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Having a high credit score is one of the most important and helpful things you can achieve before buying a home. A solid credit history will give you a better chance of being approved for the home loan you want and getting a lower interest rate so that you know you’re getting a good deal on your first home.
But, as any renter can tell you, it can sometimes be difficult to lift your credit score when you’ve got so many other things to worry about.
In today’s post, I’m going to cover the best ways to build credit while renting an apartment so you can lift your score to an amount that will help you achieve your goal of homeownership.
1. Take over the bills
If you live with roommates or with your family, one good way to start building your credit score is to simply put more bills in your name.
If you’re certain that you’ll be able to make on-time payments on them each month, this can be a way to boost your score without much thought.
Keep in mind, however, that not all utility companies report your payments to credit bureaus, so it’s a good idea to check that yours does before putting the bills in your name.
2. Become an authorized user
If taking out new credit isn’t an option for you, becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit account can help you increase your score.
Be sure to find out whether the credit issuer reports payments for authorized users before taking this step. And, once you’re sure that they do, you can be added to the account without changing anything about your spending.
3. Convince your landlord to report your rental payments
In most cases, rental payments aren’t reported to the credit bureaus. However, it is becoming more common. Check to see if your landlord uses a service like PayYourRent or RentTrack. If not, consider asking them to try it out.
4. Solving the “no credit” problem
Since we all start off with a blank slate in terms of credit history, some renters have the issues of not having enough credit information to start building their score.
If this is the case, it might be a good idea to open your first credit account. But, wait! Before you start racking up debt on your first credit card, take a minute to make a wise plan.
First, don’t change your spending habits just because you have credit. Pick a card that offers rewards in the form of cash back, and only use your card for things like gas and groceries that will help you earn points.
Then, set your card to auto-pay in full each month so that you never start accruing interest. This way, you’ll build your credit score and earn money (in the form of rewards or cash back), making it a win-win.
Believe it or not, your credit score can make a world of difference as you get ready to search for your ideal house. If you have an excellent credit score, you likely will have no trouble obtaining home financing. On the other hand, if you have a bad credit score, you may struggle to get the financing you need to make your homeownership dream come true.
Ultimately, there are many reasons why you should try to boost your credit score before you purchase a home, and these include:
1. You can simplify the homebuying process.
Purchasing a home can be challenging, particularly for property buyers who fail to get pre-approved for financing. Luckily, if you request copies of your credit reports, you can find out your credit score and identify ways to improve it. Perhaps most important, you can explore ways to bolster your credit score before you submit a mortgage application and increase the likelihood that you can receive pre-approval for a mortgage.
It usually is a good idea to review your credit reports before you enter the housing market. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). If you request a copy of your credit report from the three reporting bureaus, you can learn your credit score and plan accordingly.
2. You may qualify for a low interest rate on a mortgage.
An excellent credit score may help you get a low interest rate on a mortgage. Thus, if you have an excellent credit score, you may wind up reducing your monthly mortgage payments.
Of course, a low interest rate on a mortgage may allow you to invest in your home as well. If you use the money that you save on your mortgage to complete home improvements, you could upgrade your residence and increase its value over time.
3. You can select the right mortgage option based on your individual needs.
With an outstanding credit score, there likely will be no shortage of lenders that are willing to work with you. As such, you can review a broad range of mortgage options and choose one that matches your expectations.
If you need to improve your credit score, there's no need to worry. Typically, paying off outstanding debt will help you boost your credit score prior to buying a house.
Furthermore, if you receive a credit report and identify errors on it, contact the bureau that provided the report. This will enable you to make any corrections right away.
And if you need help as you get ready to pursue your dream house, don't hesitate to reach out to a real estate agent too. A real estate agent can put you in touch with the top lenders in your area and make it easy to obtain home financing. Plus, this housing market professional will enable you to evaluate residences in your preferred cities and towns and find one that you can enjoy for an extended period of time.
Preparing to buy a home is a long and stressful process for many. You’ve spent months, or even years, saving for a down payment, planning your future, and building your credit to ensure you get the best possible interest rate on your loan.
Then you find out, when getting preapproved for a mortgage, that your credit score dropped by a few points. So, what gives?
There’s a lot to understand about how credit scores affect mortgages and vice versa. In today’s post, I’m going to attempt to cover everything you need to know about how applying for a mortgage can affect your credit score so you’ll be prepared when it comes time to buy a home.
Prequalification, preapproval, and credit checks
There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be preapproved or prequalified for a loan. Some of it is due to the jargon that is used in real estate transactions, and some of it is just a marketing technique on the part of lenders.
So, what does it mean to be prequalified vs preapproved?
The short version is that getting prequalified is a quick and easy process to determine whether you’re eligible to lend to and how much you’re likely to receive. It involves a quick review of your finances, and often includes either a self-reported or soft credit inquiry.
A “soft inquiry” is the type of credit check that employers typically use for a background check. It doesn’t affect your credit score, as you are not applying to open a new line of credit. In fact, many lenders’ process for prequalification is a simple online form that doesn’t even require a credit check. We’ll talk more about the difference between soft inquiries and hard inquiries later.
The simplicity of prequalification makes it a simple and easy way to get started. But, it isn’t always accurate in how well it predicts the type of mortgage and loan amount you can receive. That’s where preapproval comes in.
When you get preapproved for a loan you fill out an official application (you often have to pay for these). This will request documentation for your finances and assets, and will ask your approval to run a detailed credit report.
These credit reports are considered “hard inquiries” and are a vital step in getting approved or preapproved for a mortgage. However, they also, at least temporarily, lower your credit score.
Why hard inquiries lower your credit score
When any creditor, be it a bank or credit card company, is determining whether to lend to you, they want to know that you are a safe investment. To determine this, they want to know how frequently you pay your bills on time, how much you owe to other creditors, and how financially stable you are right now.
When you make multiple inquiries in a short period of time, it’s a red flag to lenders that you might be in trouble financially. Thus, hard inquiries will lower your credit score for 1 to 2 months.
Applying to multiple lenders: the silver lining
When borrowers apply for a mortgage, they often shop around and apply to multiple lenders. While it may seem that all of these hard inquiries will add up and drastically lower their credit score, this isn’t the case.
Credit bureaus take into account the source of the inquiries. If they realize that you are applying for mortgages, they will typically recognize this as rate shopping and group these applications together on your credit report, counting them only as a single inquiry. This means your score shouldn’t drop multiple times for multiple mortgage preapprovals that were made within a small time frame.
Now that you know more about how mortgage applications affect your credit score, you can confidently shop around for the best mortgage for you and your family.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of credit scores when it comes to buying a home. Along with your down payment, your credit score is a deciding factor of getting approved and securing a low interest rate.
Credit can be complicated. And, if you want to buy a home in the near future, it can seem daunting to try and increase your score while saving for a down payment.
However, it is possible to significantly increase your score in the months leading up to applying for a loan.
In today’s post, we’re going to talk about some ways to give your credit score a quick boost so that you can secure the best rate on your mortgage.
Should I focus on increasing my score or save for a down payment?
If you’re planning on buying a home, you might be faced with a difficult decision: to pay off old debt or to save a larger down payment.
As a general rule, it’s better to pay off smaller loans and debt before taking out larger loans. If you have multiple loans that you’re paying off that are around the same balance, focus on whichever one has the highest interest rate.
If you have low-interest loans that you can easily afford to continue paying while you save, then it’s often worth saving more for a down payment.
Remember that if you are able to save up 20% of your mortgage, you’ll be able to avoid paying PMI (private mortgage insurance). This will save you quite a bit over the span of your loan.
Starting with no credit
If you’ve avoided loans and credit cards thus far in your life but want to save for a home, you might run into the issue of not having a credit history.
To confront this issue, it’s often a good idea to open a credit card that has good rewards and use it for your everyday expenses like groceries. Then, set up the card to auto-pay the balance in full each month to avoid paying interest.
This method allows you to save money (you’d have to buy groceries and gas anyway) while building credit.
Correct credit report errors
Each of the main credit bureaus will have a slightly different method for calculating your credit score. Their information can also vary.
Each year, you’re entitled to one free report from each of the main bureaus. Take advantage of these free reports. They’re different from free credit checks that you can get from websites like Credit Karma because they’re much more detailed.
Go through the report line by line and make sure there aren’t any accounts you don’t recognize. It is not uncommon for people to find out that a scammer or even a family member has taken out a line of credit in their name.
Avoid opening several new accounts
Our final tip for boosting your credit score is to avoid opening up multiple accounts in the 6 months leading up to your mortgage application.
Opening multiple accounts is a red flag to lenders. It can show that you might be in a time of financial hardship and can temporarily lower your score.