Game plan for preparing to buy a home when you’re credit score is low

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I don’t blame anyone for wanting to own a home.  Sometimes when I meet with clients and review their current scenario, a game plan needs to be created so they can work on getting themselves into a better position to buy a home.  The last thing anyone wants is to cram themselves into a mortgage they cannot afford or to commit to a long term payment when they don’t have a great track record of making payments on time. Some times a plan may take 6 months or a year or longer before someone is ready to buy a home.

I have someone with low credit scores who wants to buy a home.   She knows she will probably be a candidate for FHA financing because she has little down payment and her credit.  Although FHA is not as persnickety about credits scores as conventional financing, they scrutinize credit history: especially the last 12 months.

This person has a few late payments this year, the last one being as recent as August.  FHA financing is most likely out of the question for her until August next year assuming she does not make any other late payments between now and then. She can work on her credit for the next 10-12 months (until she has 12 months since her last late payment).   She doesn’t have any collections but she does have a few small accounts that are “maxed out”. 

  • Credit card “A” with a balance of $477 and a limit of $500.
  • Credit card “B” with a balance of $323 and a limit of $300.
  • Credit card “C” with a balance of $215 and a limit of $300.
  1. The first thing she should do is focus on getting card “B” under the limit of $300.  She’s getting whammo’d with her credit scores for being extended beyond what her credit limit is with this account (in addition to being maxed out).   She should at least pay it down enough to make sure that her interest fees won’t keep popping her over her limit.
  2. Next she should select one of her two smallest cards to pay down to at least just below 50% of her card limit.   Card “C” would only take about $65 to bring her debt down to 50% of the line limit (300 x 50% = $150).
  3. Then pay down the next card to at least 50% of the limit.  “Card B” will take $150 (assuming she’s paid the extra $23 that has pushed her over the limit) to be at 50% of the credit line limit.
  4. Credit card “A” will take a little extra cash at $227. (500 limit x 50% = $250.  477 – 250 = 227).

She needs to keep her credit below 50% of the credit line at the very minimum.  I know I said FHA is not as picky as conventional.  However, you do want your credit scores above 600 in order to receive better pricing (620 and higher is even better).

Not only will this help her with qualifying for FHA financing, she’s probably also paying higher insurance rates due to her current credit scores. 

She has a decent income and no savings.   She needs to use this time of working on her credit to also build up her reserves.  Not only for what the lender will require (3.5% minimum down payment for FHA as of January 1, 2009); but for her sake should her income change or issues arise, she should have a minimum of 6 months worth of living expenses saved (FHA does not require this, I’m suggesting it).

She has been considering homes priced around $275,000.  FHA’s minimum required investment for this home next year will be $9,625.  The seller can pay the remaining closing costs and prepaids as long as she has met the above requirement (which can be a gift or loan from family members)–this would need to be negotiated in the purchase and sale agreement. 

The proposed mortgage payment would be around $2,000 (including taxes, home owners insurance and mortgage insurance).  This is $700 more per month than what she is currently paying for rent.  Once she has corrected her credit, she should practice making a $2000 mortgage payment by paying the difference ($700) into a savings account that she leaves untouched for her down payment and to hopefully create a savings cushion.  $12,000 in savings would be ideal (6 months of mortgage payment) but not required.   If she has no savings, it will take her just over a year to pay $700 per month to come up with the down payment (9625 divided by 700 = 13.75).  Another 17 months to have a savings cushion of $12,000. 

I know this isn’t instant gratification.  It is developing responsible financial habits.  There are expenses to owning a home beyond renting.  One of my last homes required a new roof just months after moving in to the tune of $15,000.  Savings has always been important and it’s even more true in our current economy.

She’s all ready moving in the right direction by contacting a Mortgage Professional who is interested in her long term financial well-being and is willing to help her create a game plan.

Check out my related articleGetting on Track to Buy Your First Home

Comments

  1. Rhonda this is such a great post! Straight talk about not just setting up for a home purchase, but also about setting up a financial conscience. The tip about ‘practicing’ your monthly payment is great advice for home buyers. And the fact that you care about your customers shines right through. Thanks for the good info here! – Di

  2. Di, thanks so much!

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