If you’re a reader of Mortgage Porter, you probably know that I just returned from a long weekend to Nashville to visit my son and check out his new apartment. Getting started on your own is an important part of your life and it helps to have established credit. This is especially true if you plan to buy a home as most lender will require that you have three to four established accounts. The credit lines you establish (and other credit events) will determine what your credit scores are.
Part of what I do as a mortgage originator is review credit reports. I’m often surprised how many consumers think that a debt that has been charged off means that it has been removed from their credit history or “forgiven”. Basically, a charge off is when the creditor is writing the debt off their books for tax purposes, it is not terminating the debt owed by the borrower. Often times, the charge off may turn into a collection or be sold or assigned to a collection agency and therefore, mortgage lenders will view a charge off on a credit report as a collection.
I while ago, “Betty Bellevue” called me to see if she could help her mom obtain a mortgage. A couple years prior, her mom had a car that she “gave back” to the bank. She thought she would only have a “repo” reflected on her credit report and that enough time had passed to where she might qualify for a mortgage. What she didn’t realize is that even though the bank had the car back, she had a “charge off” for the balance of the car loan on her credit and that for purposes of a mortgage, we would treat it as a collection (it would need to be paid off and removed from the credit report).
Distressed home owners with second mortgages may be surprised to find charge offs on their credit report following a short sale. Borrowers are often caught completely off guard by this remaining damaging debt being reflected on their credit report. Depending on how the lender reports the short sale to the credit bureaus, it may be just as detrimental as a foreclosure. If you are considering a short sale or foreclosure, I strongly recommend you find an attorney who specializes in dealing with this type of situation. Linda Ferrarri has great information on her credit blog about foreclosures and short sales which I highly recommend if you find yourself facing this situation.
A charge off also dramatically impacts credit scores. Once a charge off, or collection is paid, credit scores will initially drop as the credit scoring modules view it as a “new activity” on the borrowers credit. Eventually scores should recover and improve. If you are considering a mortgage and have charge offs or collections, it’s important to discuss how and when you’re going to pay them off (some can be paid at closing which will prevent your scores from tanking during the mortgage process).
You can obtain a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.
A “soft” credit check is just prior to closing on your mortgage. This is to ensure that no new debt was obtained during the mortgage process and that the information on your final application that you sign at closing still represents your financial scenario.
A soft credit check does not impact your credit scores. It will disclose any new debts and credit inquiries. If there are changes to your credit revealed from the soft credit check, be prepared to explain and document whether or not new credit was obtained. Even if the credit card you decided to open during the transaction has not been used, you will still need to provide documentation regarding this new potential debt.
A “hard” credit check may take place if your existing credit report is set to expire before closing. Different than a soft credit check, the mortgage company will order a new credit report and the terms of your mortgage will be impacted by what the new report discloses, including any changes to your credit scores. This includes your current pricing of the loan and qualifying.
It’s really best to not obtain any new credit during the mortgage process and avoid applying or inquiring for any credit. Even when the creditor states “six months same as cash” or “this won’t impact your credit” – don’t buy it! If you do feel you need to make a purchase just prior or during the mortgage process, please discuss it with your mortgage professional first. A new car or big screen tv for your home may delay the purchase of your new home.
One of my Seattle subscribers wrote me to ask this great question:
“I’m considering purchasing a home soon, but I’m concerned about getting preapproved too early. If I get preapproved and don’t find a home until the preapproval expires and I need a new one, will the credit hit from the first approval damage the score of my second approval?”
Credit scoring is intended to reflect a persons credit habits. When a credit report is pulled by a mortgage originator, a persons score may go down a few points. The initial pull of your credit report will help determine if there’s anything that needs to be address to help improve your scenario before you find your next home. It’s not uncommon to find that your score may be lower than what you estimated, perhaps there’s a parking ticket, or or a payment was reported late that you’re not aware of. This is the time to find out.
Loan preapprovals generally last around 90 days (this may vary depending on how old your supporting documentation is that was provided to validate your preapproval). Your credit report may not need to be repulled until you have a bona fide offer if at all depending on when your transaction is scheduled for closing. Sometimes a “second preapproval” can be updated with new paystubs or bank statements.
Credit scoring is accumulative. So if you’ve been shopping for a car or a big screen television, these inquiries compounded with one from your mortgage lender will have more of an impact than just the credit being pulled for a preapproval alone. By the way, if you’re shopping for new credit before (or during) being preapproved for a new home, be ready to explain every one of your credit inquiries.
Odds are, if you’re worried about your score dipping from being preapproved you really should proceed with having it pulled by a local, licensed mortgage originator now…just in case a little elbow grease can help pump up your scores. Something as simple as paying down a debt to be under 50 or 30 percent of the total credit line may make a difference for an improved mortgage rate or qualifying for certain mortgage program.
I tend to lean towards getting preapproved as soon as possible. At the very least, it’s an opportunity to develop a game plan to make sure you’re in the best position possible for qualifying for your next mortgage. In addition, I’m seeing more non-distressed home homes in the greater Seattle area that are having multiple offers or “bidding wars”. If you’re considering buying a home, you’re going to need to be prepared with a preapproval letter from a reputable lender. You never know when a home that you want to make an offer on may become available.
If you’re considering buying a home in Seattle, Redmond, Walla Walla or anywhere in Washington, I’m happy to help you with your mortgage preapproval.
I recently met with a couple who had relocated to the Seattle area and were ready to make an offer on a home. They’re very qualified with their income stability and enough savings to put a twenty percent down payment on their next home. What surprised them was the credit report. [Read more…]
Last month I had the opportunity to speak at The Mortgage Girlfriends Mastermind Summit and to meet Linda Ferrari. Linda is someone who I’ve known of for a long time. She’s an expert at credit scoring and is passionate about consumers knowing and understanding their credit score. She is the author of “The Big Score — Getting It and Keeping It”.
This book is a great resource–for young and old alike. We are impacted everyday by our credit scores and Linda does an excellent job shedding light on mystery of credit scoring. Her book is structured in an easy to read and research format. If you need help working on repairing your credit, you’ll find step by step advice in this book. It could be the best $20 you ever spend.
For the record, I paid for my copy and I am not receiving any compensation for my review.