How to Fix Credit to Buy a House: Know the Essentials
Sep 6, 2023
Purchasing a home is a dream for many, but a less-than-stellar credit score can quickly turn that dream into a seemingly unattainable goal. Yet, with consistent effort and the right strategy, repairing your credit is well within reach. In this guide, we will delve deep into the steps to fix your credit, gearing you up for that monumental house purchase.
Fix Your Credit by Following this Step-by-Step Guide
1. Understand Your Credit Report
Before diving into repair, first, understand where you stand. Obtain your credit report from major credit bureaus like Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Once a year, you can get a free copy from each via AnnualCreditReport.com. Scrutinize the report for errors or discrepancies, as they could unnecessarily drag down your score.
2. Dispute Any Errors
Mistakes on your credit report are more common than you might think. If you spot any inconsistencies, such as accounts that aren’t yours or incorrect payment statuses, dispute them immediately. The credit bureau typically has 30 days to investigate and update the information.
3. Pay Down Your Debts
This might sound obvious, but the best way to improve your credit is to reduce the amount you owe. Create a budget, prioritize paying off high-interest debts first, and consider strategies like the debt snowball or avalanche method. Keeping your credit card balances below 30% of your credit limit can also significantly boost your score.
4. Always Pay On Time
Your payment history accounts for about 35% of your credit score, making it the most significant factor. Set up auto-pay or reminders to ensure you never miss a due date. If you've skipped payments in the past, try negotiating with the creditor to have the late payment removed from your report.
5. Consider Credit Counseling
If you feel overwhelmed, credit counseling agencies can offer guidance. These non-profit organizations can help you develop a plan, set a budget, and sometimes negotiate with creditors on your behalf.
6. Limit New Credit Applications
Every time you apply for credit, it results in a hard inquiry on your report. While one or two inquiries won't significantly hurt, numerous ones in a short time can. Space out your credit applications and only apply when necessary.
7. Diversify Your Credit Mix
Lenders like to see a mix of credit types – retail accounts, credit cards, installment loans, and mortgage loans. While you shouldn’t open accounts just for the sake of it, having diverse credit can be beneficial.
8. Avoid Closing Old Accounts
The length of your credit history plays a role in your score. Closing older accounts can decrease the age of your credit history, potentially lowering your score. Keep old accounts open, even if you don’t use them, unless there's a compelling reason, such as high fees.
9. Become an Authorized User
If a family member or close friend has a good credit history with a particular card, consider asking if they’d add you as an authorized user. This strategy can help you benefit from their good credit habits.
10. Stay Informed and Monitor Your Progress
Stay updated about changes in credit scoring models and industry norms. Use free tools and platforms that allow you to monitor your credit score and report, so you can keep track of your progress.
Additional Steps to Fix Your Credit
11. Settle or Negotiate Outstanding Collections
Accounts that have been sent to collections can significantly damage your credit score. If you have any such accounts, it's essential to address them. Sometimes, you can negotiate with the collection agency to settle for a lesser amount or even to remove the negative mark from your credit report once the debt is paid. However, always get any agreement in writing before making a payment.
12. Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Ensure that your personal information remains secure. Identity theft can wreak havoc on your credit, often without you being aware until significant damage is done. Regularly check your credit report for unfamiliar accounts and consider using identity theft protection services.
13. Consider a Secured Credit Card
If you're finding it hard to obtain traditional credit due to a poor credit history, think about getting a secured credit card. With these cards, you deposit a certain amount (which serves as your credit limit) and use the card just like any other. Over time, with responsible use, this can improve your credit score.
14. Stay Patient and Persistent
Improving your credit is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires patience, consistency, and sometimes sacrifice. Celebrate small victories along the way, whether that's paying off a particular debt or seeing your credit score jump a few points.
15. Educate Yourself
The world of credit can be complex, but the more you know, the better equipped you'll be to navigate it. Read books, attend workshops, or even take online courses to understand the nuances of credit better and how the system works.
The Bottom Line
Your credit history plays a pivotal role in unlocking doors to potential dream homes. For instance, those with a low credit score might think they're out of options, but there are routes like the FHA loan specifically designed for such scenarios, albeit with the likely addition of private mortgage insurance. However, to boost your chances with diverse mortgage lenders, it's imperative to manage credit card debt diligently. Engaging with credit card companies to understand your available credit, considering a debt consolidation loan, or diligently paying down balances can impact your credit utilization rate, pushing you from a realm of bad credit to a higher credit score.
Yet, it's not just about hitting a minimum credit score. The way you handle your credit accounts – old and new – sends a strong signal to potential lenders. While it might be tempting to open new credit accounts or close old ones impulsively, remember that longevity and responsible management of accounts can be just as influential as the score itself on credit reports.
While the path to homeownership can seem daunting, especially when faced with the stringent minimum credit score requirements set by many lenders, there's always a route forward. The key is to be proactive, understand your finances deeply, and know that even if you're starting from a position of bad credit, with the right steps and strategies, the journey from a low credit score to securing your dream home is entirely achievable.