The math is cold but simple: the best home mortgages are only available to those with the best credit.
It’s an easy to swallow reality if you’ve never dipped below a 700+ credit score, but if you’re more typically in the 600 range, plus or minus another 100, this can be a very bitter pill.
Another bit of not-so-cold-but-still-simple math: increasing your credit score until you’re able to qualify for a prime home mortgage is well within your power.
Even better, you can start today. Here are seven steps you can take right now.
1. Check Your Credit Reports for Inaccuracies.
When your copies arrive, go over them for any errors and follow each bureau’s procedure for fixing any mistakes.
This is hands-down the easiest step you can take to boost your credit rating and score.
2. Never Pay Late
More than anything lenders need to know their money—and its accompanying interest—will be paid back. If you pay your bills after they’re due, they see you as someone who doesn’t prioritize repaying your debts.
This is true for all of your bills—utilities, car insurance, etc.—not just credit cards.
Some tips to make sure you always pay on time:
- Set a calendar alert on your phone, tablet, or computer.
- Opt for a text-based reminder from the business you’ll be sending the payment to.
- Create an autopay to have the money taken directly from your account.
3. Pay Down (or Off) Your Debt(s) ASAP
One of the major factors for high credit-worthiness is your debt-to-income ratio. Simply put, if you make $60,000 a year, but also owe $60,000, you’re less attractive than if you made $60,000 a year, but only owed $5,000.
Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought on how you should pay off your debts.
- The “snowball” method states you should pay off the smallest debt first and then add that payment to the next smallest debt, and so on.
- The “wrecking ball” method has you pay off the debt with the highest interest first as it will add the most in interest the longer it goes unpaid.
It may take some time and trial and error to figure out which one works best for you, but the best advice is to start focusing on paying down your debt today.
4. Lower Your Credit Utilization Ratio
If all of your credit card limits add up to $10,000 and that’s how much you use every month, you’re using 100% of your limit which is a red flag to a lender.
You want to work towards keeping your ratio below 30% (it’s quite common for the highest credit scorers to utilize less than 10% of their credit limits).
A low credit utilization ratio demonstrates strong financial responsibility which makes lenders happy. Happy lenders equal lower interest rates.
5. Don’t Open New Credit Lines
They won’t increase your credit score, and in fact, opening new lines might decrease your credit because of the multiple “hard” inquiries on your report.
Add in the temptation to use your new credit lines “just a bit,” and you’re just creating a no-win situation for yourself.
6. Keep Unused Credit Cards Active
If the lender isn’t charging you a fee to keep the card open, all closing it does is lower your overall credit utilization ratio.
Even worse, owing, say, $5000 and moving from 7 open accounts to 5 might actually lower your credit score.
7. Keep Using Credit
Believe it or not, putting the brakes on using your credit cards and other vehicles entirely can actually lower your credit score because you’ve stopped demonstrating your ability to borrow and pay.
Long, responsible use of credit is a plus in lenders’ eyes. So, buy something simple and inexpensive each month, or put a recurring bill on your credit card, and then pay it off in full each month. No credit usage is much less desirable to lenders than small, regular uses of credit.
In the End…
Your current credit score isn’t a fixed destiny. There are many straightforward actions you can take today that will pay off in not just a higher credit score, but greater financial discipline and independence in the future.
Want to learn more about how you can improve your credit report? Answer a few questions here, and a home lending expert will contact you.