit score can affect you and the steps you can take to be sure that your credit is in good standing when you head to apply for a mortgage.
What Is A Credit Score?
Your credit score is checked by lenders of all kinds. Every time you apply for a loan or a credit card, there’s a good chance that your credit score is being pulled to see if you qualify for the loan. Your credit score is calculated based on the information on your credit report. This information includes:
Length of credit history
New credit accounts opened
The areas with the most impact on your score is your payment history and your debt-to-credit ratio. This means that on-time payments are super important. You also don’t want to get anywhere close to maxing out your credit cards or loan amounts to keep your score up.
What’s A Good Score?
If you’re aiming for the perfect credit score, it’s 850. Most consumers won’t reach that state of perfection. That’s, OK because you don’t have to be perfect to buy a house. If your score is 740 and above, know that you’re in great shape to get a mortgage. Even if your score is below 740 but around 700 or above, you’ll be able to get a good interest rate on your mortgage. Most lenders typically look for a score of 620 and above. Keep in mind that the higher your credit score the better your interest rate will be.
What If You Lack Credit History?
Most people should get a credit card around age 20 in order to begin building credit. You can still qualify for a mortgage without a credit history, but it will be considerably harder. Lenders may look at things like your rent payments or car payments. Lenders want to know that you’re a responsible person to lend to.
What If Your Score Needs Help?
It doesn’t mean you’re a hopeless case if you lack good credit. Everything from errors on your credit report to missed payments can be fixed. The most important thing that you can do if you’re buying a home in the near future is to be mindful of your credit. Keep an eye on your credit report and continue to make timely payments. With a bit of focus, you’ll be well on your way to securing a mortgage for the home of your dreams.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of credit scores when it comes to buying a home. Along with your down payment, your credit score is a deciding factor of getting approved and securing a low interest rate.
Credit can be complicated. And, if you want to buy a home in the near future, it can seem daunting to try and increase your score while saving for a down payment.
However, it is possible to significantly increase your score in the months leading up to applying for a loan.
In today’s post, we’re going to talk about some ways to give your credit score a quick boost so that you can secure the best rate on your mortgage.
Should I focus on increasing my score or save for a down payment?
If you’re planning on buying a home, you might be faced with a difficult decision: to pay off old debt or to save a larger down payment.
As a general rule, it’s better to pay off smaller loans and debt before taking out larger loans. If you have multiple loans that you’re paying off that are around the same balance, focus on whichever one has the highest interest rate.
If you have low-interest loans that you can easily afford to continue paying while you save, then it’s often worth saving more for a down payment.
Remember that if you are able to save up 20% of your mortgage, you’ll be able to avoid paying PMI (private mortgage insurance). This will save you quite a bit over the span of your loan.
Starting with no credit
If you’ve avoided loans and credit cards thus far in your life but want to save for a home, you might run into the issue of not having a credit history.
To confront this issue, it’s often a good idea to open a credit card that has good rewards and use it for your everyday expenses like groceries. Then, set up the card to auto-pay the balance in full each month to avoid paying interest.
This method allows you to save money (you’d have to buy groceries and gas anyway) while building credit.
Correct credit report errors
Each of the main credit bureaus will have a slightly different method for calculating your credit score. Their information can also vary.
Each year, you’re entitled to one free report from each of the main bureaus. Take advantage of these free reports. They’re different from free credit checks that you can get from websites like Credit Karma because they’re much more detailed.
Go through the report line by line and make sure there aren’t any accounts you don’t recognize. It is not uncommon for people to find out that a scammer or even a family member has taken out a line of credit in their name.
Avoid opening several new accounts
Our final tip for boosting your credit score is to avoid opening up multiple accounts in the 6 months leading up to your mortgage application.
Opening multiple accounts is a red flag to lenders. It can show that you might be in a time of financial hardship and can temporarily lower your score.
Preparing to buy a home is a long and stressful process for many. You’ve spent months, or even years, saving for a down payment, planning your future, and building your credit to ensure you get the best possible interest rate on your loan.
Then you find out, when getting preapproved for a mortgage, that your credit score dropped by a few points. So, what gives?
There’s a lot to understand about how credit scores affect mortgages and vice versa. In today’s post, I’m going to attempt to cover everything you need to know about how applying for a mortgage can affect your credit score so you’ll be prepared when it comes time to buy a home.
Prequalification, preapproval, and credit checks
There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be preapproved or prequalified for a loan. Some of it is due to the jargon that is used in real estate transactions, and some of it is just a marketing technique on the part of lenders.
So, what does it mean to be prequalified vs preapproved?
The short version is that getting prequalified is a quick and easy process to determine whether you’re eligible to lend to and how much you’re likely to receive. It involves a quick review of your finances, and often includes either a self-reported or soft credit inquiry.
A “soft inquiry” is the type of credit check that employers typically use for a background check. It doesn’t affect your credit score, as you are not applying to open a new line of credit. In fact, many lenders’ process for prequalification is a simple online form that doesn’t even require a credit check. We’ll talk more about the difference between soft inquiries and hard inquiries later.
The simplicity of prequalification makes it a simple and easy way to get started. But, it isn’t always accurate in how well it predicts the type of mortgage and loan amount you can receive. That’s where preapproval comes in.
When you get preapproved for a loan you fill out an official application (you often have to pay for these). This will request documentation for your finances and assets, and will ask your approval to run a detailed credit report.
These credit reports are considered “hard inquiries” and are a vital step in getting approved or preapproved for a mortgage. However, they also, at least temporarily, lower your credit score.
Why hard inquiries lower your credit score
When any creditor, be it a bank or credit card company, is determining whether to lend to you, they want to know that you are a safe investment. To determine this, they want to know how frequently you pay your bills on time, how much you owe to other creditors, and how financially stable you are right now.
When you make multiple inquiries in a short period of time, it’s a red flag to lenders that you might be in trouble financially. Thus, hard inquiries will lower your credit score for 1 to 2 months.
Applying to multiple lenders: the silver lining
When borrowers apply for a mortgage, they often shop around and apply to multiple lenders. While it may seem that all of these hard inquiries will add up and drastically lower their credit score, this isn’t the case.
Credit bureaus take into account the source of the inquiries. If they realize that you are applying for mortgages, they will typically recognize this as rate shopping and group these applications together on your credit report, counting them only as a single inquiry. This means your score shouldn’t drop multiple times for multiple mortgage preapprovals that were made within a small time frame.
Now that you know more about how mortgage applications affect your credit score, you can confidently shop around for the best mortgage for you and your family.