Seven Things Your Agent Should Know About Your Mortgage Approval

While many experienced real estate agents have a general understanding of the mortgage approval process, there are a few important details that frequently get overlooked which may cause a purchase to be delayed or denied.

New regulation, updated disclosures, appraisal guidelines, mortgage rate pricing premiums, credit score, secondary approval layering, rescission deadlines, property type, HOA insurance requirements, title and property flip rules are just a few of the daily changes that can have a serious impact on a borrower’s home loan financing.

With today’s volatile lending environment, it’s obviously important for home buyers to get a full loan approval which clearly defines all contingencies that pertain to each unique home buyer’s scenario prior to spending any time looking at new homes with an agent.

Either way, we’ve listed a few of the top things your agent should keep in mind while showing you new properties:

Caution – Agents Beware:

Property Type –

High-Rise, Condo, Town House, Single Family Residence, Dome Home or Shoe House… all have specific lending guidelines that can influence down payment, credit score and mortgage insurance requirements.

Residence Type

Need to sell one home before moving into another? Is a property considered a second home if it’s in the same city?  What if I’m buying a home for my children to live in, it is still considered an investment property?

These are just a few of several possible residence related questions that should be addressed by your agent and loan officer at the initial loan application.

Rates / Locks

Mortgage Rates are typically locked for a 30 day period, and one of the only ways to get a new rate is to switch mortgage lenders.  Rates also have certain adjustments for property / residence type, credit score and down payment which could have a big impact on monthly payments and therefore approvals.

A 1% increase in rate could literally mean the difference between an approval or denial.

Headline News / Employment

Underwriters watch the news as well.  Borrowers who work in a volatile industry during hard economic times may have to jump through a few extra hoops to prove that their employment and income is secure.

Job changes, periods of unemployment or property location in relation to the subject property are other things to consider that may cause a speed bump in the approval process.

Title / Property Flip –

A Flip is considered a property that has been purchased by an investor and quickly sold to a new buyer within a 30-90 day period.  Generally, an investor will do a little rehab work, fresh paint, landscaping…. and try to re-sell the property for a significant profit margin.

While it seems like a perfectly fair transaction, many lenders have strict guidelines in place that prevent borrowers from obtaining financing on properties that have a previous owner with less than 90 days of documented ownership.

These rules change frequently, and are specific to particular property types, so make sure your agent is aware of all the boundaries associated with your approval letter.

Homeowner’s Association Insurance

Some lenders require Condos and Town House communities to have sufficient insurance and reserves coverage pertaining to specific ratios on units that are owner occupied vs rented.

It may also take a few weeks and cost up to $300 to receive an HOA Certification, so make sure your Due-Diligence period is set accordingly in the purchase contract.

Appraisal Ordering Procedures

Appraisal ordering guidelines are changing quite frequently as regulators implement many new consumer protection laws created to prevent future foreclosure epidemics.

Unfortunately, some of the new appraisal regulations have proven to slow the home buying process down, as well as confuse lenders about the true estimate of neighborhood values.

VA, FHA and Conventional loan programs all have separate appraisal ordering policies, so make sure your agent is aware of which loan you’re approved for so that they document any anticipated delays in the purchase contract.

For example, if an appraisal takes three weeks and the average time for an approval is two weeks, then it probably isn’t smart to write a purchase contract with a four week close of escrow.

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Ten Credit Do’s and Don’ts To Bear In Mind Prior To Getting Your Mortgage Loan

How can a fully approved loan get denied for funding after the borrower has signed loan docs?

Simple, the underwriter pulls an updated credit report to verify that there hasn’t been any new activity since original approval was issued, and the new findings kill the loan.

This generally won’t happen in a 30 day time-frame, but borrowers should anticipate a new credit report being pulled if the time from an original credit report to funding is more than 60 days.

Purchase transactions involving short sales or foreclosures tend to drag on for several months, so this approval / denial scenario is common.

It’s An Ugly Cycle:

  1. First-Time Home Buyer receives an approval
  2. Thinks everything is OK
  3. Makes a credit impacting decision (new car, furniture, run up credit card balance)
  4. Funder pulls new credit report and denies the loan

In the hopes of stemming the senseless slaughter of perfectly acceptable approvals, we’ve developed a “Ten credit do’s and don’ts” list to help ensure a smoother loan process.

These tips don’t encompass everything a borrower can do prior to and after the Pre-Approval process, however they’re a good representation of the things most likely to help and hurt an approval.

Ten Credit Do’s and Don’ts:

DO continue making your mortgage or rent payments

Remember, you’re trying to buy or refinance your home – one of the first things a lender looks for is responsible payment patterns on your current housing situation.

Even if you plan on closing in the middle of the month, or if you’ve already given notice, continue paying that rent until you’ve signed your final loan documents.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

DO stay current on all accounts

Much like the first item, the same goes for your other types of accounts (student loans, credit cards, etc).

Nothing can derail a loan approval faster than a late payment coming in the middle of the loan process.

DON’T make a major purchase (car, boat, big-screen TV, etc…)

This one gets borrowers in trouble more than any other item.

A simple tip: wait until the loan is closed before buying that new car, boat, or TV.

DON’T buy any furniture

This is similar to the previous, but deserves it’s own category as it gets many borrowers in trouble (especially First-Time Home Buyers).

Remember, you’ll have plenty of time to decorate your new home (or spend on your line of credit) AFTER the loan closes.

DON’T open a new credit card

Opening a new credit card dings your credit by adding an additional inquiry to your score, and it may change the mix of credit types within your report (i.e. credit cards, student loans, etc).

Both of these can have a negative impact on your score, and could result in a denial if things are already tight.

DON’T close any credit card accounts

The reverse of the previous item is also true. Closing accounts can have a negative impact on your score (for one – it decreases your capacity which accounts for 30% of your score).

DON’T open a new cell phone account

Cell phone companies pull your credit when you open a new account. If you’re on the border credit-wise, that inquiry could drop your score enough to impact your rate or cause a denial.

DON’T consolidate your debt onto 1 or 2 cards

We’ve already established that additional credit inquiries will hurt your score, but consolidating your credit will also diminish your capacity (the amount of credit you have available), resulting in another hit to your credit.

DON’T pay off collections

Sometimes a lender will require you to pay of a collection prior to closing your loan; other times they will not.

The best rule of thumb is to only pay off collections if absolutely necessary to ensure a loan approval. Otherwise, needlessly paying off collections could have a negative impact on your score.

Consult your loan professional prior to paying off any accounts.

DON’T take out a new loan

This goes for car loans, student loans, additional credit cards, lines of credit, and any other type of loan.

Taking out a new loan can have a negative impact on your credit, but also looks bad to underwriters and investors alike.

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Follow these Do’s and Don’ts for a smoother mortgage approval and funding process.

Just remember the simple tip: wait until AFTER the loan closes for any major purchases, loans, consolidations, and new accounts.

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Related Credit / Identity Articles:

Do I Need To Sell My Home Before I Can Qualify For A New Mortgage On Another Property?

Although every situation is unique, it is not uncommon for homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage on a new home while still living in their primary residence.

Perhaps you are outgrowing your current house, or have been forced to relocate due to a job transfer?  Regardless of the motivation for keeping one property while purchasing another, let’s address this question with the mortgage approval in mind:

So, Do I Have To Sell?

Yes. No. Maybe. It depends.

Welcome to the wonderful world of mortgage lending. Only in this industry can one simple question elicit four answers…and all of them may be right.

If you are in a financial position where you qualify to afford both your current residence and the proposed payment on your new house, then the simple answer is No!

Qualifying based on your Debt-to-Income Ratio is one thing, but remember to budget for the additional expenses of maintaining multiple properties. Everything from mortgage payments, increased property taxes and hazard insurance to unexpected repairs should be factored into your final decision.

What If I Rent My Current Property?

This scenario presents the “maybe” and the “it depends” answers to the question.

If you’re not quite qualified to carry both mortgages, you may have to rent the other property in order to offset the mortgage payment.

In that scenario, the lender will typically only count 75% of the monthly rent you are proposing to receive.

So if you are going to receive $1000 a month in rent and your current payment is $1500, the lender is going to factor in an additional $750 of monthly liabilities in your overall Debt-to-Income Ratios.

Another detail that can present a huge hurdle is the reserve requirement and equity ratio most lenders have. In some cases, if you are going to rent out your current home, you will need to have at least 25% equity in order to offset your payment with the proposed rent you will receive.

Without that hefty amount of equity, you will have to qualify to afford BOTH mortgage payments. You will also need some significant cash in the bank.

Generally, lenders will require six months reserve on the old property, as well as six month reserves on the new property.

For example, if you have a $1500 payment on your old house and are buying a home with a $2000 monthly payment, you will need over $21,000 in the bank.

Keep in mind, this reserve requirement is incremental to your down payment on the new property.

What If I Can’t Qualify Based On Both Mortgage Payments?

This answer is pretty straightforward, and doesn’t require a financial calculator to figure out.

If you are in this situation, then you will have to sell your current home before buying a new one.

If you aren’t sure of the value of the home or how your local market is performing, give us a ring and we’ll happily refer you to a great real estate agent that is in tune with property values in your neighborhood.

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As you can tell, purchasing one home while living in another can be a very complicated transaction.  Please feel free to contact us anytime so we can review your specific situation and suggest the proper action plan.

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Understanding the FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)

* Disclaimer – all information in this article is accurate as of the date this article was written *

The FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium is an important part of every FHA loan.

There are actually two types of Mortgage Insurance Premiums associated with FHA loans:

1.  Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP) – financed into the total loan amount at the initial time of funding

2.  Monthly Mortgage Insurance Premium – paid monthly along with Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance

Conventional loans that are higher than 80% Loan-to-Value also require mortgage insurance, but at a relatively higher rate than FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums.

Mortgage Insurance is a very important part of every FHA loan since a loan that only requires a 3.5% down payment is generally viewed by lenders as a risky proposition.

Without FHA around to insure the lender against a loss if a default occurs, high LTV loan programs such as FHA would not exist.

Calculating FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums:

Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP)

UFMIP varies based on the term of the loan and Loan-to-Value.

For most FHA loans, the UFMIP is equal to 2.25%  of the Base FHA Loan amount (effective April 5, 2010).

For Example:

>> If John purchases a home for $100,000 with 3.5% down, his base FHA loan amount would be $96,500

>> The UFMIP of 2.25% is multiplied by $96,500, equaling $2,171

>> This amount is added to the base loan, for a total FHA loan of $98,671

Monthly Mortgage Insurance (MMI):

  • Equal to .55% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is greater than 95% and the term is greater than 15 years
  • Equal to .50% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is less than or equal to 95%, and the term is greater than 15 years
  • Equal to .25% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is between 80% – 90%, and the term is greater than 15 years
  • No MMI when the loan to value is less than 90% on a 15 year term

The Monthly Mortgage Insurance Premium is not a permanent part of the loan, and it will drop off over time.

For mortgages with terms greater than 15 years, the MMI will be canceled when the Loan-to-Value reaches 78%, as long as the borrower has been making payments for at least 5 years.

For mortgages with terms 15 years or less and a Loan -to-Value loan to value ratios 90% or greater, the MMI will be canceled when the loan to value reaches 78%.  *There is not a 5 year requirement like there is for longer term loans.

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Making Sure Your Cash-To-Close Comes From The Proper Source

Providing proper asset documentation and the actual source of the funds is a critical element of the loan closing process.

There’s nothing worse in a real estate purchase than making it all the way through the hoops and hurdles just to have a loan denied after the final documents have been signed due to the borrower using the wrong checking account for the down payment.

Seasoning of the down payment money is just as important as the source, which is why underwriters typically require at least two months bank / asset statements in the initial mortgage approval process.

A Few Acceptable Sources Of Down Payment Include:

  • Bank Accounts – checking / savings
  • Investment Accounts – money market, mutual funds
  • Retirement Funds – keep in mind that borrowing against a 401K plan will require a repayment, which will be calculated in the Debt-to-Income Ratio
  • Life Insurance – Cash value and face amount
  • Gifts – Family members can gift down payment funds with certain restrictions
  • Inheritance / Trust Funds
  • Government Grants – Many state, county and city agencies offer special down payment assistance programs

It is extremely important to make sure your loan officer is aware of the exact source of your down payment as early in the process as possible so that all necessary questions, documentation and explanations can be reviewed / approved by an underwriter.

A good rule-of-thumb to remember is that whatever funds you’re using as a down payment have to be pre-approved by an underwriter at the beginning of the mortgage approval process.

Basically, if you accidentally forget to deposit money in your checking account on the way to the closing appointment, it is not acceptable to get a cashier’s check from a friend’s account until you have a chance to pay them back later.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  What if I don’t have a bank account and cannot properly source my funds to close?

Cash on hand is an acceptable source of funds for some loan programs, but make sure you bring that detail up at the application stage

Q:  Can I use a bonus from my employer for my down payment?

Yes, but generally this needs to be a bonus you regularly receive

Q:  Can I borrow the money from a friend?

No, any money that needs to be repaid is typically an unacceptable source of funds

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Related Articles – Closing Process / Costs

Assembling Your Home Buying Team – Knowing The Players


Buying a new home is literally a team sport since there are so many tasks, important timelines, documents and responsibilities that all need special care and attention.

Besides working with a professional team that you trust, it’s important that the individual players have the ability to effectively communicate and execute on important decisions together as well.

Real Estate Agent –

A Realtor® is a licensed agent that belongs to the National Association of Realtors®, which means they are pledged to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

A few of the important roles your agent performs:

  • Determine your home buying needs
  • Define your property search criteria – neighborhoods, school districts, local amenities…
  • Provide insight on market trends and property values
  • Negotiate purchase contracts
  • Pay attention to due-diligence periods and other important timelines
  • Articulate inspection and appraisal reports
  • Professionally estimate fair market value on listings

A common misconception of many First-Time Home Buyers is that hiring a real estate agent will end up costing more money.

However, the typical arrangement in a purchase transaction is for the seller to cover the buyer’s agent commission.  In some cases where a new home developer or For Sale By Owner is listing a property and offering a lower price to deal direct, it is still a good idea to have an agent in your corner to protect your financial and investment interests.

Considering that some buyers may see 5-7 real estate transactions in a lifetime, compared to an agent that closes the same amount in a month, it is obvious to see that there is a big advantage to having the ability to rely on that experience when your home and security is on the line.

Mortgage Professional -

A mortgage professional (loan officer, mortgage planner, loan consultant, etc.) is the glue that holds the entire transaction together (biased comment).

In addition to establishing the purchase price and monthly payment a borrower can qualify for, the mortgage team will also need to communicate with all of the other players on the home buying team throughout the entire process.

To highlight a few details your mortgage team is paying attention to:

  • Initial pre-qualification to determine purchase price / loan amount
  • Explain all loan program options that may fit your investment goals
  • Collecting / organizing loan approval documents
  • Watching economic indicators that influence daily rate changes
  • Locking rates
  • Communicating with title / escrow officers
  • Submitting loan package to underwriting departments
  • Updating disclosure / GFE paperwork within proper time frames
  • Following funding through the final recording
  • Tracking inspections, insurance and other lending requirements
  • Post closing rate / program monitoring (although that might just be us)

Insurance Agent -

The lender in any mortgage transaction will require a homeowner’s insurance policy (hazard insurance).

This policy protects the property in the case of fire, theft or other damage (except flood or earthquake, those are separate policies and may be optional).

If it is determined that the property that you want to purchase is in a flood zone, flood insurance is not optional, it is mandatory.

The flood zone determination will be done with a “flood certification” from a third-party provider.

Title and Escrow -

It is possible to have a title company and an escrow officer work for different companies.

Also, some states use closing attorneys and there are still a few states where they use abstract of title instead of title insurance.

In most purchase transactions, the seller has the option of choosing the title company.

The title and escrow officers are often thought of as the same role, but in reality are quite different positions.

The title officer takes care of all issues that have to do with the title (also referred to as the deed) of the property.

The lender may require a title insurance policy guaranteeing that the title is free and clear of all liens except those being filed by the lender.

Escrow takes care of receiving, signing, and notarizing the final loan documentation, as well as collecting the other paperwork associated with the home sale.

The escrow officer is a neutral third party that makes sure no money is transferred until all conditions for each side are met.

The money management of an escrow company include:

Finally, the escrow officer will see that you are properly recorded as the new owner with the county.

Home Inspector -

When you have found the home that you like, it is a wise idea to have a professional take a look at the home to see if there are any issues with the property that could be a problem in the future.

Even though some buyers have an “Uncle Joe” who has owed several homes and knows what to look for, a certified Home Inspector can be money well spent.

They will look at the functionality of the home to make sure the electrical, plumbing and physical aspects of the home are strong, which will help the buyer make an educated decision about following through with the purchase, or renegotiating certain aspects of the contract.

Keep in mind, the home inspector and appraiser have different jobs. An appraiser determines value, while the inspector looks for structural problems, defects or maintenance issues.

The inspector is doing this strictly for the buyer’s sake. The lender is not concerned if a faucet has a minor leak as long as the property is worth the sales price. Therefore, the lender generally does not require an inspection unless the purchase contract requires one.

So, an inspection is not required, but it is recommended. As a matter of fact, one of the forms in an FHA application package is one that says “For Your Protection: Get a Home Inspection.”

Appraiser -

While the appraiser is typically never seen by the home buyer, an appraisal is obviously an important component of a home purchase transaction.

The appraiser will conduct an analysis of the property to determine the current market value. The bank will always require an appraisal, and in some cases need a second opinion of value if the program guidelines or loan amount require it.

Appraisers compare the sales prices of similar properties sold in the neighborhood and surrounding areas with the subject property.

This can be a very tricky process, especially if there are few properties to choose from, or if there is an overwhelming amount of foreclosures and short sale listings.

Now, since two homes are rarely identical, the appraiser has the difficult job of trying to compare apples to apples; sometimes red delicious to yellow delicious, or sometimes Fuji to Winesap.

When done, the estimate of value is given. If that value is below the purchase price, then negotiation may take place. If it is at or above the purchase price, we are ready to go forward.

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Related Articles – Home Buying Process:

Why Do I Need Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage Insurance, sometimes referred to as Private Mortgage Insurance, is required by lenders on conventional home loans if the borrower is financing more than 80% Loan-To-Value.

According to Wikipedia:

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is insurance payable to a lender or trustee for a pool of securities that may be required when taking out a mortgage loan.

It is insurance to offset losses in the case where a mortgagor is not able to repay the loan and the lender is not able to recover its costs after foreclosure and sale of the mortgaged property.

PMI isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it allows borrowers to purchase a property by qualifying for conventional financing with a lower down payment.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) simply protects your lender against non-payment should you default on your loan. It’s important to understand that the primary and only real purpose for mortgage insurance is to protect your lender—not you. As the buyer of this coverage, you’re paying the premiums so that your lender is protected. PMI is often required by lenders due to the higher level of default risk that’s associated with low down payment loans. Consequently, its sole and only benefit to you is a lower down payment mortgage

Private Mortgage Insurance and Mortgage Protection Insurance

Private mortgage insurance and mortgage protection insurance are often confused.

Though they sound similar, they’re two totally different types of insurance products that should never be construed as substitutes for each other.

  • Mortgage protection insurance is essentially a life insurance policy designed to pay off your mortgage in the event of your death.
  • Private mortgage insurance protects your lender, allowing you to finance a home with a smaller down-payment.

Automatic Termination

Thanks to The Homeowner’s Protection Act (HPA) of 1998, borrowers have the right to request private mortgage insurance cancellation when they reach a 20 percent equity in their mortgage. What’s more, lenders are required to automatically cancel PMI coverage when a 78 percent Loan-to-Value is reached.

Some exceptions to these provisions, such as liens on property or not keeping up with payments, may require further PMI coverage.

Also, in many instances your PMI premium is often tax deductible in a similar fashion as the interest paid each year on your mortgage is tax deductible. Please, check with a tax expert to learn your tax options.

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Related Articles – Mortgage Payments:

Ten Things You Can Do To Protect Your Identity

Facts About Identity Theft:

It’s estimated that there were 10 million victims of identity theft in 2008, and 1 in every 10 U.S. consumers have reported having their identity stolen.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported in 2005 that 1.6 million households experienced fraud not related to credit cards (i.e. their bank accounts or debit cards were compromised).

And, the U.S. DOJ also reported that those households with incomes higher than $70,000 were twice as likely to experience identity theft than those with salaries under $50,000.

What Is Identity Theft?

According to the United States Department of Justice, identity theft and identity fraud “are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.”

Such personal information may include your name, address, driver’s license number, Social Security number, date of birth, credit card number or banking information.

Victims of identity theft can spend months trying to restore their good name. And most victims do not realize it has happened until they get denied for a mortgage or a credit card.

Ten Ways to Protect Your Identity:

1.  Dumpster Diving –

Avoid “dumpster diving” by shredding all papers that contain any personal information.

Criminals sift through trash looking for the following:

-Bank Statements
-ATM Receipts
-Canceled Checks
-Credit Card Statements
-Credit Card Purchase Receipts
-Credit Card Solicitations (unopened “pre-approval” solicitations)
-Pay Stubs
-Tax Documents
-Utility Bills
-Expired Identification Cards (Drivers License, Passports…)
-Expired Credit Cards
-Medical Statements
-Insurance Documents

2. Personal Info / Phone Calls -

Never provide personal information, including your Social Security number, passwords or account numbers over the phone or internet if you did not initiate the call.

If you are asked for any type of personal information, before giving any information, ask the caller for their name, telephone number and the organization that they are representing.

You should then call the company using the customer service number the company provides with your account statement. Do NOT call the number you were given by the caller.

To reduce the number of solicitations you receive, you can sign up at the do not call registry:

web: http://www.donotcall.gov
call: (888) 382-1222

3. Look Over Your Shoulder –

Avoid “Skimming and shoulder surfing” (Never let your credit card out of your sight).

Pay with cash. Try never to let your credit card out of your sight to avoid a fraud scheme known as “skimming”.

According to Wikipedia:

“Skimming is the theft of credit card information used in an otherwise legitimate transaction. It is typically an “inside job” by a dishonest employee of a legitimate merchant. The thief can procure a victim’s credit card number using basic methods such as photocopying receipts or more advanced methods such as using a small electronic device (skimmer) to swipe and store hundreds of victims’ credit card numbers.”

Be aware of people “shoulder surfing”. This is when they are looking over your shoulder or standing too close trying to obtain your PIN number when making purchases with your debit card. They may also be listening for your credit card number.

4. Secure Your Mail –

Always mail your outgoing bill payments and checks from the post office or a neighborhood blue postal box and never from home.

Pick up your incoming mail as soon as it is delivered. The longer it sits the better chance a criminal has of stealing it.

-Get a P.O. Box.
-Lock Your Mail Box

Contact your creditors if a bill doesn’t arrive when expected or includes charges you don’t recognize. It may indicate that it was stolen.

5. Read Credit Card Statements -

Review account statements to make sure you recognize the purchases listed before paying the bill.

If your credit card holder offers electronic account access, take advantage and periodically review the activity that is posted to your account.

The quicker you spot any unauthorized activity, the sooner you can notify the creditor.

6. Monitor Credit Report -

Review your credit report at least once a year to look for suspicious activity. If you do spot something, alert your card company or the creditor immediately.

7. Email Links –

Never click on a link provided in an email if you believe it to be fraudulent.

Keep in mind, no financial institution will ask you to verify your information via email.

Criminals may link you to phony “official-looking” web site to confirm your personal information. This is known as “phishing”.

According to Wikipedia:

“Phishing” is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

8. Opt Out –

Opt out of credit card solicitations. (Take your name off marketers’ hit lists)

You can opt out of credit card solicitations by calling 1-888-567-8688 to have your name removed from direct marketing lists.

You can do this online at OptOutPrescreen.com, which is the official consumer credit reporting industry opt-out website for the three credit companies:

Experian
Equifax
Trans Union

9. Safeguard Your Social Security Number -

Protect your Social Security number.

Never carry your Social Security card or anything else with your social security number on it in your wallet or purse, along with your driver’s license.

Do not put your Social Security number or driver’s license number on any checks you may write.

Only give out your Social Security number when absolutely necessary.

10. Read Privacy Policies –

Find out what company privacy policies are (know who you are dealing with).

When being asked for your Social Security number or driver’s license number, find out what the company’s privacy policy is.

Inquire as to why it is being asked for.

Ask who has access to your number.

Ask if you can arrange for them not to share your information with anyone else.

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Related Credit / Identity Articles:

Is There A Rule-of-Thumb Regarding The Number Of Credit Lines To Have Open?

While the actual credit score has a big impact on a loan approval, it’s not the only component of the credit scenario that underwriters consider for a mortgage approval.

Since loan programs, individual lenders and mortgage insurance companies all have their own credit report restrictions, it’s difficult to define a standard Rule-of-Thumb to follow.

However, the number of “Open and Active Trade Lines” seems to be the common denominator in most approvals.

A trade line is basically a credit card, installment loan or other credit liability that is reported to the credit bureaus and displayed on a credit report.

Credit Trade Line / Approval Bullets:

  • Banks usually won’t count a trade line that is less than 12 months old.
  • The minimum number of trade lines most lenders find acceptable is 4 open and active trade lines.
  • Lenders like to see at least one credit line of $5,000, or all credit lines to total $1,000 or more.

Exceptions to Trade Line Rules:

Interestingly enough, a recent list of Mortgage Insurance requirements included a favorable trade line requirement, which read:

Min 3 trade lines @ 12 mo reporting. Cannot be ‘authorized user’

Basically, this means as long as the lender, and the loan program allow for less than 4 trade lines, this mortgage insurance company will accept only 3 trade lines that are in the borrower’s name.

Another exception to this rule is if you have no FICO score, and no negative trade lines.

In this case you may qualify for an “alternative credit” loan. The most common loan of this type is insured by FHA, but there are select programs that are usually targeted to assist people whose culture does not trust or use banks.

Borrowers applying for a non-traditional credit loan will still need to prove they have successfully paid their bills on time for 12 months by clearly documenting at least four creditors.  A verification of rent from a property management company, power, utilities, cell phone… are alternative sources of credit that can be used.

*A letter from a landlord or creditor stating that the bills were paid on time is not acceptable forms of proof.  Lenders will need canceled checks and / or copies of bank statements to start out with.

Since not all companies report to credit bureaus, it’s possible to get a free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com to verify your total reported trade lines.

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Related Credit / Identity Articles:

Alternate Sources For Establishing Credit

While the basic Rule-of-Thumb for acceptable credit history is a minimum of four trade lines documented on a credit report, there are alternative methods of building a credit picture that an underwriter can use to make a decision for a loan approval.

For potential home buyers with little or no credit history, keeping records for 12 months of paying bills on time is essential for mortgage loan approval. In fact, loan officers will appreciate receiving proof that you have paid a variety of accounts regularly and on time. Even if you do not have a credit history, or your credit report isn’t as good as it could be, this may enable you to get a mortgage.

The industry term for this is “thin credit.”

Some loan types, namely FHA and USDA, will accept alternative credit sources in order to establish proof of financial responsibility.

Alternative credit is unreported to the bureaus, but will still be verified and can be instrumental in a home loan approval.

Those with thin credit don’t usually have bad credit, but have just not had an opportunity to build enough traditional credit, such as bank/store credit cards, auto loans, etc.

Alternative Sources for Building Credit:

  • Rental History – Canceled checks and letter from property management company
  • Medical Bills – 12 months of statements from medical billing company showing paid as agreed
  • Utilities – power, gas, water, cable, cell phone
  • Auto Insurance
  • Health / Life Insurance – as long as it’s not auto-deducted from pay check

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