Archive for the ‘Credit Information’ Category

Credit freezes are now free!

November 1, 2018

A new law recently took effect allowing consumers to freeze and unfreeze their credit with the three main credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The push for this changed started in 2017 with the the massive data breach at Equifax, which exposed the personal information of more than 145 million consumers to hackers.

What is a credit freeze? When a consumer “freezes” their credit, they have essentially locked their credit. No one (not a person, bank, car dealership, etc.) can access a consumer’s credit while frozen. This means new credit accounts cannot be opened, and is the surest way (not a 100% guarantee) to prevent fraud. Freezes can become problematic when a consumer needs to apply for credit as one has to go through the process of unfreezing their credit before applying.

The change was put in place by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act signed into law earlier this year. Before the change, every state had their own rules about credit freezes. It could cost as much as $10 to freeze (and throw on another $10 to lift a freeze) one’s credit. The days of fees are gone. Some other highlights of the new law:

  • As discussed, consumers can now freeze and unfreeze their credit for free.
  • Parents can put a freeze on their children’s credit for free (applies to children under 16).
  • Guardians, conservators, and those with a valid power of attorney can also get a free freeze for their dependents.
  • Fraud alerts placed on a consumer’s credit file will be extended from 90 days to one year.

It hopefully just got a little more difficult for scammers to abuse someone’s credit information! How to put a freeze on your credit? Consumers must contact each of the three major credit agencies independently to place a credit freeze on their accounts.

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Credit scores on the rise

September 11, 2018

Some consumers credit scores are going up! A recent overhaul in the way the major credit bureaus factor in negative credit information is prompting millions of consumers’ credit scores to rise. The main reason? The removal of some collection items.

Over the past 12 months, collection items were removed from eight million consumers’ credit reports. The NY Federal Reserve said consumers who had at least one collection item/account removed from their credit reports saw on average an 11-point increase to their scores. Why the change in collection items being part of the credit score? Some collection categories often have mistakes/errors that lower potential buyers credit scores and keep them out of the borrowing market.

The three main bureaus (Equifax, Experian PLC, and TransUnion) all agreed to rework credit reports reports stemming from a 2015 settlement. In the settlement, some of the collection items removed were non-loan related items such as gym memberships, library fines, traffic tickets, and some instances of medical debt. This change would not include credit cards or loan related accounts. Those type of accounts that enter into a collection category will still negatively impact a potential home buyer’s credit score. any firms agreed to remove some non-loan related items that were sent to collection firms, such as gym memberships, library fines, and traffic tickets. They also agreed to strike medical-debt collections that have been paid by a patient’s insurance company. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, those seeing the biggest boost to their credit scores are those with a score in the mid 600s.

This is a great move by the credit bureaus. Sometimes it is easier to prove that one owes money with the account in good standing, and harder to prove one no longer owes a debt. Some debts such as tax liens, credit card collections, back taxes, car/student loans in default, etc. are easier to prove the debt is actually in arrears. Arguing about a library account in a city one may have lived in 5 years ago becomes troubling and difficult to prove. While these accounts aren’t being removed from a credit report/history, they are being ignored when it comes to producing the credit score.

Waiting Periods After Derogatory Credit Items – Bankruptcies

October 30, 2017

In the last post, we looked at how lending guidelines require specific waiting periods for different types of “derogatory items” on a borrower’s credit report.  Then we zeroed in on waiting periods following a property foreclosure.  In this post, we will cover the waiting periods required after bankruptcy filings.  As with foreclosures, the different mortgage types specify different waiting periods.  The waiting periods also vary by the type of bankruptcy filed – Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

Let’s start with Chapter 7 – the required waiting periods are as follows:

  • FHA – 2 years from the discharge date
  • VA – 2 years from the discharge date
  • Conventional – 4 years from the discharge or dismissal date
  • Jumbo – 7 years from the discharge date

The waiting period calculations get a bit more complicated with Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings.  The Chapter 13 waiting periods are as follows:

  • FHA – 1 year from the start of the payout period, as long as the borrower has made all required payments on time.
  • VA – 2 years from the discharge date, or if the Chapter 13 is in repayment, the Trustee must document satisfactory payment history for 12 months of the payout period and the court must give permission to enter into a mortgage transaction
  • Conventional – 2 years from the discharge date or 4 years from the dismissal date
  • Jumbo – 7 years from the discharge date.

So ultimately the good news here is that you don’t have to wait “forever” to apply for a new mortgage after a bankruptcy – unless of course you want a jumbo loan.  (7 years is a long time to wait.)  As always, FHA and VA loans are more “forgiving” of past credit problems.

Do you or someone you know have a bankruptcy in your past and now want to buy a home?  It may be possible to make it happen.  Be sure to work with a lender who will ask detailed questions and help coach you to the best option for your specific situation.  I’ve recently closed loans for multiple clients “bouncing back” after a bankruptcy.  It brings joy to close that loan and help my clients reach another financial milestone following their struggles.  Call me at Dunwoody Mortgage and let’s determine the best option for you or whomever you know with a past bankruptcy.

 

Waiting Periods After Derogatory Credit Items – Foreclosures

October 24, 2017

Our nation’s economy has shown positive growth for several years now, following the Great Recession.  Many folks who were hit hard during the recession have rebounded and are doing well now.  Back when times were tough, they may have faced financial crises like home foreclosures or bankruptcies.  These financial crises appear as “derogatory items” on a credit report.

So let’s say your cousin Phil went through a really tough stretch financially.  But he persevered, got that new job, has been paying his bills on time and is saving some money.  He asks you if you think he can win mortgage approval now so he can buy a new home.  Like most people, you really don’t know how to counsel Phil, until now!

You can tell Phil that certain derogatory credit items carry mandatory waiting periods – he must let a specific amount of time pass before he can apply for a new mortgage.  There are different waiting periods for foreclosures, bankruptcies, and short sales.  And the waiting periods also vary by the type of loan Phil can get – FHA, VA, jumbo, or conventional.

Let’s start with a foreclosure.  Phil wasn’t able to make his home payments and the bank foreclosed.  Here are the required waiting periods by loan type:

  • FHA – 3 years
  • VA – 2 years
  • Conventional – 7 years, unless the foreclosure was part of a bankruptcy, in which case the wait is 4 years
  • Jumbo – 7 years

It is important to note that the waiting period “clock” starts when the foreclosure deed is recorded with the county.  In some cases, it may take the foreclosing bank several months to document and record the foreclosure deed after seizing the property.  So as a borrower with a past foreclosure, Phil needs to understand that the waiting period clock does not start on the date that the bank seizes the home.  I have run into situations where the bank took quite a few months to record the foreclosure deed, and this little date detail almost delayed the new mortgage.  Many times, the borrower may not know when the prior bank filed the deed after the foreclosure; however, this information is public record and most counties have the data available online now.

We will look at waiting periods after bankruptcies in the next post.  For now, if you or someone you know is like Phil and wants to buy a home, but has a past foreclosure, please refer them to me at Dunwoody Mortgage.  I will pay close attention to the details and even look up the old property online, if necessary, to make sure the borrower meets all lending guidelines.  Don’t waste time looking for a home until you have a high degree of confidence you can close!  I’ll work with you up front to give you the confidence you need.

Using government loans after a derogatory credit event

February 21, 2017

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Last week, we focused on using conventional loans to purchase a home after a major derogatory credit event such as a bankruptcy, short sale, foreclosure, etc. This week, we will focus on VA and FHA loans offered by the government.

In every instance, a government loan has a shorter waiting period after one of these events. It is the loan of choice to use if it will fit your needs. Let’s discuss the waiting periods:

  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy: requires a 2-year wait
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy: requires a 1-year wait from the beginning of the payout period
  • Multiple bankruptcy filings: VA requires only 2 years, but FHA is a case-by-case basis
  • Foreclosure: VA once again is only 2 years, but FHA is 3 years.
  • VA Specific: in order the qualify for a VA loan (in addition to being a veteran), there must be a 1 year minimum of re-established after the judgement dates and other derogatory events paid/resolved
  • FHA Specific: If HUD has a claim against a borrower for a foreclosed/short sold home (and that home was financed using an FHA loan), a borrower isn’t eligible for a new FHA loan until after 3 years from the date of the claim being paid.

As anyone can read here, government loans have a much shorter waiting period than conventional loans. As low as one year, but mostly just a 2-year wait. An FHA or VA loan would be the preferred method for buying a home after one of these major events. That said, there a couple of situations that make conventional loans the way to go:

  • the borrower is not eligible for a VA loan (so you go FHA unless….)
  • the loan needed to purchase a home will exceed the maximum FHA allowed loan amount
  • there is a claim against the borrower from HUD
  • a borrower is not eligible for an FHA loan due to CAIVRS (a government credit monitoring tool to ensure people who take out government loans pay them back)

The last two on the list are not that common, so buying a home within the FHA maximum loan limits would be the way to go. In addition to a shorter waiting period, the interest rate tends to be better than conventional loans, the borrower only needs a 3.5% down payment, and the monthly mortgage insurance rate is lower. A borrower’s credit score will confirm those items, but in general, those are all reasons why FHA loans are the best way to go after a derogatory credit event.

Completed a bankruptcy two years ago, and ready to buy a home in Georgia? If so, we can get started today in the process. Contact me and we’ll make sure you qualify for a loan, and then send you out looking for your next home.

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Mortgage life after a derogatory credit event

February 14, 2017

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An unforeseen event takes place… a medical event, job loss, divorce, death of a spouse… before you know it, bills are piling up and they never seem to end. Eventually this buildup could result in a bankruptcy, foreclosure, short sale… a major derogatory credit event. Once it is over, will you ever be able to buy a home again?

The answer is yes. During the housing boom, someone could apply for a loan the day after completing a bankruptcy. Let’s just say guidelines are different now, but not insurmountable. Most people assume there is a 7-year wait after something as big as a bankruptcy or foreclosure. That is true if you are looking to qualify for a Jumbo loan (any loan amount over $424,100). On the other hand, if you are looking to buy a home for say $350,000 with the minimum down payment, is it still a 7-year wait?

No, definitely not.

This post will focus on conventional loans. Next time, we’ll discuss government loans.

What are the waiting periods? Using today’s guidelines*:

  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy: requires a 4-year wait
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy: requires a 2-year wait from the discharge date, but 4 years from the dismissal date if the Chapter 13 bankruptcy application isn’t accepted by the courts
  • Multiple bankruptcy filings: 5-year wait
  • Foreclosure: 7 years unless the home was included in a bankruptcy filing. In that case, it drops from 7 to 4 years
  • Other: There is a 4-year wait for a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, short sale, or the sale of a home during the foreclosure process

*Those are Fannie Mae guidelines. Technically, Freddie Mac does not have minimum waiting period. Underwriting goes by the Automated Underwriting Services findings from Freddie Mac. That said, the “findings” often mirror the guidelines of Fannie Mae. 

In only one of these instances is there a 7-year waiting period. That would be if there was a foreclosure on a home that was not included in a bankruptcy. In every other situation, one could be ready to purchase a home much sooner than 7 years. Government loans are much more forgiving, but conventional loans are to be used in situations where a borrower doesn’t qualify for a VA or FHA loan (more on that next week). Also, the maximum loan amounts on FHA loans are lower than conventional loans, so the purchase price could also play into determining which loan program to use.

Have you filed a bankruptcy, but want to own a home again? You don’t have to wait seven years. If you have re-established credit to a qualifying score, buying a home can come sooner than you think. Unsure of your situation? Purchasing a home in Georgia? If yes to both, contact me today. We can start the prequalification process and see how quickly we can get you into a new home.

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Credit Score Basics for Home Buyers

February 9, 2017

A recent survey reported that 2.7 times more first time home buyers than repeat buyers believe they must improve their credit scores before buying a house.  First let’s dispel credit score myths.  A home buyer can possibly win mortgage approval with a credit score as low as 620.  If your score is 620 or higher, you can possibly win loan approval.

If your score is less than 620, you need to work to improve it before you can qualify.  If your score is 620 or higher, you may want to take steps to increase your score as better scores tend to lower mortgage costs.  Note that I am not a credit score repair specialist, but here are some basic, fundamental tips to improve your credit score:

Pay down your credit card balances:  You get the best score on each credit card account when your balance is less than 1/3 of that account’s credit limit.  Your score drops when your balance is more than 1/3 of the limit.  And your score drops even further if your score is more than ½ of the credit limit. 

Pay your bills on time:  Late payments lower your score.  The later the payment, the more your score is penalized.

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Time heals all wounds:  The more time that has elapsed since your last late payment, the less those late payments will affect your current score.  Some credit issues have mandatory waiting periods.  For example, if your credit report shows a bankruptcy, 2 years must elapse before you can obtain a FHA mortgage, and 3 years must elapse before you can qualify for a conventional mortgage. 

Resolve account disputes now:  Mortgage underwriters hate account disputes.  If you have disputes on credit accounts, go ahead and resolve them prior to applying for a mortgage.

Be aware of collections accounts:  Note that I didn’t say to pay them off.  Sometimes, paying off a collection account will actually lower your credit score.  If you want to buy a home in the next 12 months or so, it may be best to just know about the collections accounts – you may have to deal with them as part of your mortgage process.  In some cases, we require the borrower to bring enough cash to close and to pay off collections account balances as part of the mortgage closing process.

If you want to buy a house in Georgia, get a good idea of your credit score and your monthly debt payments.  Then call me to discuss your loan options.  I’ll invest time coaching you on the best ways to help you win loan approval. 

More mortgage questions?  Check out our home buyer educational videos.

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Credit Reports and Qualifying for a Mortgage #3

October 19, 2016

In prior posts we reviewed the credit score and public record components of a credit report.  But even with a qualifying score and a clean public record history, that doesn’t mean you are in the clear.  There are other credit report factors that can create underwriting hurdles which we must overcome.  Here are some other details we consider…

The credit report shows a history of open and closed credit accounts.  Data shown for each account includes:

  • Current account balance.
  • Account credit limit.
  • Account type – credit card, mortgage, student loan, auto loan, etc.
  • Account status – open, closed, collections, etc.
  • Minimum payment – these are important because they are included in the client’s (let’s call her Mindy) debt to income ratio.  If the total of all monthly payments is too high, Mindy might not qualify for the loan desired.
  • Late payment history – late payments are categorized as follows — 30 day lates are not good; 60 day lates are bad, and 90 day lates are really bad.  The report shows the dates of the most recent late payments.

If Mindy’s late payments were made more than 2 or 3 years ago and she has been consistently making on-time payments since then, it likely will not cause loan denial.  However, if Mindy’s late payments occurred after a bankruptcy, then underwriting may deny the loan.  I’ve had this happen where the underwriter said no to a client with a bankruptcy in 2010 followed by two 30-day late payments in 2012.

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  • Account disputes – if Mindy has officially disputed an account, it will show on her report.  Underwriters do not like account disputes.  This is especially true for FHA mortgages when a disputed account balance exceeds $1,000.  In some cases, the dispute can lead to loan denial.  I’ve had clients who had to go through a multi-week process to get a dispute removed from their credit before we could win loan approval.  I search for the word “dispute” on all credit reports.
  • Collections accounts – when an account has a collections status, this can cause loan denial.  This is especially true for FHA mortgages.  If the total outstanding amount of all collections accounts exceeds $1,000, underwriters will not approve an FHA loan until the balances are paid in full.  I had a client with 3 collections accounts earlier this year.  The client had plenty of cash, so we simply included the payoff of all collections accounts at the closing of her home purchase.

Once again, there is much more to a credit report than the score.  If you know someone who wants to buy a home in Georgia, don’t let them get mislead by a lender in a hurry.  Refer them to Dunwoody Mortgage, we will invest enough time up front to give everyone great confidence that the mortgage will actually close.

 

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Credit Reports and Qualifying for a Mortgage #2

October 12, 2016

The last post covered the credit score component of a credit report.  But remember, there is much more to a mortgage credit report than just the score.  After looking at a client’s credit score, I next review any public record filed against the client (let’s call him “Matt”) in a court of law.  These include liens, judgements, foreclosures, and bankruptcies.  How do these items affect Matt’s ability to win loan approval?

  • Liens – A tax lien is a big red flag. The IRS doesn’t play around when it comes to collecting money you owe them.  And lenders don’t want to get in line behind the IRS when it comes to collecting payments.  If Matt has a tax lien, he will likely need to pay it off before we can win loan approval.  We may be able to win loan approval if Matt has a tax lien, but it will take some extra work.
  • Bankruptcies – Bankruptcies stay on a credit report for 7 years.  Matt cannot obtain a conventional loan for 4 years following the bankruptcy discharge date (the date when Matt was officially released from personal liability for debts included in the bankruptcy).  For FHA loans, the waiting period is 2 years after the bankruptcy discharge date.  There are some differences in how we treat Chapter 13 vs. Chapter 7 or 11 bankruptcies.
  • Foreclosures – Foreclosures also stay on a credit report for 7 years.  It is possible to win loan approval even with a foreclosure.  For conventional loans, a 7 year waiting period is required.  For FHA loans a 3 year waiting period is required.  And note that the clock starts when the foreclosing bank sells the old house to someone else.  Not when the bank first takes the house.
Gavel with money background

Gavel with money background

  • Short Sales – Once again, short sales stay on the report for 7 years. A short sale occurs when a loan servicer agrees to the sale of a property by the borrower to a third-party for less than the outstanding mortgage balance.  Waiting periods are 4 years for a conventional loans and 2 years for FHA loans.
  • Legal Judgments – Outstanding legal judgements must be paid off prior to or at closing.  Note that we can include payment of Matt’s legal judgments as part of the closing itself.

There is much more to a credit report than just the score.  When a lender pulls your report and quickly says “you qualify,” he or she might be doing you a disservice.  You want a lender who will take some time to look closely at your report, and deal with any potential issues up front.  If you plan to buy a home in Georgia and expect your lender to invest time in the details, call Dunwoody Mortgage Services.  We will help you avoid surprises.

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Credit Reports and Qualifying for a Mortgage #1

October 5, 2016

Portrait of Rodney Shaffer

This news may shock you – mortgage underwriters actually look at a borrower’s credit report.  Notice I said, credit report, not credit score.  The score is only one component of the full report.

When we pull a credit report, the first thing we do review is the credit score.  If the score doesn’t qualify, there’s no need to spend time on the report details.  My lending guidelines state that minimum qualifying credit scores for my clients are:

  • 620 for FHA and VA loans.
  • 620 for conventional loans.

Mortgage credit scores are different from consumer credit scores people get from websites like credit karma.  Issues pertaining to past mortgages carry more weight on a mortgage score than a consumer score.  So your mortgage score may differ significantly from a consumer score given to you by a credit card company or a website.  I’ve had clients with mortgage scores higher than their consumer scores and other clients with scores less than their consumer scores.  You never know for sure until you actually pull the mortgage report.

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We look at scores from all three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experion, and Transunion.  We are required to use the borrower’s middle score for loan qualification.  And if there are multiple borrowers, then the lowest middle score is the score we use to qualify the application.  When I pull a report, if the score is less than 620, the client and I will discuss ways that they can improve their score, which may be simply waiting for their score to rise while they pay their bills on time, or contacting a credit counselor who might be able to help improve their score.

Regardless of how good the score is, I will look carefully at additional report details.  Sometimes these details can cause some underwriting questions or challenges, even if the score qualifies.  It’s usuaully best to deal with any credit questions proactively.

Home buyers deserve to know as early as possible whether they can realistically win loan approval.  There’s no need for them to waste their time or a Realtor’s time searching for a home when they cannot qualify for a mortgage.

We will review other key credit report details in future blog posts.  But for now, if you know someone looking to buy a home in Georgia, and this person may have a few “skeletons” in their “credit closet,” (hey Halloween is approaching!), refer them to me.  I’ll take the time to look at all the details, giving them the level of service they truly deserve.


 

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