How Do I Fix My Credit So I Can Qualify for a Mortgage?

It’s scary applying for a home loan.  The commitment to buy a home is stressful enough.  Adding the fear of being turned down for a home loan can be too much for a consumer.Loan Approved

I find that most consumers who are concerned with their credit feel that a credit blemish from years ago will keep them from homeownership forever.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Loan guidelines for a federally backed FHA mortgage only requires 3 years from a foreclosure, 2 years from a chapter 7 bankruptcy and 1 day on a chapter 13 bankruptcy discharge!  What does that mean?   It means that regardless of your credit past, you can probably qualify for a home loan in just a few years.  Often consumers will qualify and not even know it.

The key to building your credit after a financial catastrophe is creating credit activity immediately.  The most common mistake I see people make is they never re-establish credit following their financial fallout.  If your credit was horrible after a bankruptcy and you never opened a new credit account, it will remain horrible.  Most consumers think that there is no way to build credit because they will not qualify for a loan, which makes sense.  However, there is a way.

Here are some basic ways to build credit when your credit score is low:

  • Open a Secured Credit Card-
    • You can open a $100 credit limit card if you deposit $100 to the lender.  You can often get these from any bank or credit union.  The lender is willing to issue the card regardless of your credit because it’s secured by your cash deposit.
  • Open an Unsecured Credit Card or Installment loan
    • After you’ve had a secured credit card for 6-12 months, you should establish enough credit to open an unsecured card.  The rates you’ll be offered will be fairly high, so try to pay the balances off during the grace period.  Avoid cards with annual fees if possible.  You can also then apply for an auto loan if you need one.
  • Keep Your Credit Cards in Good Standing and Avoid Paying Unnecessary Finance Charges
    • Keeping your credit card in good standing includes paying your bills on time.  It also requires you to keep your balances low.  Never let your balances exceed 25% of your limit.  That may seem low, but keep it there and your score will remain high.  As your score builds, you can request higher limits.  You can then lend up to 25% of your new balance.  Also try to pay the balances off during the grace period to avoid interest charges.  I often tell clients to treat the new card like a debit card.  When you make a purchase, use your receipt and transfer that much money from your checking account immediately.
  • Monitor Your Credit and Dispute Incorrect Items
    • Most credit reports are inaccurate.  The last thing you need pulling down your credit is an account that doesn’t even belong to you.  Check your credit regularly with a monitoring system and dispute items that are incorrect.  You can also pull a free credit report on www.annualcreditreport.com.  This is very important for people who have gone through  a bankruptcy because creditors often do not update account information following a bankruptcy.
  • Pay Your Collections Early
    • When a collection has been on your credit for too long, it sometimes temporarily LOWERS your score when you pay a collection off.  Eventually, it will benefit your credit to have it paid, so pay the collection as soon as possible.  If you’re thinking of paying off a collection and are near qualifying, look to see when the last time that collection agency reported the debt.  If they haven’t reported any updates for a year or longer, you will likely want to hold off on paying that account in case.  It’s best to pay the collections before they report on credit.  If you’re score is far too low to qualify, pay them all.  Letting the collection balance linger can be bad juju.  The collection agency can sell the debt to another.  You can end up having multiple collections on your report for the same debt.  Not good.

Not all mortgage lenders are the same, but most follow the same minimum credit guidelines.  If you want to buy a home, shoot to achieve these goals on your credit:

  • Try to achieve a minimum 620 credit score or 640 credit score for two of your three credit scores.  These are the industry standards for obtaining a FHA loan, which only requires 3.5% down.
  • Pay off all liens and judgments immediately.  You will not be able to buy a house if you have outstanding judgments or liens.
  • Keep at least 3 credit accounts open at all times.  If a credit card company ever makes you mad, DO NOT CLOSE IT!  Just cut up the card and pretend it doesn’t exist.  Closing accounts is bad for your credit.  Mortgage lenders may also require at least 3 open credit accounts to qualify for a home loan.
  • If you’re had a bankruptcy or foreclosure, it’s very important that you show you can pay your bills on time following the event.  Many lenders will turn you down for a home loan if you’ve had late payments following a bankruptcy or foreclosure.

If it’s possible, look for a loan officer who’s goal is to help you obtain homeownership regardless of where you stand now.  I tell all my clients that if they’re serious about buying a home, they will eventually get there if they follow the right advice.  Find someone who’s educated enough to give you the advice needed and is willing to work with you along the way.

Here are the required waiting periods to qualify for a home loan following a hardship:

SHORTSALE

FHA- 3 years.  Circumstances allow less than 3 years if the homeowner wasn’t late during the shortsale or circumstances were outside the homeowners control.

Conventional- 2 years  with 20% down, 4 years with 10% down or 7 years with no restrictions

VA- 2 years

USDA- 3 years unless USDA’s underwriting engine (GUS) approves you sooner.  Typically 2-years with re-established credit.

BANKRUPTCY

FHA- 2 years for Chapter 7.  None for Chapter 13.

Conventional- 4 years for chapter 7.  2 years from discharge or 4 years from dismassal for Chapter 13.

VA- 2 years

USDA- 2 years

FORECLOSURE

FHA- 3 years

Conventional- 7 years

VA- 2 years

USDA- 3 years

 

References:

Fannie Mae Seller Guide

https://www.efanniemae.com/sf/guides/ssg/sg/pdf/sel022812.pdf

 

FHA

Mortgagee Letter 09-52

http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/files/09-52ml.pdf

 

VA Lender Handbook

http://www.benefits.va.gov/warms/pam26_7.asp

 

USDA

http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/SupportDocuments/3550-1chapter04.pdf

 

zv7qrnb
4 comments to How Do I Fix My Credit So I Can Qualify for a Mortgage?
  • Rob

    I live in wisconsin and was wondering if i could still get a home loan without using my wifes income or credit even tho she currently is in default on current mortgage. Her mortgage was in her name only and was purchased before we married.

  • Rob,

    If you buy using a conventional loan, her credit will not be considered. Most conventional loan programs require at least 5% down. Be sure that you fit both PMI and Lending guidelines.

  • Beth

    I’m a Realtor trying to help a retiring couple purchase now that they are 2 years past a bankruptcy. They want to buy a 1999 built 3bdrm/1ba single-wide trailer home on 2.3 acres with a huge garage and nice landscaping on the property. The water tested to be 12 instead of 10 or less in nitrates. The sandpoint well is 25′ or so from the sceptic holding tank and the mound is a little further away. FHA requires 50′ between well and holding tank and 100′ between well and mound system. What loan can overcome the bankruptcy issue and the other two issues?

  • Beth,

    I apologize for the super late reply. I didn’t see this comment.

    USDA and VA financing both allow a bankruptcy at 2-years. Is that an option?

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>