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The homebuying and mortgage process starts with your credit score.
Homeownership rates are near modern-era lows, but it’s not because people don’t want to buy. But surveys reveal that coming up with a down payment, qualifying for the mortgage, too much debt, and even credit score are holding them back from homeownership.
In fact, the majority of people who are planning to buy a house in the next 12 to 18 months are pretty confused about what credit score they need, and how to improve their score. However, this national survey found that only 45 percent of potential home buyers really understand what their credit score is measuring – their responsible management of debt and risk of defaulting on new loans.
Likewise, less than 50 percent of respondents could identify what their credit score affects in the mortgage process (such as interest rates, program guidelines, and the amount they qualify for.)
Their lack of clarity can actually hurt their score, further delaying or even canceling their plans to buy a home. For instance, 33 percent of consumers polled think that increasing income will help their credit score, and 28 percent believe that closing old accounts will do the same (not the case).
Even more concerning is that they’re unsure of where to even start with the knowledge, actions, and assistance to ready their credit for a home purchase. Only 22% of people polled thought that they should check their credit report in the three months leading up to their mortgage application!
Of course, when people start the process of buying a home, there are a lot of things to focus on: which neighborhood they want to live in, finding the perfect house, getting approved for a mortgage at a great interest rate, and then the all-consuming process of packing and moving. But before any of that happens, there is one more item that should lead off their checklist: taking care of their credit score.
So, keeping your credit score up to par has some very tangible benefits during the home buying process:
• Lower interest rates,
• A greater variety of loan programs available,
• Qualify for loans with less money down,
• Your offer on a house will be seen as more favorable if you have a high credit score, giving you more leverage. During multiple offer situations and bidding wars, the seller sometimes requests additional documentation like proof of the buyer’s credit score and funds.
• But, of course, saving money when you make your mortgage payment every month is the real benefit. Even a credit score increase of a few points may help you qualify for a lower interest rate, adding up to tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the life of your loan.
Consider these three scenarios, where three consumers who are buying a $400,000 home, with a $320,000 mortgage, qualify for interest rates of 4%, 4.5%, and 5%, respectively. Please note this is just an illustration for educational purposes.
Interest Rate: 4%
Monthly Payment: $1,527
Total of 360 Payments: $549,982.42
Total Interest Paid: $229,982.42
Interest Rate: 4.5%
Monthly Payment: $1,621
Total of 360 Payments: $583,701.48
Total Interest Paid: $263,701.48
Interest Rate: 5%
Monthly Payment: $1,717
Total of 360 Payments: $618,418.51
Total Interest Paid: $298,418.51
That means if your credit score was top notch and you qualified for a 4% interest rate (hypothetically), you’d save $190 a month compared to the 5%, and $94 compared to the 4.5% loan. That sounds nice, but doesn’t seem like big money, right?
But when you compare the long-term savings, the person with the 4% loan saves $68,418 in total payments over the life of the loan compared to the 5% loan, and $33,719 compared to the 4.5%
That’s some HUGE savings for just a very small interest rate difference. (For even more information how a good credit score will save you money, read this.
So, how do you make sure your credit score is ready for the home buying process? Here are some tips to make sure your credit score will be as high as possible when you’re ready to buy a home:
1. Always pay on time.
According to FICO, 96% of people with a FICO score of 785 or greater have no late payments on their credit reports, so be one of those people who have a spotless payment history if you want the perfect FICO. Since payment history is 35% of FICO’s scoring model, paying on time is crucial.
2. Check your credit report periodically.
It’s important to make sure that there are no errors on your credit file and everything is in order. These days, you also need to make sure that your identity hasn’t been stolen or compromised, which affects up to 1 in 8 Americans every year.
3. Spend less and pay down your balances.
FICO calculates a significant portion of your score by your credit utilization ratio – how much debt you keep to how much your total available balances are. A survey of those who had the top scores revealed their average credit card balances relative to their limits was just 7%.
FICO calculates 30% of their scoring model by the overall money you owe and how close you are to the limits on your credit cards and revolving debt, so low balances, and healthy ratios are the key to a top score.
4. Keep a good mix of credit.
Consumers with FICO scores above 760 have, on average, six accounts that are currently “paid as agreed” and an average of 3 accounts with a balance.
5. Keep well-seasoned accounts.
Most super scorers also have, on average, an account that’s 19 years old. The average age of their accounts is between 6 and 12 years old and they opened their most recent account 27 months ago or more. 15% of FICO’s scoring is calculated by the credit history.
6. Start early.
Don’t wait until you’re ready to start looking at houses or apply for a mortgage to start working on your credit. Get a copy of your credit report from Nationwide Credit Clearing six months before you’re ready to apply for a mortgage. That will give you plenty of time to pay down debt, close unwanted accounts, or dispute errors and inaccuracies in order to maximize your score – as well as working with Nationwide Credit Clearing to repair your score.
7. Do’s and Dont’s during the home buying process.
It’s important not to make big changes during the mortgage process, as it may trigger a red flag for lenders, who are trying to make decisions based on a static snapshot of your finances. Avoid big purchases on credit, moving large sums of money to and from bank accounts, and applying for any new credit or closing existing accounts.
8. Consider getting help.
Before you even sit down with a mortgage broker or take a ride around town with a Realtor, home buyers would be wise to contact Nationwide Credit Clearing. With a complimentary free credit report and consultation, we can analyze your situation and give you an accurate assessment if your credit is home-buying worthy or needs some work.
Contact us today to get started – and happy home hunting!
Just how much money will you save with a good credit score? The answer may shock you!
Most people don’t think about their credit score on a daily basis, even as they use their credit cards, make their auto loan payment, or write a sizable check for their monthly mortgage. However, there’s a direct correlation between a good credit score and saving on all of these accounts – and more.
The top credit scorers typically save tens (or even hundreds!) of thousands of dollars over their lives, helping them pay off debt, amass savings, invest to retire comfortably, or achieve their other financial goals.
Meanwhile, consumers with subprime or even average credit scores get charged higher interest rates, fees, and see a lot of doors closed when they apply for new loans.
So how much money will a great credit score actually save you? Let’s take a look:
According to Bankrate.com, if your credit score falls between 600-679, the average U.S. credit card APR (annual percentage rate) is 22.9%
But if your score is in the 680-739 range, your APR drops significantly to 17.99%.
However, for the highest credit scores in the 740-850 range, the average APR is only 12.99%.
So how much can those lower credit card interest rates save you?
Looking at a popular tiered credit card with a $10,000 balance as an illustration, we see that with the lower 12.99 percent APR for high-score consumers, the monthly payment would be $297 for over five years to pay it off. But if you had that that higher 22.9% rate because your credit score was mediocre, that monthly payment would jump up to an astronomical $715…and for more than 7 years!
Therefore, keeping a great credit score could be the difference between paying $18,414 total to pay off this card or $44,330 – a whopping $25,000+ savings!
When it’s time to purchase a car and apply for auto financing, your rates and terms can vary widely. But one thing is for sure: a great credit score will save you a lot of money when you’re paying off that shiny new auto month-after-month.
According to VantageScore, which is the main purveyor of credit scoring for auto lenders, a typical $25,000 auto loan for a 5-year term:
- Below 550 Vantage Score (poor credit): 18.9% with $13,828 interest paid
- Below 620 score (subprime credit): 17.9% with $13,009 interest paid
- 620 to 680 credit score (average): 11% with $7,614 interest paid
- 680-740 credit score (good): 6.5% with $4,350 interest paid
- 740-850 credit score (excellent): 5.1% with only $3,375 interest paid
While a 760 is considered a top-notch credit score for mortgage lending, you’ll probably qualify for the best auto financing with a 720 or higher score. In fact, consumers with excellent credit scores may even qualify for 0% financing on new car purchases.
One of the biggest ways your credit score will save you huge bucks is when it’s time to buy a home. And unless you’re paying cash for that home, you’ll be applying for a home loan, with rates and pricing based heavily on credit score.
Assuming that the average sales price of a house is $343,300, with a mortgage of $274,640 (20% down payment) and a 30-year fixed mortgage:
Let’s start with a 5% interest rate just for illustration purposes (historically, that’s low, but right now it could be a little high):
Your monthly payment will be $1,474
Total payoff over 30 years is $530,758 (interest and principal payments)
But if you have a better-than-average credit score and qualify for a 4.5% interest rate on that same loan, your monthly payment will be $1,392 with a total payoff of $500,962.
And if you have a great credit score that grants you a 4% interest rate, that means you’ll only pay $1,311 per month with a $471,960 payoff
So how much will a good credit score save you when it comes to this typical mortgage illustration?
-Savings in 1 year (compared to a 5% rate)
-Savings in 5 years
-Savings in 10 years
-Savings in 30 years
And for a $500,000 home, the difference between a 760 and a 620 credit score could cost you about $150,000 or more in additional interest payments due to higher rates!
In fact, according to Michelle Chmelar, the vice president of mortgage lending with Guaranteed Rate, every 20-point step down from a 760 credit score could cost the borrower 25 basis points when it comes to pricing, as well as higher fees and closing costs.
Other ways a good credit score will save you money:
Qualify for the best credit cards:
With a top score, you’ll have the best credit cards jockeying for your business, offering the lowest interest rates (sometimes even 0% for a period), options for low or no annual fees, and great perks and rewards. The credit card companies will also gladly extend you higher balances. Together, this can save you hundreds of dollars every year.
Better car insurance deals:
You may not have known that car insurers also rate and apply coverage based on credit scores. While some states, like California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, don’t allow car insurance companies to look at credit, in most states, you’ll see much lower premiums with a better credit score – saving you money.
Cheaper cell phone plans:
If you’ve walked into a store recently to buy a new cell phone, you were probably asked to authorize a credit score check. In fact, cell companies will require a hefty security deposit and might even charge you higher rates – or outright deny you a contract – if you have enough blemishes on your credit report.
Get approved for rental housing and apartments:
Most landlords include an authorization for a credit check when you submit an application, and your payment history is a pivotal factor in approving you for a lease. Likewise, if you have judgments from past landlords or collections from utility companies on your credit history, you can probably kiss your chances of getting that nice apartment goodbye.
Utility bill savings:
When it’s time to sign up for a new electricity, heating, water, or trash account, a bad credit score can cause some serious problems, In fact, most utility companies will charge increased security deposits – sometimes hundreds of dollars – for bad credit consumers.
Make the grade with student loans:
The average college graduate now leaves school with $37,172 in student loan debt, an increase of 6% (or +$2,200) over just last year. You better believe that a great credit score will help you qualify for lower-interest student loans!
Don’t miss out on your dream job:
A bad credit score can hurt you in ways that have nothing to do with taking out a loan. In fact, employers are screening their potential employees for credit score, especially with government jobs or those in the financial sector. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 Americans have been subjected to a credit score check when applying for a job, and 1 in 10 have actually been denied a job because of a bad score or something on their credit report!
Are you ready to start saving money? Let’s start with your credit score! Contact us for a free consultation and credit report.