Let’s Separate Fact From Fiction Regarding Credit Scores & Home Mortgages

By JIM SMITH, Realtor

The ink may barely be dry on your 2020 financial resolutions, and already there is great news for those of you who have resolved to become first time homeowners or to increase your real estate holdings in 2020. Both the National Association of Realtors and the Mortgage Bankers Association predict that interest rates will remain at record lows (at or below 4.0%) for most of 2020. 

Of course, interest rates directly affect your home buying power, and you are probably aware that credit scores also directly impact the interest rates offered to you by mortgage lenders. What we don’t always know, however, are the specific actions that will hurt or improve our credit scores. 

So, let’s separate fact from fiction. I thank Jaxzann Riggs of The Mortgage Network for helping me with debunking the following fictions.

Fiction: Shopping for a mortgage lender and allowing more than one lender to review your credit report will hurt your credit score.

Not true. When multiple inquiries appear on your report from mortgage lenders, the scoring models assume that you are shopping for a home loan. Most scoring models consider inquiries from mortgage lenders that occur within a 15 to 45-day period to be one inquiry, having little or no impact on your score. Regularly monitoring your own credit score online prior to applying for a home loan is an effective way to identify any errors contained in your credit file and to obtain a sense of the score that lenders will be using when preparing credit offers for you. It is important to note however, that there are in excess of 20 different scoring models and that online “consumer” reports typically have a higher score than your mortgage lender sees when pulling a “tri-merged residential mortgage” report. Most lenders are willing to start the prequalifying process with a copy of your online report but will require their own report prior to issuing a preliminary loan commitment which is normally required at the time that you write an offer to purchase a property.

Fiction: Opening a new credit card account will increase your score.

The average age of your open accounts impacts your score, and since opening one or more new accounts brings the average age of your total credit profile down, opening new accounts is normally not wise. The exception to this is the prospective first-time buyer who has little or no credit. Obtaining a retail or major credit card helps to build credit “depth.”

Fiction: Carrying a balance helps to boost your score.

Maintaining a balance on your cards does not improve your score, it simply costs you more in interest fees. Utilization of available credit is an important factor in determining your score. If you are unable to pay your credit cards in full each month, keeping the balance on the card below 30% of the credit limit is best. Another strategy to improve “utilization” is to request that your card issuer increase your credit limit. By increasing your available credit line but not your balance, you instantly lower your utilization.

Fiction: Closing accounts that you don’t use will boost your score.

Rather than closing a high interest rate card that you no longer use, request that the creditor reduce the rate and/or occasionally use and then promptly repay the card in full. Closing accounts reduces the overage credit available to you, which negatively impacts both “utilization” and “duration” of your credit profile.

    Questions? Just call Jaxzann Riggs of The Mortgage Network at 303-990-2992.

Author: Golden Real Estate, Inc.

Golden Real Estate is a prominent member of the Denver/Jefferson County real estate scene. Based in Golden, we service both Denver and Jeffco, representing both buyers and sellers. We're well known for Broker Jim Smith's weekly "Real Estate Today" column published in the Denver and Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section each Thursday. The column also appears in several weekly newspapers and is archived at www.JimSmithColumns.com. We have nine agents, all of whom are Realtors and EcoBrokers. Our office is Net Zero Energy since December 2017, and several of us drive electrics cars. Known for our sustainable practices, we accept polystyrene (aka "Styrofoam") for recycling, keeping 200 cubic yards per year out of area landfills.

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