Specialized Buyers Agent Answers Real Estate Questions
Q. I am a first-time buyer with a few credit problems so I know I need to clear those up before I buy. Do you have any suggestions for me? L. Markle, Newtown Square, PA
A. The most important thing is to connect with a reputable lender in this area (not on the internet) who can advise you based on what he or she is seeing in the trenches. Lending requirements have changed so dramatically in the last 6 months that you cannot assume you know the rules. What was a good credit score last summer may not get you the best interest rate now.
Some things that I believe are still true are:
Check your credit report. Make sure there aren’t any errors. Any negative items should not remain after 10 years so ask for them to be removed.
Don’t keep balances near the card limits. About 30% of your credit score is based on the ratio of the amount that is owed on active cards to your available credit.
Keep accounts active. Believe it or not, you should make small purchases on existing cards a couple of times a year-then pay them off right away-to keep accounts active and your available credit up.
Pay bills on time. Payment history counts for about 35% of your credit score. If you run into trouble, it is better to contact the company to try to work out a plan than to just ignore the problem.
Don’t acquire new cards. This dings your score so wait until you buy a home to add to your stash of cards, even if they send them to you in the mail or offer you a discount at the register.