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7 Tips for Improving Your Credit

By: G. M. Filisko

Here’s how to clean up your credit so you get the least-expensive home loan possible.

Getting the loan that suits your situation at the best possible price and terms makes homebuying easier and more affordable. Here are seven ways to boost your credit score so you can do just that.

1. Know your credit score
Credit scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher, the better. They’re based on whether you’ve paid personal loans, car loans, credit cards, and other debt in full and on time in the past. You’ll need a score of at least 620 to qualify for a home loan and 740 to get the best interest rates and terms.
You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the major credit-reporting bureaus, Equifax (http://www.equifax.com), Experian (http://www.experian.com), and TransUnion (http://www.transunion.com). Access all three versions of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com (http://www.annualcreditreport.com). Review them to ensure the information is accurate.

2. Correct errors on your credit report
If you find mistakes on your credit report, write a letter to the credit-reporting agency explaining why you believe there’s an error. Send documents that support your case, and ask that the error be corrected or removed. Also write to the company, or debt collector, that reported the incorrect information to dispute the information, and ask to be copied on any materials sent to credit-reporting agencies.

3. Pay every bill on time
You may be surprised at the damage even a few late payments will have on your credit score. The easiest way to make a big difference in your credit score without altering your spending habits is to diligently pay all your bills on time. You’ll also save money because you’ll keep the money you’ve been spending on late fees. Credit card or mortgage companies probably won’t report minor late payments, those less than 30 days overdue, but you’ll still have to pay late fees.

4. Use credit carefully
Another good way to boost your credit score is to pay your credit card bills in full every month. If you can’t do that, pay as much over your required minimum payment as possible to begin whittling away the debt. Stop using your credit cards to keep your balances from increasing, and transfer balances from high-interest credit cards to lower-interest cards.

5. Take care with the length of your credit
Credit rating agencies also consider the length of your credit history. If you’ve had a credit card for a long time and managed it responsibly, that works in your favor. However, opening several new credit cards at once can lower the average age of your accounts, which pushes down your score. Likewise, closing credit card accounts lowers your available credit, so keep credit cards open even if you’re not using them.

6. Don’t use all the credit you’re offered
Credit scores are also based on how much credit you use compared with how much you’re offered. Using $1,000 of available credit will give you a lower score than having $1,000 of available credit and using $100 of it. Occasionally opening new lines of credit can boost your available credit, which also affects your score positively.

7. Be patient
It can take time for your credit score to climb once you’ve begun working to improve it. Keep at it because the more distance you put between your spotty payment history and your current good payment record, the less damage you’ll do to your credit score.

Other web resources
How FICO scores are calculated (http://www.myfico.com/CreditEducation/WhatsInYourScore.aspx)

Answers to frequently asked credit report questions (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/helpfaq)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who keeps a close eye on her credit scores. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Short Sales And Credit Scores – Short Sale Education

A couple of months ago, I wrote the blog “Bankruptcy, Foreclosure, or Short Sale? What happens to my Credit Score?” This month, I’d like to give an update on Short Sales and Credit Scores.

Credit Score:Drops score approximately 60-100 points
Length of Time on Credit Report:7 years
Buying Another Home: Qualify for a mortgage with a decent interest rate after 18-24 months

Note: There are several caveats when it comes to a short sale because short sales are relatively new and credit bureaus are still trying to figure it into their credit risk modeling. In fact, in the future, it has been analyzed that some lenders may look at a short sale the same as a foreclosure.

Above states an 60-100 point hit for a short sale and this hit does depend on how many payments were missed prior to the completion of a short sale

For a short sale, it has been reported that a credit report will show Satisfied with a note that states “Creditor settled for less than the amount due”. If you are lucky, you will just get “Paid In Full”. This does not happen often. Most likely, a short sale will show as a charge off or a settlement

Lenders using the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage approval system will see mortgage payments that are 120 days late or receipt of a Notice of Default the same as a foreclosure

Many lenders may not consider a short sale unless the homeowner is late, but more are considering a short sale even if the homeowner is not late with a convincing and full proof of a hardship

Homeowners who have a mortgage under water are more inclined to try a short sale ”short sale” before throwing their hands in the air and going to foreclosure or go through bankruptcy. In 2009, the National Association of Realtors estimated that about ten percent of all sales last year were short sales and it is expected to increase this year.

With Obama’s HAFA program, lenders are provided incentives to perform short sales and so are homeowners because under this program they would receive $1500 for relocation costs.

There is still a lot of confusion around how a Short Sale Secrets will affect a borrower’s credit score. It really depends on how many lates a homeowner has had on their mortgage and how the lender decides to report it to credit agencies, Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.

The main point that homeowners should realize is that if they are successful on doing a short sale to get out of their situation, the road to credit recovery is shorter than if they went to foreclosure. Protecting ones credit score will help to minimize the amount of interest a borrower pays on credit cards an loans.

It has been reported that a homeowner would be able to buy a home after 2-3 years, given they continue to work on their credit after a short sale. If they went to foreclosure, they would have to wait as long as 7 years.

Many homeowner are frustrated on figuring out how to resolve their mortgage being underwater and many are just walking away but this is a mistake. A homeowner can ask for a short sale even if they are not late on their mortgage, but the reality is that a lender has no incentive to allow a short sale if payments are still being made on time.

There are some states that do not allow lenders of 1st mortgages to pursue a seller for the unpaid balance. But in all states, second liens and equity credit lines can pursue the seller unless an agreement has stated otherwise. Borrowers will have to pay tax of any unpaid mortgage balance unless they meet IRS’s home exclusion or insolvency rules. Owners of second or investment properties do not qualify for the home exclusion rules.

Look out for our future blogs/articles from our Short Sale Leadership Series content.To view our blog updates, visit www.whbsolutions.com/blog.

Article Source: http://www.articlesnatch.com

About the Author:
For more information on becoming a Short Sale Education Leader in your community, join WHB Solution’s community of Short Sale Success and join short sale experts at www.whbsolutions.com/members

5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score.

Credit scores range between 200 and 800, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage.

The following factors affect your score:

1. Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time If they were late, then how late Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.

2. How much you owe. If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it s a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.

3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer’s oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.

4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.

5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it s desirable to have more than one type of credit  installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.

For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit www.myfico.com.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What s the Score

Your credit score or FICO score (for Fair, Isaac and Company, which created the system) is a number that indicates the health of your credit. The higher the score, the healthier your credit and the more likely a lender is to approve a loan with good terms. Scores can range from 300 to over 900, with the typical credit score falling in the 600s to 700s.

Credit scores take five different financial areas into account. The  five C s of credit that lenders will look at include:

Capacity. Are you able to repay the debt The lender verifies your employment information: occupation, length of employment, income.
He or she reviews your expenses: how many dependents you have, if you pay alimony and/or child support, your other obligations.

Credit history. Based upon your past payment habits, how likely is it that you will make your monthly payment The lender looks at how much you owe, how often you borrow, whether you live within your means, and whether you pay your bills on time.
BEWARE! As your credit score goes down, mortgage fees and costs, interest rates and other costs go up, up, up! A typical 7% mortgage with a few thousand dollars in fees can go up to an 18% monster with many thousands in fees if you have a low credit score.

Capital. Do you have enough cash on hand for the down payment and closing costs Are you receiving a gift from a relative Will you have reserve money left over after the purchase

Collateral. Is the value of the property worth the investment Is it in sufficiently good condition and is the price appropriate for the home If you do not repay the debt, will the lender be able to recover his investment

Character. Have you disclosed all your debts If you had previous credit problems, did you disclose them

Short Sales Tips for Sellers

If you’re thinking of selling your home, and you expect that the total amount you owe on your mortgage will be greater than the selling price of your home, you may be facing a short sale. A short sale is one where the net proceeds from the sale won’t cover your total mortgage obligation and closing costs, and you don’t have other sources of money to cover the deficiency. A short sale is different from a foreclosure, which is when your lender takes title of your home through a lengthy legal process and then sells it.

1. Consider loan modification first. If you are thinking of selling your home because of financial difficulties and you anticipate a short sale, first contact your lender to see if it has any programs to help you stay in your home. Your lender may agree to a modification such as: Refinancing your loan at a lower interest rate; providing a different payment plan to help you get caught up; or providing a forbearance period if your situation is temporary. When a loan modification still isn t enough to relieve your financial problems, a short sale could be your best option if:

* Your property is worth less than the total mortgage you owe on it.
* You have a financial hardship, such as a job loss or major medical bills.
* You have contacted your lender and it is willing to entertain a short sale.

2. Hire a qualified team. The first step to a short sale is to hire a qualified real estate professional and a real estate attorney who specialize in short sales. Interview at least three candidates for each and look for prior short-sale experience. Short sales have proliferated only in the last few years, so it may be hard to find practitioners who have closed a lot of short sales. You want to work with those who demonstrate a thorough working knowledge of the short-sale process and who won’t try to take advantage of your situation or pressure you to do something that isn’t in your best interest. A qualified real estate professional can:

* Provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA) or broker price opinion (BPO).
* Help you set an appropriate listing price for your home, market the home, and get it sold.
* Put special language in the MLS that indicates your home is a short sale and that lender approval is needed (all MLSs permit, and some now require, that the short-sale status be disclosed to potential buyers).
* Ease the process of working with your lender or lenders.
* Negotiate the contract with the buyers.
* Help you put together the short-sale package to send to your lender (or lenders, if you have more than one mortgage) for approval. You can t sell your home without your lender and any other lien holders agreeing to the sale and releasing the lien so that the buyers can get clear title.

3. Begin gathering documentation before any offers come in. Your lender will give you a list of documents it requires to consider a short sale. The short-sale  package that accompanies any offer typically must include:

* A hardship letter detailing your financial situation and why you need the short sale
* A copy of the purchase contract and listing agreement
* Proof of your income and assets
* Copies of your federal income tax returns for the past two years

4. Prepare buyers for a lengthy waiting period. Even if you’re well organized and have all the documents in place, be prepared for a long process. Waiting for your lender s review of the short-sale package can take several weeks to months. Some experts say:

* If you have only one mortgage, the review can take about two months.
* With a first and second mortgage with the same lender, the review can take about three months.
* With two or more mortgages with different lenders, it can take four months or longer.

When the bank does respond, it can approve the short sale, make a counteroffer, or deny the short sale. The last two actions can lengthen the process or put you back at square one. (Your real estate attorney and real estate professional, with your authorization, can work your lender s loss mitigation department on your behalf to prepare the proper documentation and speed the process along.)

5. Don’t expect a short sale to solve your financial problems. Even if your lender does approve the short sale, it may not be the end of all your financial woes. Here are some things to keep in mind:

* You may be asked by your lender to sign a promissory note agreeing to pay back the amount of your loan not paid off by the short sale. If your financial hardship is permanent and you can t pay back the balance, talk with your real estate attorney about your options.
* Any amount of your mortgage that is forgiven by your lender is typically considered income, and you may have to pay taxes on that amount. Under a temporary measure passed in 2007, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation Act, homeowners can exclude debt forgiveness on their federal tax returns from income for loans discharged in calendar years 2007 through 2012. Be sure to consult your real estate attorney and your accountant to see whether you qualify.
* Having a portion of your debt forgiven may have an adverse effect on your credit score. However, a short sale will impact your credit score less than foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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