The financial path to homeownership can be difficult—especially if you’re building your credit score from scratch or rebuilding it after a financial disaster. Lending companies can be fussy, and if your credit scores are low, the chances of you finding a lender willing to provide a home loan with favorable terms isn’t always likely. But it’s not impossible! If this sounds like the position you’re in, consider these four tips to help you buy a house even if you have bad credit.
Tip 1: Find Out What Your Credit Score Is
The first order of business when determining your home financing options is to get your most recent credit score. Contrary to popular belief, checking your own credit won’t actually lower it. That’s because doing so is considered to be a “soft inquiry,” or a case where your inquiry does not appear on your credit report or impacts your credit scores. It’s also important to keep in mind that you have numerous credit scores lenders might use to qualify you, but you’ll minimally want to find out what your scores are from each of the major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can request a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from any of the agencies above.
Tip 2: Look for Errors on Your Credit Report
While assessing your credit report, you may want to be on the lookout for errors that can harm your credit scores. Delinquencies and derogatory marks alone can make up 35 percent of your FICO score. Check to make sure all personal information (name, address, employer, etc.), public records (bankruptcies, repossessions, foreclosures, etc.), credit accounts (payment history and open accounts), and inquiries (applications for credit) are accurate. If you spot an error, file a dispute with the credit-reporting agency with which you identified the error online, by phone, or by mail for a chance to correct the issue and improve your credit.
Tip 3: Assess Your Options
Once you know your credit scores, you can begin to understand what types of loans and rates you qualify for. Although the scores a lender chooses to use when reviewing your credit can vary, most use FICO® scores, which range from 300 to 850 and 250 to 900 for specific industries. To obtain a loan with the most favorable interest rates, you’ll generally need to have scores in the mid-700s or higher. If your scores fall between the mid-600s or lower, you may find it difficult to find a lender willing to provide you with a loan. There are, in fact, some lenders who make use of FHA-backed loans, which require no minimum credit score or a down payment; however, this option can be a slippery slope, as each lender is allowed to set their own requirements, which might call for a substantial amount of money up front. Whatever the case, weigh your options carefully and choose whichever won’t put you under undue financial duress.
Tip 4: Rebuild Your Credit
If, after weighing your options, you don’t find a loan with favorable enough conditions, it might be a good idea to put a hold on buying a house and increase your credit scores. Ideally, you should start this process over a year or two in advance to allow enough time for your efforts to take effect. For instance, you’ll have more time to pay off existing debt and for delinquencies to age off of your report. Throughout this process, it may be beneficial to switch from a traditional bank that may deny you access to your checking account in lieu of poor credit and switch to a second chance banking option that won’t penalize you for credit mistakes and will work with you to enhance your financial livelihood. By simply making nominal increases to your credit scores, you might open up new doors that can help you purchase the home you’ve always wanted.