Credit Scores Explained Simply

Your credit score impacts many of your important life decisions. From your ability to open new credit cards, to taking out loans for cars and houses, your credit will be checked by many companies throughout your life.

Credit scores are mostly a mystery to the people who have them. Sure, you can check your credit score for free online, but when it comes to understanding your score, most consumers are in the dark.

In a perfect world, we would be taught in high school and college exactly what goes into your credit score, how to build credit, and how to avoid credit missteps. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world and many of us don’t find out what makes up a credit score until we’re in debt from student loans or credit cards.

In this article,  we’ll teach you what a credit score is, what it consists of, and how it is affected by your financial decisions. And, we’ll do it in an easy-to-understand way that skips all of the jargon and acronyms that are used by banks and lenders. Read on to learn everything you need to know about your credit score.

What is a credit score?

Simply put, your credit score tells lenders how safe it is to lend money to you, i.e., the likeliness of you paying back your debt to them. In the United States, credit scores are awarded by three major companies. Since they use slightly different methods of scoring your credit, your score can vary slightly between them. What they all have in common, however, is that they put together your score based on your financial history (or lack thereof). How do they come about your score?

Parts of a credit score

Think of an Olympic diver who just took a perfect dive. The judges off to the side are going to score her on a few different factors: her approach, her flight, and her entry into the water. They’ll award her a number based on her dive and then those numbers are averaged to give her a score.

Credit is scored in a similar way. You aren’t judged just based on your payments or just based on how long you’ve had a credit card. Rather, you’re judged based on a combination of five main things. For your FICO score (the score used by the majority of banks and lenders) those are:

  • 35% – payment history
  • 30% – current debt
  • 15% – how long you’ve had credit
  • 10% – types of credit
  • 10% – new credit

As you can see, the most important factors that make up your credit score revolve around how much you owe and if you pay your bills on time. Having high amounts of debt or credit cards that are maxed out (meaning you hit the spending limit), your score can be lowered. Similarly, your score can be lowered every time you miss a bill payment. However, if you do miss a payment and your score is lowered, it can be recovered by making on-time payments.

Your credit score is also influenced by the length of your credit history (15%): when you opened your first credit card or took out your first loan. The longer you’ve been making on-time payments the better.

The last two factors that make up your score are the types of credit you have (10%) and new credit (10%). Having many different types of credit (home loan, credit card, student loan, auto loan, etc.) will improve your score so long as you’re making on-time payments. However, opening up new credit rapidly is a red flag for lenders that you might be in financial trouble, hurting your score.

 

 

How to Get Approved for a Mortgage When You’re Self-Employed

Being self-employed comes with a lot of perks. Self-employed workers often have the freedom to set their own schedule, work from home, and take breaks whenever they feel like it. They also have the ability to write things off as business expenses on their taxes.

When it comes to buying a home, this last perk can become a huge problem. If you own your own business or work as a freelancer, odds are you’ll be deducting things from your taxes that the average employee doesn’t: travel expenses, advertising, licensing, equipment, repairs, or even rent for your office. When tax season rolls around, all of these deductions feel like a godsend. But if you plan on buying a home, all of these costs will appear as negative income.

For people who spend a lot of money on their business or freelancing, it could do a lot of damage to your apparent income when lenders take a look at your finances. However, you do have options when it comes to getting approved for a mortgage that is to your liking. In this article, we’ll cover some tips on how to apply for a mortgage when you’re self employed to give yourself the best chance of approval.

Carefully document your income

When you sit down with a lender and hand them your proof if income, you want to make it as obvious as possible that you’re earning money in a reliable and predictable way. Lenders will want to see multiple documents that can help paint a better picture of your income and finances, including:

  • Bank statements
  • Schedule C tax forms
  • Profit and loss tax forms
  • Completed tax returns
  • Credit score (they will run a credit check)

Separate your business and personal finances

If you own your own business, you likely have business banking accounts you use for expenses and invoices. But freelancers and contract workers often simplify things by just using their personal checking and savings accounts for income.

To make things clear for lenders, you should put your income and business expenses into a separate business account. Not only will this make it easier for lenders to quantify your income, but they can also use this information to see that your expenses are for helping your business rather than personal spending.

Timing is everything

There are a number of factors that go into choosing the right time to apply for a mortgage. Being self-employed only complicates the matter since your income might not be as steady as your average wage worker. You’ll want to commit to a mortgage at a time when you’ve had at least two consecutive years of good, reliable income. You’ll need to prove this with the aforementioned documents (bank statements, tax forms, etc.).

Part of this planning could be to avoid large business expenses in the two years leading up to your mortgage application. This isn’t always possible, of course, but it could be enough to boost your apparent income to get you approved for a better loan.

Seek specialized lenders

Some lenders are aware that there is a large portion of the country made up of self-employed workers and small business owners. They go out of their way to work with people who are self-employed so they can give them fair deals on their mortgages. To find specialized lenders, you’ll have to do some research online, but it could make all the difference when it comes to getting approved for the loan you’re looking for.

How To Speed Up The FHA Loan Process

When you’re ready to buy a home, there’s an anxious excitement that’s within you, making you feel like a small child on Christmas night. One question that is probably burned in your mind throughout the home search process is, “How long is this going to take?” 

If you’re a first-time home buyer, you’ll likely be using some programs through the Federal Housing Administration, also known as the FHA. With any kind of home loan, there’s many variables that can affect how long the process will take. This can be due to many factors including the seller’s circumstances and the nature of your loan. 

When you’re securing a home loan backed by the FHA, you may wonder how long it’s going to take for the entire process to finish from beginning to end. 

Variables That Affect The Loan Process

Underwriting

This is one of the variables that can fluctuate the most in the home loan process. Once you have found the home that you love, the lending process can take a few weeks beyond the point where you sign a contract. This part could entail many different steps that may become hurdles for you as a borrower. Your loan officer can also have an impact on the length of the process. Some loan people are just faster than others! 

Keep in mind that you can’t close on an FHA loan until you get through the underwriting process. In the underwriting process for an FHA loan, it will be assured that you meet all of the criteria necessary for securing the loan, such as the standards that have been established by the HUD (Department Of Housing and Urban Development).      

Closing On An FHA Loan

While it’s difficult to say the exact amount of time that it will take for a loan to process, there’s some things you can do ahead of time to prepare. If you apply for an FHA loan before you have even found a home, you’ll expedite the process a bit. If you have been pre-approved prior to making an offer on a home, you’ll likely be in a better position than if you haven’t yet met with a lender. This will also make the underwriting process move a bit faster for you, provided there aren’t any major red flags on your paperwork.  

FHA Appraisals

FHA appraisals do differ a bit from appraisals for a home with a more conventional loan. With an FHA appraisal, the appraiser must look for things in two main areas including any health and safety issues and determine the market value of the property as well. This process will most likely only take a few days. Part of the appraisal process may include the appraiser looking at similar properties in the area in order to get a bit of a comparison on the value of the property. 

Can You Speed It Up?

If you have everything in order before you even decide that you’re ready to go on the house hunt, you’ll discover that the process of securing an FHA loan will be a bit smoother. Talk to a lender before you start the process so you can familiarize yourself with the requirements. Once you can present the lender with the right documents, they’ll be able to do their job with little intervention on your part.

Thinking about Refinancing Your Home

With mortgage rates at all time lows, you might be wondering if you should be considering refinancing your home. While it may seem like a great thing to do, there are a few things to consider before you decide.

An obvious reason for refinancing to a lower interest rate is the monthly, and even more importantly the long term, savings you will get. Depending on the decrease in interest rate and the amount of the loan, you could see a savings of at least $50/month or $600/year or $6000/10 years. Refinancing to a shorter term loan can also help save on the interest you pay over the life of the loan so if you can afford a 15 year mortgage the benefits outweigh that of a 30 year.

Some things to consider –

If you have owned your home for a long time, your monthly payments are going more towards the principal of the loan, not the interest. Refinancing would cause you revert back to monthly payments of more interest than principal, losing the equity that you have built in your home.

You may be charged for an appraisal on your home which can be around $500. The bank will want to make sure that you are refinancing for an amount your home is worth so some out of pocket expense is required.

If you plan on moving in the next few years, refinancing may not be worth the amount you will pay in closing costs. There are several refinancing calculators available on the web including at http://www.zillow.com/mortgage-calculator/refinance-calculator/ and http://www.smartmoney.com/calculator/real-estate/should-i-refinance-my-mortgage-1302835660427/.

No matter what you choose, being fully informed of all the options, costs and advantages/disadvantages is key to a successful refinance. Make sure you talk with you current lender, as well as other lenders to get the best refinance possible.