When it comes to taking the next step in your life, one of the most important numbers could be your credit score. After all, it can stand in the way of some of the biggest purchases you may want to make, like a car or a house.
First the basics, five factors comprise your credit score
Not all debt is the same and some is considered ‘good’ according to Scott Smith, president of CreditRepair.com. “Any kinds of car loan, home loan…those things actually provide you great credit history when you pay them off on time and fill those debt obligations,” he said.
Even credit card debt isn’t “necessarily wrong” said the credit expert. But Smith warned “you don’t want to have more than 30% utilization on that (account) and you do want to pay it down as often as possible.”
Scott Smith gave his assessment on the three Do’s and Don’ts of improving your credit score.
Borrowers need not avoid shopping around for the best mortgage deal out of fear that allowing multiple lenders to “pull,” or check, their credit will chip away at their score.
The notion that a flurry of credit inquiries from mortgage lenders will lower a borrower’s score is a common misconception, experts say. The truth is that five inquiries are likely to have no more impact than one, provided they are made within a compressed period of time.
When it comes to mortgages, as well as automobile financing and student loans, “in both the FICO and VantageScore credit-scoring systems, there is logic in place that protects consumers’ credit scores from any negative impact caused by multiple inquiries as a result of rate shopping,” said John Ulzheimer, a credit expert with Credit Sesame, a website that helps consumers manage credit.
With FICO (the scoring model required by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), credit inquiries for mortgage loans that are less than 30 days old are ignored and have no impact, Mr. Ulzheimer said. Inquiries older than 30 days are looked at, but multiple inquiries from mortgage lenders made within 45 days of one another are treated as one inquiry. With VantageScore, the window is 14 days.
Both scoring systems assume that if someone has multiple mortgage-related inquiries in a short period, they are likely shopping for the best deal on a single mortgage, Mr. Ulzheimer said.
If one of the multiple mortgage inquiries occurs outside the allowed window — say, on day 46 — it would be counted as a second inquiry. “But it probably wouldn’t hurt you even then,” said Daniel Sater, the owner of Credit Scoring Advisor in Melville, N.Y. “One or two isn’t a significant risk factor in determining your ability to pay your debts in the future.”
In a recent survey, How America Views Homeownership, it was revealed that 68% of Americans feel that now is a good time to buy a home and 95% said they want to own a home if they don’t already.
Franklin Codel, head of Wells Fargo home mortgage production, explains:
“Although the home buying process has changed in many ways in recent years, our survey found Americans still view homeownership as an achievement to be proud of and many believe that now is a good time to buy a home.”
Confusion Creates Paralysis
However, the survey also reported that many are afraid to purchase a home because of uncertainty about “qualifying for a mortgage or navigating the home buying process”. Though 74% said they “know and understand” the financial process involved in buying a home, they also gave answers that suggest otherwise. For example:
•30% of respondents believe that only individuals with high incomes can obtain a mortgage
•64% of respondents believe they must have a “very good” credit score to buy a home
•44% believe that a 20% down payment is required
In actuality many of these beliefs are unfounded. Let’s look at the question of down payment:
Freddie Mac, in a recent blog post addressing the issue, confirmed that there is misinformation regarding the amount necessary when determining the down payment for a home purchase:
“Did you know 40 percent of today’s homebuyers using mortgage financing are making down payments that are less than 10 percent? And how about this: since 2010, the number of people putting down less than 10 percent for conventional loans has grown three fold. So, not only are low down payment options real, they represent a significant portion of today’s purchases.”
In a separate Executive Perspectives, Christina Boyle, Freddie Mac’s VP and Head of Single-Family Sales & Relationship Management explained further:
•A person “can get a conforming, conventional mortgage with a down payment of as little as 5 percent (sometimes with as little as 3 percent coming out of their own pockets)”.
•Qualified borrowers can further reduce the down payment coming out of their own pockets to 3 percent by lining up gifts from family, grants or loans from non-profits or public agencies.
Education is the Key
Boyle talked about the importance of educating potential buyers:
“Letting more consumers know how down payments are determined could bring more qualified borrowers off the sidelines. Depending on their credit history and other factors, many borrowers can expect to make a down payment of about 5 or 10 percent.”
“It is important for prospective homebuyers to feel empowered to ask lenders and real estate agents questions about available options, such as down payment assistance or FHA loan programs or VA loans for veterans.”
If you are saving for either your first home or that perfect move-up dream house, make sure you know all your options. You may be pleasantly surprised.
How did the recession affect your spending habits? Soon, for better or worse, you might see your financial behavior reflected in your FICO score.
FICO, the data company that devised the credit-scoring formulas most often used by mortgage and auto lenders, credit card companies, etc., plans to release a new scoring model this summer that it promises will analyze credit risk more correctly.
FICO said the new model, the first major change in six years, is intended to address lenders’ concerns about credit score consistency across the three major credit bureaus.
A FICO spokesman told National Mortgage News that the new formula, called FICO Score9, will analyze post-recession data in terms of how a consumer’s spending and credit habits may have changed, compared with six years ago. Consumers whose scores were good pre-recession will score slightly better in the new version, he told the trade journal.