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Go online and start researching the topic of credit scores, and you will quickly be overwhelmed with information and analysis. But in truth, there are only a few important concepts that you, as a first-time home buyer, should know about credit scores.

Here are five of the most important things to keep in mind when you start shopping for a mortgage loan — an even long before that.

1. Mortgage lenders will check your score.

When you apply for a home loan, you can be certain that the mortgage lender will review your credit score — among other financial factors. It’s not the only thing that will determine their decision, but it is one of the top factors of the mortgage-approval process.

If your score is low, you won’t even get your foot in the door. You will be rejected right from the start, or you’ll have a much harder time finding a willing lender. If your score is high, you will have more options and better interest rates available to you.

2. Your score partly determines the interest rate.

The interest rate is one of the components that will make up your monthly mortgage payment. Obviously, the principal amount you borrow is the largest factor that determines your monthly payment. But the interest rate plays a major role as well.

If you have a high credit score, you are more likely to get a low rate on your home loan. This in turn will reduce the amount you have to pay each month toward the mortgage. On the contrary, a bad score generally means a higher interest rate — and therefore a higher monthly payment as well. How much higher, you ask? That’s our next point.

3. A good score can save you thousands of dollars.

The difference between a good and bad credit score can greatly affect the interest rate you receive from the lender. It could be the difference, for example, between a rate of 5.5% and 7.2%. These may seem like small numbers on the surface, but when you apply them to something as large as a mortgage loan, we are talking about thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

4. Your score comes from your own actions.

Credit scores are not arbitrarily assigned to consumers. Your score comes from the information contained within your credit reports. You have three of these reports by the way — one for each of the consumer credit-reporting bureaus.

So where does the information within your credit reports come from? It comes from your own personal actions, your financial history, and your previous use of credit. In other words, it’s a snapshot of how well (or how poorly) you have managed your credit in the past. Good behavior creates a good score, and bad behavior has the reverse effect. It doesn’t come out of thin air — it comes from your own actions.

5. There are no mysteries to improving a credit score.

There are a lot of companies out there who would like you to think that it takes some kind of special knowledge to improve a credit score. These companies make money from people who don’t realize they can handle it for themselves. So let’s set the record straight right here and now. You are the only person who can improve your credit score, and you can do it without paying any other company for assistance.

Pay all of your bills on time, maintain low balances on your credit card accounts, and use credit sparingly. These three things alone can help you earn and sustain a good score for years to come. And there’s no certainly mystery in that!

© 2009, Cornett Communications.

About the Author: Brandon Cornett is a consumer advocate and publisher of the Home Buying Institute. You may visit the author's website at www.HomeBuyingInstitute.com to learn more about this topic.

If you’re planning to buy a home in the near future, you should know your FICO credit score. In fact, your credit score is one of the three most important factors considered by mortgage lenders (along with your debt and income levels). If your score is high, you’ll have a much better chance of getting approved for a loan. You’ll also qualify for a better interest rate, which could save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

It’s important to check your FICO score early on in the home-buying process, because it takes time to improve a low score. While you’re entitled to a free credit report per year, you’ll have to pay a small fee for the credit score. They are two different things. You can purchase your score from MyFICO.com — this is the company that actually designed the FICO scoring model.

But what if you check your score and find out that it’s low? You could qualify for certain types of loans with a score in 600 range, but you’ll be much better off in the mid- to upper-700 range. The question now becomes: How do I Improve my score? And that brings us to the purpose of this article.

5 Good Sources of Credit Information

Here are five websites worth visiting, if you want to learn more about your credit reports and scores:

  1. www.myfico.com — We touched on this website earlier. This site is owned by the Fair Isaac Corporation, the company that created the credit-scoring model used by most lenders. They have plenty of educational articles, as well as a forum where you can post questions. It’s well worth a visit.
  2. www.homebuyinginstitute.com/credit.php — On this page, you’ll find a collection of more than 100 articles relating to consumer credit. This collection was compiled over a two-year period, as readers sent in their questions. If you have a question about credit reports and scores, you’ll find the answer on this site.
  3. www.annualcreditreport.com — This website is jointly owned by the three credit-reporting companies (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian). This is where you should go to request your free reports. This is the only site that is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.
  4. www.ftc.gov/freereports — Why do so many people offer “free” credit reports, and then try to charge you for stuff? It’s a marketing strategy referred to as bundling, and you can learn the truth about it on this website.
  5. www.bankrate.com — This site is a treasure trove of helpful advice. In addition to credit tips, it explains the mortgage process in great detail. Start with a keyword search, or click on the “news and advice” link.

Research is the first step to home-buying success. The five resources listed above will help you get started on the right foot.

© 2009, Cornett Communications.

About the Author: Brandon Cornett is a consumer advocate and publisher of the Home Buying Institute. You may visit the author's website at www.HomeBuyingInstitute.com to learn more about this topic.

It is particularly despicable when companies prey on people who are in financial distress. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of such companies. Just take a look at the mortgage industry and the current economic recession we are in. With so many people facing foreclosure on their homes, there has been a huge rise in foreclosure prevention scams and similar rip-offs.

For a long time, there has been a predatory side of the credit industry as well. In particular, I’m talking about credit repair companies and the bold (and often false) promises they make.

You Can Fix Your Own Credit Reports

Let me start with the absolute truth at the core of my argument. There is no company on the planet that has special powers over your credit report. The only thing these “repair” companies can do is help you make corrections to your credit report, which is something you can easily do for yourself. In fact, there are hundreds of articles online (from reputable sources) that can help you make such corrections. And you can do it for free — without spending a dime on anything.

Credit Repair Scams Tracked by the FTC

A lot of the so-called credit repair companies will make bold promises about what they can do, and they will make it seem as if they have special access to the reporting bureaus. This is simply not the case. How do I know this? Because the FTC investigates more complaints against this industry than just about any other industry. Visit the FTC website and do a search for credit repair, and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

My best advice is to scratch the word “repair” from your credit dictionary, and replace it with the word “counseling.” Better yet, replace it with the phrase nonprofit counseling, because there are plenty of these services available all over the United States. A nonprofit credit counselor will help you make corrections to your credit report and otherwise improve your financial situation, and they will do it for little or no cost.

A credit repair company, on the other hand, will generally ask for upfront fees because they know they cannot deliver on their bold promises. Consider yourself warned and educated on this dirty little secret of the credit industry.

© 2009, Cornett Communications.

About the Author: Brandon Cornett is a consumer advocate and publisher of the Home Buying Institute. You may visit the author's website at www.HomeBuyingInstitute.com to learn more about this topic.

It’s safe to say that almost everyone in America has seen or heard a commercial for free credit reports. Watch an hour of national television anytime during the day, and you’re virtually guaranteed to see a commercial about credit reports.

But did you know that most of the offers for the so-called free reports are actually lures to sell other products? It’s true, and that’s the subject of this eye-opening article — the latest installment of our dirty little secrets of the credit industry.

Free Credit Reports Online - The Real Source

Let me start with the most important premise of this article, and then we can build from there. By law, you are entitled to one free credit report per year, from all three of the reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax). When I refer to “laws” in this context, I am talking about the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This is a federal law enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, and it regulates everything related to credit reports and reporting.

But there is only one official website that’s mandated and regulated by the FTC, and that is where I recommend you go to get your free credit reports online. That website is AnnualCreditReport.com.

So what is the fishing bait I mentioned in the title of this article, and what does it have to do with free credit reports online? Well, a lot of companies offer your free reports through their websites — but only when you sign up for some kind of credit monitoring or identity-theft prevention service. So while there is only one official website where you can get your free reports, there are literally thousands of other sites that offer freebies in conjunction with some kind of monthly service.

I’m not saying these monthly services are bogus. On the contrary, some of them do offer a good level of protection against credit fraud and identity theft. All I’m saying is that you can get your free credit reports from all three bureaus once a year, without signing up for anything at all. It’s required by law, and you can do it through the website I mentioned earlier in this article.

© 2009, Cornett Communications.

About the Author: Brandon Cornett is a consumer advocate and publisher of the Home Buying Institute. You may visit the author's website at www.HomeBuyingInstitute.com to learn more about this topic.

by Brandon Cornett

What types of information make up my credit score, and how will it affect me when I try to buy a home?

This is a frequently asked question among people buying a home (especially first-time buyers), so it’s worth a thorough examination in this article. In fact, the first half of this question pertains to consumers in general, because everyone can benefit from knowing the “ingredients” that make up a credit score.

Let’s begin by discussing why credit is important for home buyers in the first place. When you apply for a mortgage loan in order to pay for a home, your mortgage lender will examine your financial history from several angles.

For one thing, the lender will review your debt-to-income ratio, which is a comparison between the amount of money you make each month and the amount you owe each month (car payment, credit card bills, other loans, etc.).

And, of course, the lender will also examine your credit scores. Note that I mentioned “scores” in the plural sense. Though most people don’t realize it, you actually have three credit scores, one for each of the credit-reporting companies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax).

How Your Score is Created

Your credit score is derived from your credit reports, using a special scoring model developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation. You’ve probably heard the acronym “FICO” before? Well that’s what it stands for … Fair Isaac Corporation.

Your history of payments on things like credit cards and car loans is a major part of your credit score. In fact, past payment history is said to account for about 35% of your overall score. If you have a history of paying bills on time, this will help your score. On the other hand, if you miss payments on a regular basis the opposite will be true.

It only makes sense why this history would be important to mortgage lenders, but it shows how you’ve performed over the years in terms of paying back loans. This is extremely relevant to somebody who is considering loaning you money!

The total amount of debt you have is another big component of your credit score. For example, if you have a lot of debt (perhaps more than you can afford to pay off), then your score will reflect this. And it probably won’t help your cause when applying for a mortgage loan.

So with this in mind, two of the best things you can do to improve your score (if it needs improving) are paying all bills on time and minimizing your debt.

© 2009, Cornett Communications.

About the Author: Brandon Cornett is a consumer advocate and publisher of the Home Buying Institute. You may visit the author's website at www.HomeBuyingInstitute.com to learn more about this topic.