Buying a home, or refinancing your current VA mortgage to take advantage of low va rates is possible if you have good credit, but for many Vets and otherwise eligible VA loan candidates low credit scores and credit problems will get in the way.
If you are looking to use a VA loan to purchase a home or to refinance your current mortgage and you are not sure what your credit looks like you should get in touch with a VA lender as soon as you can. As you apply for a VA mortgage, the lender will get your credit report and let know you if you have any credit issues to be concerned about. They may even give you a copy of your credit report – all you have to do is ask them. Some lenders will give it to you and some won’t.
No matter whether your scores are good now, or they are low and you need to get them up in order to qualify for a mortgage here are some suggestions to follow for raising and maintaining your scores.
- Pay any car loans, student loans, credit cards, mortgages, other bank loans, and in some cases even utility bills first and on time. These types of accounts report to the credit bureaus and they have little leniency when it comes to someone being 30 days past their due date.
- When it comes to your rent payment – make sure you are not more than 30 days late. Chances are when you apply for your mortgage one of the credit accounts you’ll have to provide documentation for will be your housing history. Late payments to your landlord could be a deal breaker, especially if it has been within the past 12 months. Other items such as your cell phone bill, insurance, etc. are not as critical as they typically don’t report to the credit bureause for late payments unless you let your account go into collections.
- On your credit card accounts you want to make sure that your balance stays at least under 50% of your account limit and it is best to keep your balance under 30% of the limit. This balance to limit ratio is very important to your credit scores. A quick way to improve your scores is to make a payment to one of your accounts that is over 30-50% of the limit to reduce the balance.
- Make sure that you get a copy of your credit report. You want to go through it very carefully looking for errors and charges/activity that you didn’t do. Many instances of identity theft are found by just looking for unauthorized activity on a credit report. You never know what has happened to your credit if you haven’t checked it in awhile. If you find errors and mistakes you’ll want to go through the process of fixing them. This usually takes some letters back and forth with the credit bureaus – always keep in mind that the burden of proof is on you to show the correct information. The FTC.gov has a lot of good information about fixing credit report errors.
- Now this might sound odd, but if you have any unpaid collection accounts – don’t pay them! That’s right, don’t pay them. If you do, you could actually cause your credit score to go down even more (at least in the short term) which could hurt your qualification for a mortgage. Get some advice from your loan officer about how to handle these accounts. Often, you can just pay them at your loan closing, or in some cases you won’t have to worry about them at all.
- In the case where you have had a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you will want to monitor your credit report to make sure all of your discharged creditors update their records on your credit report. You will have time to get any of these changes made as you will have to two years from your bankruptcy discharge date to get a VA loan.
- If you have a short sale you will have a two year wait and if you have a foreclosure you’ll have to wait at least 3 years to get a new VA loan.
With a foreclosure, short sale, or bankruptcy you will also need time for your credit scores to recover.
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