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Publisher and Editor - Judith Martin-Straw

The Skinny - Amy Brunell

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We’ve all seen those catchy little ads for, but no matter how much they may annoy you, their message is spot on. If your credit history isn’t the greatest, or if there is an error in your credit report, it could cost you your chance at a home loan and prevent you from buying the house of your dreams.

So how much does your credit score really affect your reputation with a lender? According to Todd Seabold and Eli Weinberger at Bank of America, it’s absolutely critical that you have great credit. As banks tighten up their lending standards and mortgage qualifications become more stringent, credit scores affect not only your ability to get a loan, but the rate you will be able to get it for.

Your credit score, most often reported by the three large credit-reporting agencies Experian, Equifax and TransUnion as your FICO score, is affected by a number of factors. FICO scores are determined by five variables: payment history; amounts owed; types of credit in use (revolving, like credit cards or non-revolving, like car loans); new credit; and the length of your credit history.

According to Seabold and Weinberger, banks look at not only your score, but also how responsibly you use your credit. Generally, lenders look for at least three open lines of credit for at least 12 months, low balances, how many cards you have, and how many lines of credit you’ve closed. They also take into account whether the credit is yours or an “authorized user account”, i.e. you are on your husband’s credit card or vice versa.

Payments over 30 days late, judgments, collections, how long the accounts have been open, the number of recent inquiries, percentage of debt to available credit, length of your total credit history, how many accounts you have ever had and how many of them are active, are all taken into consideration.

“Bankruptcy, foreclosure, or short sales in today’s credit market are all credit killers when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage,” said Seabold.

If you need to improve your credit, there are a few things you can do. Begin by checking your credit report for free with all three of the major credit reporting agencies annually. You can also order your FICO score for a nominal fee through many banks and lending institutions. Also, avoid using more than 50 percent of the available credit limit on any one card, pay off all collections and never have your credit run unless you need it run. Raising your credit score takes time, so plan accordingly.

If you have additional questions about your credit score, or you’re looking to obtain a mortgage or refinance, please visit out website at or contact Todd Seabold at 310-228-5509 or Eli Weinberger at 310-228-5503.

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