If you’re buying a home, it’s likely that you’ll be applying for a mortgage. But before lenders decide what they’re willing to offer you, they will want information about your employment history, salary, bank-account balances and your credit history.
Now you know that lenders will request your credit history, but are you aware of what they will find?
You can’t afford not to get your credit report
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act of 2003 made it possible for consumers to access free copies of credit reports (also called credit-file disclosures). The free reports list key aspects of your financial history.
Before you apply for a loan, you should request a free credit report to get an idea of what a lender would see. If the report has errors, you can correct them before they affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage loan. And if you find legitimate flaws, you might be able to take steps to improve your credit standing before purchasing a property. Your Realtor may be able to help you find resources to repair your credit.
How many credit reports can you request?
You can request one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major consumer credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. But you don’t have to get all three reports at once. How many you request and when is up to you. If you know you will be applying for a loan soon, you might choose to receive all three at the same time to look for errors or legitimate problems that only appear on one or two of your reports. You can also directly compare all three reports at the same point in time.
Or, you can space out the reports to receive one on a quarterly basis or one each month for three months in a row. Getting the reports periodically can help you monitor changes and is a good way to find out whether you have fallen victim to identity theft.
What’s in the report?
A credit report lists how much you borrow, whether you pay on time, if you’ve been sued or have declared bankruptcy. The disclosure includes some information that a third party would not receive, such as medical-account info.
It’s important to note that a credit report is not the same as a credit score. If you want your credit score, you typically have to purchase that information.
How do I get my reports?
You can request free credit reports online at www.annualcreditreport.com. You’ll be required to provide your date of birth, Social Security number and current and previous addresses so the credit agencies can obtain your information. The site is encrypted to ensure a private and secure connection. During the process, the site may ask you to verify previous addresses or accounts you hold to further verify your identity.
Once your information is verified, your report will appear on the screen and is usually available to download onto your computer. If you find errors, you should work directly with the credit-reporting agencies by submitting written documentation of the mistakes. Their sites are www.equifax.com, www.experian.com and www.transunion.com.
If you do not want to use the Internet to access your reports, you can request them by phone at (877) 322-8228. You can also mail a request to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Ga., 30348-5281.
Beware of any person or organization that sends you an email offering you a credit report or ads you see claiming to be fromwww.annualcreditreport.com. The FTC warns that you should not reply or click those ads, as they most likely are scams.
A legitimate report, though, that you request through the website, by phone or by mail can help you make sure your credit is in good shape to pursue your dream of buying a home.
Find more advice on buying real estate at TexasRealEstate.com.
The Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors is one of more than 1,400 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprises the National Association of Realtors. As the nation’s largest trade association, NAR is “The Voice for Real Estate,” representing over one million members involved in all aspects of the real estate industry. The Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors serves more than 2,700 members by providing MLS services, education, governmental affairs, etc. For more information, visit www.gfwar.org.