Raising Your FICO Score for Home Ownership
You might think 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 starts and ends with your finances. Saving your money for a down payment is a good idea, but if you lack an acceptable credit score to back it up, you could end up renting longer than you expected in Douglas County until you build up your score.
A FICO score is a review of your years of credit history based on a model developed by Fair Isaac and Company. Most people traditionally have a score of 600, but scores are tiered from 300 to 850. With the change in the economy, however, some people have seen their score drop dramatically as a result of unemployment, delinquent credit card accounts, or credit card accounts that were closed because they don't carry a balance. Some of the factors in summing up your FICO score include:
- Types of Credit — Do you have a healthy mix of credit cards and loans?
- Payment History — Do you pay your bills on time ?
- Credit to Debt Ratio — How much do you owe versus how much credit you have available?
- Credit Inquiries — Do you have too many open accounts?
Lenders want to be positive that giving you a loan is a safe move. Your FICO score gives lenders a view of what type of borrower you'd be based solely on your credit history. Because of the shift in the economy, most home buyers should have scores in the range of 700 or higher to get a decent interest rate. You can qualify for a loan with a lower score, but the interest accrued over the life of the loan could be more than double that of someone having a superior credit score.
You want an improved score, but how do you get it? Building your FICO score takes time. It can be difficult to make a significant change in your credit score with small changes, but your score can improve in a few years by monitoring your credit report and by wisely using credit. The most important thing is to know your FICO score. You'll improve your credit score by using these tips:
- Keep your cards active. Whether you have older cards, or are just getting started with credit, be sure to use your cards so that your accounts stay active. But, be sure to pay them off in one or two payments.
- Pay on time. Late payments kill your credit history. It's where people who have recently been unemployed see the biggest dip in their credit score. Yes, it takes longer to restore your credit with payment history, but it's the most reliable way to prove that you're responsible enough to make payments to a lender.
- Correct your credit report. 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.
- Even out your debt. At first, this doesn't seem like a good idea. But, you steer clear of having one card that is holding the maximum and have your remaining cards at a zero balance. It's better to have each of your cards at a smaller balance than to have all of your debt sitting on a single card.
- Store cards and service station cards. For those who have non-existent credit or below average credit, chain store credit cards and gas credit cards are ways to obtain credit, increase your spending limits and keep up your payments, which will raise your credit. You should always avoid keeping a high balance for more than a couple of billing cycles because these types of cards more than likely have a steeper interest rate.
Now that you know more about credit reporting, you'll be able to successfully take the first steps to homeownership, and that is improving your FICO score. Remember that when you're ready to apply for a loan to purchase a house, you'll want to keep your credit inquiries within a two-week window to avoid adverse effects on your credit score. With the help of America's Realty Team, shopping for a mortgage is sure to go more smoothly so you, too, can become a homeowner.
To learn more, visit 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.
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