Understand Your Credit

Article By John Adams

Thinking about buying a house? Then think about your credit history...the folks who lend money do!

How well you have handled your credit obligations in the past is of utmost importance to lenders today. The good news is that this information, for the most part, is available to you.

Your credit history is maintained by three different private companies called credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You can order your report by phone and charge it to your major credit card if you like. It usually takes about a week to arrive. Or you can order your report online and view it within seconds.

It's a good idea to get a copy of all three reports, because if an error exists on even one of the reports, it may negatively affect your chances of getting the loan you want. Your credit report lists all the consumer credit that has been extended to you over the past seven years. It will show what your highest balance has been and what your current balance was on the date last reported by the creditor. It will also show how many payments you made on time and how many late payments were late. Late payments are grouped into categories showing how late you were. For example, if your credit card payment was over 30 days late one time, it might not be considered too serious. But if payments were over 60 days late four times, over 120 days late two times and over 180 days late one time, you have had a serious problem. That problem is going to impact your ability to borrow money.

It just makes sense to find out about your credit and correct any errors now. Regardless of how many credit problems you have had in the past, there are two good points to remember.

First, negative credit information can be reported in your credit file for only seven years. After that, it drops out and cannot even be considered. The one exception is bankruptcy, which can be reported for 10 years. But after that you start with essentially a clean slate.

Second, lenders are much more concerned about how you have handled your credit recently than with what happened several years ago. Even if you have had a bankruptcy, if you have kept your nose clean and paid your bills on time since then, it is possible you could qualify for a loan after as little as two or three years.

One of the best developments in the world of lending has been risk-based pricing. That's a five dollar term for the ability of lenders to offer higher priced loans to borrowers based on their demonstrated ability to repay. In other words, even if you have slightly fractured credit, you can still likely get a loan. It just may cost you a little more.

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