How Credit Works When Buying a Home

So you’ve decided the time has come to purchase a home… Make sure your credit is in order, so you can obtain a home at the best rate possible.

Your credit score will determine whether you can qualify to purchase a home, and will have a substantial impact on the interest rate you can obtain for a mortgage loan. A low credit score may mean that you will be charged high a interest rate on your loan, and in some circumstances, it may even disqualify you from buying a house altogether.

Before you even begin shopping for a home, it is a good idea to obtain your credit report from the three main reporting agencies: Experian; Equifax; and TransUnion. Lenders may use one or all of these agencies when determining if you qualify for a loan, so it’s important to know what the information is being provided by all three agencies.

You will also want to obtain your credit score from all three agencies. This score is not always included with credit reports, so you may have to purchase this information separately. Credit scores range from 300 to 800 – generally, mortgage lenders will want to see a minimum score of 650 before they will consider a loan applicant; most prefer a score of 700 or above.

If your credit score is lower than you expected, look through your credit reports for negative items, such as late payments and charge offs. If any of these items are present, make sure that they are accurate. If not, you will need to contact the reporting agencies to file explanations stating that these items are inaccurate.

If the negative items are accurate, only time and diligence will raise your credit score. In some cases, if an extraordinary event caused you to be late on credit card or installment loan payments, the lender will accept a letter of explanation detailing why these negative events occurred. However, this is the exception rather than the rule, so don’t expect the lender to be terribly willing to accept such an explanation.

Barring an explanation letter, you will simply need to re-establish a positive credit history to raise your credit score. The older a negative item is, the less it will impact your score, so paying bills on time and keeping loans current will help you raise your score relatively quickly.

If possible, you should wait until you have raised your credit score before you seriously begin looking for a home to purchase. Although there are lenders that will provide mortgage loans to applicants with poor credit, they will charge substantially higher interest rates, which can cost you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

At Atlanta Housing Source, we work with a mortgage company that can provide a “what if” scenario. What if I pay this balance off? What if I rearrange my balances more equally among all my credit lines? Etc. This allows our clients to know what to work on first and how long it will take them to qualify for the loan.

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