Category Archives: Mortgage

3 Best & worst ways to qualify for a better mortgage

This post originally appeared June 28, 2018 on as “Should I pay off or close my credit card to get a better mortgage?

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
Can you pay off your credit card to get a better mortgage? Or close the credit card to get a better mortgage? Which one is the best idea? – Marguerite

Dear Marguerite,
If by “better mortgage” you mean one with a lower APR, the best of your two ideas will soon be quite obvious when we consider some credit scoring details.

There are other factors besides credit scores that affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage: debt-to-income ratio, the amount of money you have in the bank and length of time at your job, to name a few. Yet, with these and other such elements firmly in place, you can make that mortgage more affordable simply by raising your score.

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Open a secured card to raise your score? Good or bad idea?

This post originally appeared May 24, 2018 on as “Raising score for mortgage purposes? Don’t open new cards!

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
My husband and I are in the process of purchasing a home. Our lender is using a credit simulator to raise our credit score.

He provided an action plan, which included paying off three credit cards each and getting a new secured card. We have completed the action plan provided within 30 days after receiving it.

My question is, can a secured card raise your score at least 40 points in 30 days?

The limit on the card is $200. I was told to use it one time and leave a $10 balance. I spent $25 on it thus far.

We desperately need our score higher in 45 days. Do you have any other suggestions? – Dionne

Dear Dionne,
The first of your two action items – paying off three cards – is a great one. The second one, opening a secured credit card, might just be one of the worst recommendations for someone in your situation I’ve heard in a long time.

So, let’s have a look at both pieces of your action plan, followed by a better way to get as many of those badly needed score points as you can in a short time.

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Q&A: Mortgage shopping, forbearance, hard & soft inquiries

From a Speaking of Credit reader….

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
What is the best way to shop for a mortgage without getting too many hard inquiries?
Before you start, get your reports and FICO mortgage scores (Experian 2, Equifax 5 and TransUnion 4) from — the exact same scores most mortgage lenders use that are only available there. They will cost you about $60, but the inquiries won’t affect your score and you’ll know where you stand with lenders.

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Note to self: when time to try for refi, pay bills on time

This post originally appeared September 14, 2017 on as “‘Q&A: Applying for house refinance soon? Don’t miss card payments

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I have two credit cards – Kohl’s and JC Penney. I missed making the payment for two months in a row. Just never saw the bill and spaced out. I know, bad.

They sent the late payment notifications to the credit bureaus, which brought my credit score down. I paid the accounts off. How long will it take before my credit score will go back up?

I am also trying to refinance my house. Do you think this will cause them to deny the loan? I was working on getting it up. I had it up to 670; now it’s like 659. – Maryann

Dear Maryann,
At least you’re not offering any tired excuses when admitting to having simply “spaced out” on those two card payments for a couple of months. Who hasn’t done something similar and let a payment or two slip through the cracks at one time or another? Now it’s time to clean up the mess and get back on track toward a higher credit score.

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How a ‘deed in lieu of foreclosure’ can impact your score

This post originally appeared March 23, 2017 on as “‘Deed in lieu: How it lowers your credit score, and what to do about it

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I’m going through a deed in lieu, which is soon to go through. My credit score is approximately 605, give or take. I have bad marks on my credit report due to no payments on my mortgage. How will the deed in lieu affect my credit score? And for how long? – Darrell

Dear Darrell,
As the name implies, a deed in lieu of foreclosure (commonly known as deed in lieu) is an agreement that allows a homeowner to avoid foreclosure by voluntarily “deeding” – a fancy word for “turning” – over the property to the mortgage lender in return for being released from all obligations under the mortgage. The lender then sells the property to recoup the monetary loss, and the borrower is in the clear, both debt- and score-wise.

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Does mortgage preapproval affect credit score?

This post originally appeared August 18, 2016 on as “How preapproved offers affect credit

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I have been preapproved for a $40,000 mortgage. I have decided not to purchase a home at this time. Is it a bad idea to apply for a Costco credit card before I notify my bank that I will not be using the preapproval at this time? Or is it better to wait until I don’t have a preapproval on record. I have a 730 credit score. – Roseann

Dear Roseann,
Credit score-wise, whether you do or don’t notify the bank of your intention to forgo the preapproved mortgage loan at this time, you should have little to worry about. That’s because, in a sense, any score damage would have already been done by inquiries at the time of the preapproval credit checks. Here, we’ll take a look at how the two most common types of preapprovals – mortgage and credit card – affect credit scores.

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Need a quick 10 points to close on new house

This post originally appeared June 2, 2016 on as “Just 10 credit score points shy of a mortgage

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
Hi. I’m 10 points away from closing on my new house. I have an old unpaid card that I can pay in full, but they refuse to remove it from my credit reports. If I still pay it off will it help or hurt me? – Melissa

Dear Melissa,
It looks like you’ve made a nice attempt at a “pay for delete,” whereby you offered to pay that old unpaid debt in exchange for the creditor or collection agency removing it from your credit reports. Yet, despite your likely frustration at their refusal, the card company or collection agency may have actually done you a favor by rejecting your request.

You’re probably thinking common sense would dictate that paying off an old unpaid debt couldn’t help but raise your score by at least a little, maybe enough for you to get those last 10 points and qualify for a mortgage. But credit scoring doesn’t rely on common sense. Sometimes paying off an old debt can help your score, however, there are no guarantees that doing so, or even getting the account removed entirely from your credit report, will provide you with those 10 points needed to close.

I’ll explain why this is so and suggest a couple of alternate ways to increase your chances of getting those 10 points as quickly as possible.

Account balances, credit limits, payments and any other dollar amounts on a credit report are only considered by the score when reported to the credit bureau within a recent timeframe. Otherwise, once the creditor or collection agency has stopped the monthly reporting of an account after a number of years – the most likely scenario with your old unpaid debt – that information is then ignored by the score for any credit utilization (balance/limit ratio) or other calculations that consider how much you owe.

For this reason, the amount of that unpaid debt may no longer be causing any damage to your score, only the fact that it has not been paid as agreed. And if that’s the case, then paying it off won’t earn you any additional points, though retiring that balance could prevent a future collection if the debt hasn’t already been assigned to a collection agency. It couls also prevent a court judgment if a lawsuit is brought against you for payment.

Where older derogatory accounts like this one affect your score most is by way of the Payment History scoring category that makes up 35 percent of your score. Here, the score looks at past due accounts in three major ways (in order of importance):

  • Recency: How long has it been since the most recent delinquency?
  • Severity: How many months past due did the account fall behind?
  • Frequency: How many accounts on the credit report show late payments?

Recency, the length of time since your most recent delinquency on any account, is the best indicator of how well your score is recovering. And despite knowing nothing else about your credit, the fact that it’s an old debt tells us that it is not likely to be having nearly as much of an adverse effect on your score these days as it used to.

Further, if your credit report includes any additional, more recent problems in your accounts, that old unpaid debt takes on even less importance to the point that a payoff or deletion isn’t likely to provide much, if any, help at all.

Now that we know what won’t help your score, what will?

If you carry substantial balances on any of your credit cards, you could gain those 10 points relatively quickly by taking the funds you might have otherwise applied to that old unpaid debt and instead paying your credit card – not loan – balances down. Reducing credit utilization on your credit cards will have a big, positive impact on your score.

If available, have your mortgage broker or lender submit documentation of those reduced card balances via the the “rapid rescore” process, a service available to mortgage applicants in which account information is updated on your credit report and included in your score within a few days rather than the usual 30 days or more.

But what if the balances have already been paid down?

Regardless of how good or bad your credit score may be, some points can be earned simply thanks to the passage of time. This is where the length of credit history scoring category that makes up 15 percent of your score comes into play. An important scoring calculation within this category is the average age of accounts (total number of months since the open date for each account divided by the number of accounts), where the longer the average age, the more points for your score.

Since longer-held accounts tend to raise the average age, and newly opened ones can lower it, you’ll want to avoid opening any new cards or loans for the time being. By maximizing your average age and other length of credit history measurements along with paying down any card debt, you’ll stand the best chance of gaining those 10 points (or more) in time to close on that new house.

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3 score-raising ways to mortgage approval

This post originally appeared July 23, 2015 on as “Tips to boost a credit score enough to qualify for a mortgage.”

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
Hi, my husband and I are in a situation where we are now looking to buy a home. We have been approved for an FHA mortgage, however, he is a veteran and we are both trying to get approved for the VA loan. When our credit was last checked in May of 2015, my middle score was a 595 and his was a 611.

We were told to pay off all but $40 on a $300 credit card that was maxed out. In addition, we were told to add my name as an authorized user to the credit card to help improve my credit score. I was also told to use the credit card that I have and pay it off when the bill came so I did just that. Bought something for $100 and paid it when the bill came. Since I am 25 points away and my husband is 9 points away from qualifying for the VA loan, how likely is it that doing the things mentioned above that our credit score will improve to the numbers needed? — Dana

Dear Dana,
It sounds like you’re clearly on target toward obtaining that VA mortgage loan and are just a few points shy of qualifying. It also sounds as if you have received some good advice as to how best to obtain those points, though I have to confess to liking the first two suggestions a lot more than the third. I’ll tell you why.

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Can too much credit kill a mortgage?

This post originally appeared July 16, 2015 on as “Myth: too much available credit hurts home loan

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I have a lot of credit cards — about 10 when you count them all — and don’t carry any balances. I just like getting discounts and rewards. I would like to buy a house in the near future, and the mortgage broker I spoke to said he expects that to get the best rate, I should close several of the cards because that will increase my “mortgage credit score.” Having too much available credit counts against you, he said, because it means you could run up debt. Is there a separate mortgage credit score, and does it take points off for having a lot of available credit? In short, do I have too many credit cards?  — Smitty

Dear Smitty,
Good for you, paying off your cards each month and taking advantage of their discount and reward programs! One of the good things about already managing your credit so well is that you don’t really need to take any further advice — either from me or any mortgage brokers. But since you wrote, I’ll give you my two cents.

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Tread softly when a mortgage is at stake

This post originally appeared May 14, 2015 on as “Getting a mortgage? Pay debts, go easy on charging

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I am in the middle of my mortgage process. I have been preapproved and have a closing date set. With that said, will using my credit card(s) at this point have a negative effect when I close in a few weeks? I know my credit score has dropped a few points since I started the application process for the home loan with the inquiries and I have used my credit card since starting the homebuying process. — Dianna

Dear Dianna,
It’s good that you’re asking about the credit scoring impact of continuing to charge during the mortgage process. There can be some risks in doing so, which I’ll show you how to avoid. I’m also glad you mentioned mortgage inquiries as a possible cause of your lowered scores, as it gives me the opportunity to clear up some common confusion about the role of inquiries in the mortgage process.

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