Credit reports and the “secret formula” for calculating one’s credit score remains a mystery for most people. When a lender “runs your credit,” that means the bank is getting your credit information from one of three independent national credit reporting bureaus–Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Credit reporting bureaus collect information about your credit card use, rental history, loan history, including vehicle and student loans. They then analyze the results and tabulate them into credit scores, using software created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. Your lender can purchase the reports, as the FICO scores to serve as summaries of your credit history. Your FICO score is the middle of the 3 scores.
Each of these credit reporting bureaus collects and analyzes its own data which results in 3 different scores. The bureaus don’t share information between each other, so if you want a true picture of your credit, you have to check with all three bureaus.
If you have a mistake on your credit report from one bureau, the same problem may not appear on the other bureaus’ reports. You have to get the negative item removed by sending a copy of your proof, full payment, release of lien, or other evidence.
Getting one of these items removed can take as long as 30 days, which will delay your loan. That’s why it’s best to clear these things up before the lender brings them to your attention. If your lender sees something negative enough to decline the loan, they will tell you to fix it. Lets say you may have had a dispute with a contractor that resulted in a lien on your home. It doesn’t matter who was right, you’ll have to pay the debtor, obtain a release of lien or payment in full receipt, whichever applies.
This evidence should go into the loan file. Make sure to keep multiple copies of the lien release or payment in full. Why? Because that lien can always reappear on another credit report. Property liens from the IRS are particularly hard to eradicate because the proof of payment has to come from the IRS, along with the county where you owned the property, which must record the release of lien.
You may see a problem in your credit report that’s over 10 years old. An account in collections can stay on your credit report for much longer than 7 years; which is the length of time it takes for bad accounts to drop off your credit record. When the debtor finally gives up trying to collect, that’s when the 7 years begins.
FICO credit scores can be in the range of 300 to 850. To get the best mortgage rate, your score must be as high as possible. Today, most lenders will give you their best rates if your credit scores are 750 or higher.
You can raise your credit scores by managing your credit the way that generates the highest scores. About one-third of a FICO score is your payment history (paying on-time). Another third is based on how much of your available credit-line you use. You can improve both areas by paying down your debts down as quickly as you can. If you are only making the minimum payment on your accounts, you’re living beyond your means and thus lowering your credit score. Don’t max out any credit card.
You can also improve your scores if you pay debts off early and avoid late payments. Data in your credit report includes the loan terms, payment history — on time, early or late payments, unpaid monthly balance rollovers, payment amounts, minimum payment history, income-to-debt ratios, and percentage use of available credit. Always pay off those credit cards that charge the highest interest first. Try not to incur new debt.
Managing your debts well does more than earn you a great mortgage rate. It ensures lenders that you are more likely to buy wisely within your affordability range. And that will make any lender view you as a good risk.
You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit reports once/year. You can contact all 3 credit bureaus or visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
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