Scoring Your Credit - How's Your Credit Score
Choosing a lender isn't the first step in becoming a homeowner. In reality, the home buying process starts with your finances. Saving your money for a down payment is a good idea, but if you don't have a strong credit score to reinforce it, you could end up renting for another couple of years in Tucumcari, New Mexico until you raise your score.
A FICO score is a review of your years of credit history based on an instrument developed by Fair Isaac and Company. The score ranges from 300 to 850, with the majority of people normally having a score of 600. With the change in the economy, however, some people have seen their score drop dramatically as a result of loss of employment, closed credit card accounts, or credit card accounts closed by the lender due to inactivity. Some of the factors in deciding your FICO score are:
- Credit to Debt Ratio — How much do you owe versus how much credit you have available?
- Credit Inquiries — How many times has your credit history been accessed by someone other than you?
- Types of Credit — Do you have a healthy mix of loans and credit cards?
- Payment History — How often do you make late payments?
In reviewing your credit history, you'll find that you actually have three reports. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — three of the major credit reporting agencies — use a slightly different models to calculate your credit rating. FICO is used by Experian. Equifax's model is called BEACON and TransUnion uses EMPIRICA. You have a credit score with all of the bureaus.
When you apply for a mortgage or any other loan, lenders want to make sure that extending a loan to you isn't a problem. Your FICO score gives lenders an insight into what type of borrower you'd be based solely on your credit history. You'll need a score of at least 700 to get a decent interest rate. If your score is lower, you can still qualify for a loan, but the interest accrued over time could be more than double the amount of someone with a higher FICO score.
Improving your FICO score is the best way to ease into owning a home. Contact us and we can help you get on the right track to the home of your dreams.
You want an improved score, but how do you get there? Building your FICO score takes time. It can be rare to make a significant stride change in your FICO 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. Here are some ways you can improve your credit score:
- Spread your debt around. At first, this doesn't seem like a good idea. But, you want to avoid of having one card that is maxed out and have your remaining cards at a zero balance. It's better to have each of your cards at an even balance than to have all of your debt taking up the balance a single card.
- Apply for gas cards or retail credit. For those who have non-existent credit or less-than-stellar credit, retail credit cards and gas credit cards are ways to start your credit history, increase your credit limits and keep up your payments, which will raise your FICO score. You should always avoid maintaining a large balance for more than a couple of billing cycles because these types of cards more than likely have a steeper interest rate.
- Use your credit. Whether you're just getting started with credit, or if you've got older cards, use your cards to make sure your accounts stay active. But, be sure to pay them off in one or two payments.
- Pay on time. Payment history is a huge factor in your FICO score. It's where people who have recently experienced job loss see the biggest dip in their credit score. Yes, it takes longer to restore your credit this way, but it's the most reliable way to show that you're responsible enough to make payments to a bank.
- Ensure that your credit history is correct. If you discover mistakes on your credit report, write to the bureau asking 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.
Now that you're better informed about credit reporting, you'll be able to successfully take the first steps to homeownership, and that is improving your FICO score. Know that when it's time to apply for a loan to purchase a house, you'll want to keep your lender applications within a two-week window to avoid damaging your credit score. With the help of McElroy & Associates, shopping for a mortgage can be a stress-free experience so you, too, can become a homeowner.
Get more information by visiting myFICO.com, Fair Isaac's informational site and once per year, for free, you can review all three of your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com. And, for a small payment, you can get your FICO score from each bureau on their websites: equifax.com, experian.com and transunion.com.