I suppose it is somewhat of a no-brainer that as a consumer you need to take good care of your credit, but if you are considering buying real estate, it is more important than ever. The days that qualified you to buy a home by merely having a pulse are long gone. Credit is more important than ever.
What is a FICO Score?
The FICO score was developed by The Fair Isaac Corporation in 1958. It is a statistical analysis of the likelihood of default. It has long been considered the most fair means of analyzing credit because it is purely about statistics with no consideration given for any personal matters such as sex, race, religion, etc. Mortgage lenders reliance on FICO Scores has gained in prominence and only looks to increase.
A FICO Score can be anywhere from 300-850. It is made up of the following considerations:
35% is payment history: do you pay your bills on time?
30% is ratio of available credit used: do you max out your credit cards?
15% is length of credit history.
10% is types of credit (having a variety of credit is good)
10% is recent credit inquiries
So it is more than simply paying your bills on time. If you want an 850 credit score, you certainly need to pay your bills on time, but you also need a variety of credit, not too much of it, that has low balances, that you have managed for years, and that you have not recently applied for. I have heard it said that the magic number of credit cards is 4, most with little or no balances. You do need to be using the credit. If you have 4 credit cards that you never use, it is not going to help you.
By law you are entitled to a free annual credit report. You can obtain one from each of the 3 credit bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com Because there are 3 credit bureaus, each with their own means of analysis, you will want to obtain copies of all 3 reports. If you see something strange on the report, you will also find links to managing your credit and fixing your credit.
Why FICO matters when you buy a house.
First, having a high credit score will allow you to obtain a lower interest rate on your mortgage. On a 30-year fixed mortgage of $300,000, a person with a FICO score of 760-850 will be able to obtain an interest rate of about 4.567% and that will make the payment $1532 per month. With a credit score of 620-639, that same 30-year mortgage would have an interest rate of 6.156% and a monthly payment of $1829 per month. That is a difference of $300! Yes, you will be rewarded for being financially strong.
Second, your credit is going to be checked more then once when you buy a house. According to a recent article by Kenneth Harney of the Washington Post, on June 1st,Fannie Mae will be requiring a second credit report be pulled just prior to close of escrow. This is to find out if anything has changed with the buyer’s credit since the loan was approved. If it has changed, then, poof, you could be kicked right out of closing and not be able to buy the house you want. This means that once you find a home and get your offer accepted, do not do anything to change your credit. Even making an inquiry for new credit could create disaster. Suppose you go to a furniture store and apply for a line of credit because you are dreaming of furnishing your new home? You don’t even have to make a purchase. Just having the extra credit available could affect your credit. While in escrow, make all payments on time, but make no credit applications, no purchases on credit, and no changes, no matter how small, to your credit situation. This is much more strict than I have ever seen. It is real. I had a closing postponed for 3 weeks while the buyer made a $500 payment on his credit card and we waited for the payment to be reflected in his FICO score with the 3 credit bureaus. I am also aware of 1 late payment on a credit card while in escrow that completely kicked the loan out of underwriting and the transaction sale failed.
Please let me know if you have any questions on this issue or if you need any help. I work with a couple of excellent lenders who are happy to take the time to help you build and repair your credit so that you can qualify for the house of your dreams.