Buying a Home with Bad Credit
This is the most confusing situation I’ve ever found myself in, and I am in need of assistance! I would like to be able to take out a mortgage within the next year, but I only have $650 saved, and I discovered I have multiple credit issues to fix.
I know my situation could be much more serious than it is, but I’m more than worried about it. It keeps me awake at night. Any input would be appreciated. Hopefully the following bits of information will help you help me.
(EDIT: Original reader question provided a great deal of credit and collection details. They are all excerpted with responses below.)
Is buying a home within the next year feasible? Where should I begin to repair my credit based upon the knowledge I have shared with you?
Thank you for all of the details you provided. Because you were so thorough with providing your situation and background, I am going to break out the different credit details you submitted, and quote them below in an effort to make this flow better for later readers. You have a lot going on with fixing your credit in order to get yourself in shape to buy a home next year.
I see the three primary concerns you have to address in order to get a mortgage loan approved as:
- Your debt to income ratio (DTI) impacting the dollar amount of the mortgage you can qualify for.
- Unresolved collections that are showing on your credit reports (some deleted by a credit repair company, but maybe not for long).
- Your credit scores. While they are lower than you want, this is the lowest priority given the details you shared, which I expand on below.
Spoiler alert… I do not think you are that far off from qualifying for a new home loan.
Hire a Credit Repair Company to Fix Your Credit
Anyone reading this site beyond a single article can see that I am a big fan of the DIY approach to debt and credit issues. I am not against hiring a credit repair company. I have had customers share great stories of working with credit repair organizations, and some who have gotten little to no results, but who knew credit repair was going to be a long shot anyway, as there was a bit of a stretch to disputing accuracy and completeness of the negatives that they needed removed.
In your question submission you said:
I’m working to repair my credit; however, I don’t really know where to begin. I first hired a credit repair company to the tune of $100 a month. Since then my credit scores have been bouncing all over the place and I suspect some of the items “removed” may have re-appeared. I have since stopped their services and have been concentrating on paying off debt before it reaches collections.
Keeping your focus on the debts you can keep from going into collection, or that you can pay off for less and get to update as zero balance owed, is where I would want to focus my energy too.
Paying a credit repair company is something I would reserve for when you have only settled and paid accounts to contend with. Trying to challenge legitimate unpaid collections on your credit reports is an uphill battle. And, it is the unpaid collections that have, in my experiences, more of a tendency to reappear, than paid or settled collections.
Resolving Unpaid Collections to Get your Loan Approved
Before the economy hit the skids several years ago, I had customers with unpaid bills on their credit reports that could still get approved for home loans or a refinance. Underwriters could somehow look beyond debts that, while still owed, were passed the SOL to be sued. That just is not happening any more.
In part of the background detail you submitted, you said:
Thinking my credit was fixed, I visited a mortgage broker. The mortgage broker I visited with said I would absolutely NOT qualify for a mortgage (FHA) until all the collections were paid, but I’ve been told by other people that paying them won’t do a thing for my credit score. I just have to wait until they fall off, they say. That might be 2019!! Some folks even told me to file bankruptcy, which made me guffaw.
There is a-lot-a right in what you are being told, but the conclusion of it all should be far more optimistic for you reaching your goals than it sounds. You cannot realistically expect to get a home loan approved these days if you have unresolved collection accounts showing on your credit report. And while paying the collections may not do anything to improve your credit score right away (it can given some time), paying or negotiating lower lump sum settlements can clear the way for your home loan to go through.
You do not have to wait for collections to fall off your credit to get a home loan, but you do want to take care of unpaid debts so that they update to show resolved on your credit reports. Paying debt collectors is not necessarily credit score centric when it comes to reaching your home ownership goal.
Oh… and I should point out that even a chapter 7 bankruptcy on your credit report does not prevent you from getting a home loan, but it generally will keep you out of the market for the first 2 years after you file.
Debt to Income Ratios are a Big Deal for Home Loans
Your Debt to income (DTI) can hold you back from getting a home loan just as much as unpaid bills and low credit scores. You said:
The mortgage broker also mentioned that my debt to income (because of my student loans) may disqualify me for a mortgage altogether (get an education, they said). I do have stable job history (5 years with main job ($65K) and 3 years with part-time job ($6-10K).
Your DTI can impact the size or location of the home you can afford to buy with the minimum amount of money down, or could mean you have to come to the table with a bigger down payment.
So far, of all that you have shared, it is your DTI that could mean waiting a little longer than next year to buy a home. And that would be so that you have more time to pay down debts, and save up money to pay down the size of loan you will need.
Low Credit Scores can be Good Enough to get a Mortgage
Some of the largest national banks set 620 as the low score they will accept to do FHA loans. In limited situations, you can have an even lower score than 620 for FHA loans, but they do not happen often, and few banks will process them under the 620 minimum.
In your questions submission, you said:
She also said I need to have a SOLID 640+ credit rating. In 2013, my scores were approximately 480-540. Recently, they have been bouncing between 612-687. I plan on spending no less than $500-1000 a month to repair my credit and begin saving.
My goal is to have a solid 700+ and buy a house with a decent interest percentage by this time next year (2016. I want my own stinkin’ home before I turn 40 next year); however, I’m not sure that I will be able to realistically achieve that goal…much less ever own a home.
Your lowest credit score is within a few points of qualifying for FHA financing with many major lenders. When you get to number crunching time and you have a 620 credit score or higher, I am optimistic that FICO will not hold you back.
You have many options for shopping your mortgage rate and lender. Do not feel stuck with someone, even if you like them. If the loan officer or mortgage broker only processes FHA loans at a 640 minimum, and you are just under that, you can take your business elsewhere.
If you are able to obtain a 700 or higher credit score to get a competitive rate on your loan, that will be great. But know that you can get good rates through FHA with a lower credit score.
Your Good Credit History can Help Offset the Bad
The work I do has shown me that someone who can maintain, or add positive accounts to their credit reports, will be able to rebuild and recover from collections and financial setbacks faster than someone who had virtually all of their accounts go to collections.
You posted your recent and positive credit history as:
- $22000 car loan. $350 month. Current. Never late. One year old. (My first “new” car—3 years old or less–ever).
- 0 balance GE Money/Synhcrony card. Never late. 3 years old. Required a co-signer for this first credit card ever.
- $221 balance with a $1400 limit Discover card. 5 months old. Never late. My first all by myself credit card.
- $450 balance with a $3000 limit Mastercard. 2 months old. Never late. My second all by myself credit card. We’re finally getting somewhere.
- 0 balance with a $6000 limit installation loan furniture company. 1.5 years old. Never late. Didn’t pay a dime of interest either.
It goes without saying that you want to keep those accounts in good standing between now and when you pick out and get approved for the home you will own.
For the credit cards, keep your credit utilization below 30 percent, or better still, under 10 percent come home loan shopping time.
All of your regular monthly car payments you make between now, and reaching your goal, will help to bring your debt to income ration closer to what you need for a qualified mortgage.
Collection Accounts Holding you Back from Approval for a Home Loan
I have no doubt that some of the collection accounts on your credit reports must be dealt with. Your mortgage broker was spot on. I am going to quote each item individually, with my feedback and questions underneath that.
Negative account history:
$2376 in 6 medical collections from 2012. All are placed with a law firm collection agency (which sued me years ago for medical debt…twice…they scare me). I recently began paying them $75 a month. I’ll thank the credit repair service for alerting them to my location and contact information.
I hear you on the unintended consequences of hiring a credit repair company. Debt collection law firms are not a patient lot. You mentioned your plan of committing 500 to 1,000 dollars a month to resolve collection accounts and improving your credit. This account should be a priority.
- It will take 31 months to pay this at that low of a monthly amount. You have to accelerate your payments to meet your goals.
- You already do not trust these guys based on past experiences. You’re scared, and paying this off quickly will help relieve that.
- I do not trust collection attorneys not to sue, even though you are making payments. They may be able to earn more in fees by suing you, so why not? Putting this one behind you quickly, even if they will not accept a lower lump sum offer, makes sense.
$890 medical collection at local collection agency. From 2013. Was unaware of the bill until recently. Again, thanks credit repair service.
If you can still connect with the original medical service provider, ask if you can come in and pay them directly. If you can do that, and it is the collection agency showing on your credit, you may be able to get this one removed with a later dispute.
Getting this off your credit reports is not critical. A paid medical collection has less of sting to your score these days.
$694 Car repossession with original creditor Progressive Finance in 2012.
You can likely settle this for half or less the balance owed. Priority on this one would be behind the other 2 collections.
$984 gym membership sent to Millennium Financial collection agency in 2012. Let’s hear it for the credit repair service!
Similar to the repossession collection balance, this one could be settlement for half or less, and lower on the priority list.
$591 charged-off bank account showing as a bad check (see recently removed below) with original banking creditor in 2012. Contacted and attempted a settlement. They flat out denied me and advised I pay the balance in full or make payments.
Pay this off at the earliest opportunity, but after the medical debts above. This could create more than just collection and credit reporting issues for you. This type of thing can keep you from opening new bank accounts.
Problem Bills Related to Your DTI Today
You provided some details about problematic accounts. I do not interpret them that way per say. They are current expense realities, and are more related to your qualifying for a mortgage based on your DTI.
You said you have:
3-6 inquiries within the last 2 years depending on reporting agency.
You have the positive credit trade lines and some of the diversity of credit you need. I would not be looking to apply for anything additionally from now until when you get into your new home.
A few hard credit inquiries are normal, and the amount you have today is not out of the ordinary. If these are affecting your score right now, it is only marginally. When the time comes to submit your loan application the older inquiries may have been deleted.
$140,000 in 4 consolidated student loans. Each with a 90-120 day late on them from 2012. I am wrapping up my final degree this summer, and I will most likely qualify for income based repayment &/or consolidation. This will make my loans roughly $400-500 a month and hopefully remove the late payments.
$17000 in interest from above loans.
Congratulations on nearing completion of your degree! If you get these loans consolidated, or can get approved for an IBR plan, it will help.
Your student loan late pays from 2012 on your reports may not impede your mortgage loan if they are still on your reports come approval time.
$466 current hospital bill I pay $100 month on to the hospital, and it is NOT in collections.
$358 anesthesiologist bill I pay $50 a month on that I just found out got turned over to collector even though I have paid it every month since March 14 except October then resumed in November. Original creditor turned it over to TransWorld one week before I paid it in November, but they say they won’t put it on my report since I religiously pay. I asked for a settlement of half. Waiting on a response from them.
$420 therapy bill for child. Pay $40 month on it regularly.
I would just continue to pay these three bills on schedule. If/when cash frees up in coming months, pay them off quicker than you had arranged.
Old Collection Accounts Deleted from Credit Reports can Reappear
And we come full circle back to credit repair and some of the bad credit and collections having been deleted. There is a very real problem with getting negative stuff removed from your credit, only to have something come back on later. Some of the accounts you listed as having been deleted are a source for worry, while others should not be a concern.
You listed the following accounts as having been recently removed from your credit reports:
$1100 payday loan defaulted in 2012.
$1010 payday loan defaulted in 2012.
$550 payday loan defaulted in 2012. Settled in November 2014.
$108 DVD club defaulted on in 2006.
$275 hospital bill from 2007.
The movie club and the hospital bill are now too old to legitimately be reporting. You will obviously be monitoring your credit moving forward, so keep an eye out, but I doubt these old collections will be a problem.
The payday loans could be something to worry about reappearing on your credit. You have to keep an eye out for those as well. If one of the unresolved ones do pop back on your credit, you can look to negotiate settlements on those so that they are reporting a zero balance owed.
I took a different approach to responding to your questions. I have not done that on this site before, but very few readers offer up the details you did, so thanks!
As I mentioned above, your debt to income is likely to be the larger concern of everything you listed. That is the one thing I see that could result in your needing a bit more time than 2016, but that will also depend on the price of the home you are looking to purchase. As of today, what percentage of your take home pay goes to pay your rent?
You can post additional questions in the comments below and we can continue the discussion.
Anyone working on fixing their credit reports, or trying to raise their credit scores to get approved for a mortgage, is welcome to participate in the comments below.