Home prices and interest rates are down, and your desire to buy a home is high. But many of my clients worry that their credit score just isn’t good enough for lenders to see them as a worthy credit risk, especially in light of today’s tougher credit and lending standards.
As a member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I am often asked if there is anything that can be done to improve your credit score. There are, in fact, several steps you can take. Here are five great suggestions from Bankrate.com:
1. Order your credit reports. You can do it for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com. If you've been denied credit, you are entitled to a copy of your report from the reporting agency. The company you applied to must supply the contact information and you have 60 days after denial to request a copy.
2. Examine your credit reports. Creditors do not necessarily report to each agency, so you may find differences in reports—and credit bureaus do not verify the information they get from creditors. Note any errors, such as incomplete or outdated information or inaccurate account histories. If you find errors, such as a paid-up account that was not reported or a difference in the amount owed, proceed to step number three.
3. Dispute and document. Complete the dispute form that came with the credit report or write a letter identifying each mistake and stating why it is wrong. Include a copy of the report with errors circled and copies of any supporting documents. Keep copies of everything you send. The credit bureau must investigate disputes within 30 days of receiving your letter. Items not verified as accurate by a creditor are removed and you will be sent a free, updated report.
4. Fix negatives. Call your creditors and ask for reduced monthly payments to help you keep current. See if the repayment schedule for fixed-rate loans can be extended. This may end up costing you more, but may keep you from being reported as delinquent. Arrange to pay off accounts in collection. Slowly close out unused credit accounts. Don’t cancel them all at once, as this may negatively affect your score. Remember, cutting up a card is not the same as closing the account.
5. Add positives. If you have a good credit history from a company that does not report to a credit bureau, ask them to do so. Apply for a secured credit card and build a solid payment history. Open a savings account to show creditors you are working to save and have reserves to help pay down debt.
Remember that your credit score is not always set in stone. There are actions you can take immediately to raise your score both in the short term and long term. If you would like more information on other ways to change your credit score, please e-mail me; and please also be sure to forward this important article to others who may be caught in the credit-score crunch.