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Spot and Fix Credit Report Mistakes

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It’s one of the most crucial indicators of your financial health — and for one in five people, it’s got an error on it.

So if you haven’t checked your credit report lately, experts say now is the time to do it.

As the coronavirus pandemic batters the economy, lenders are raising their standards to protect themselves. So having a bad credit report right now could lock you out of a debt management opportunity, like refinancing your mortgage or getting a personal loan. It could also ding your future prospects when you’re ready to buy a home or open a high-tier credit card.  

“It shouldn’t take a pandemic for people to get into good money habits, which includes regularly checking your credit. It’s always important to know what’s on your credit report. Right now, there might be an emphasis or some urgency to really check it out,” says Douglas Boneparth, president and founder of the New York–based financial planning firm Bone Fide Wealth. “That’s predicated on this notion that people are looking for ways to access liquidity and cash, should the worst happen like having a loss in income.”

Recognizing this, the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are now offering free weekly credit reports online, making it easier than ever to check and make sure your credit report is accurate. 

It’s worth taking 15 minutes to do it: One in five people are likely to find at least one mistake on their credit report, according to a study published by the Federal Trade Commission. And recent data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shows that credit reporting is the agency’s most common complaint, with the majority (61%) saying the complaint was due to incorrect information on their credit reports. Companies closed 72% of complaints with an explanation, 18% with non-cash relief, and 0.3% with cash relief within 2018. 

Here’s what you need to know about checking your report — and if you find something’s off, use our email template below to fire off a complaint. 

What Are Credit Reports and How Do They Work?

Your credit report tells your financial story to lenders, and it allows them to make informed decisions about your creditworthiness. 

“Your credit report is like a report card that grades how well you manage your financial obligations,” says Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. 

There are three credit bureaus that publish these reports: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. These bureaus report information from your lenders such as payment history, balanced owed, and whether you’re paying on time. If you pay your bills on time and keep your balances low, you’ll have a higher score. Conversely, if you miss payments regularly, you’ll have a lower credit score. 

Potential lenders use one or multiple reports to verify your information. They’ll also use this information to determine if you’re eligible for financing and if you are what your terms should be. Therefore, monitoring your credit reports is an essential way to stay on top of the information presented to prospective lenders. 

How Often Should I Check My Credit Reports?

Normally, experts advise checking your report at least once or twice a year as a good practice. That’s how often the three credit bureaus typically offer free reports. Checking your own credit is considered a soft inquiry, which means it will not hurt your credit score.

But the pandemic has created a new normal, and all three major credit bureaus are allowing people to check their credit reports on a weekly basis until April 2021. Deciding when to check your credit can be puzzling, but it ultimately comes down to how confident you are about your credit history. For some, checking it once a year is enough, while others may prefer to check it weekly because of the pandemic. 

“At times like these, you should anticipate things perhaps falling through the cracks,” Boneparth says.

Boneparth says checking your credit report every week may be a little excessive, but that it could also be a useful tool for anyone who has suspended or deferred payments to make sure lenders are marking their credit history correctly. 

“Banks are allowing customers to either defer or reduce payments, and the concern may be that those payments would be marked as delinquent instead of current,” Boneparth says. “For individuals who are taking their financial institutions up on whatever offers to do that, it could make sense to more regularly check your credit report to make sure everything is the way it should be.”

During normal circumstances, Boneparth recommends consumers check all of their credit reports at least once or twice a year. There’s also the option to pull one report every four months by rotating the agencies.

By doing this, you can stay on top of your information and it allows you to promptly address any inconsistencies found on your credit reports. 

All Credit Reports Don’t Present the Same Information 

When glancing at each report, it’s important to double-check the accuracy of your personal information.

“If they have your income lower than what it’s supposed to be, then it could impact your credit, especially if you carry higher balances on your credit cards,” says Michael Zahaby, adjunct of finance for Florida Gulf Coast University. Along with verifying personal information, you’ll want to make sure each of your lenders properly reports your payment history and balance information. 

Moreover, when checking your credit, there’s a section for inquiries. This is where if you applied for a loan the inquiry shows up on one or more of your reports. 

It’s important to note the information presented on all three of your credit reports might not be consistent with each other. Some lenders might only report to TransUnion while others report to Equifax. So, don’t be surprised if one account doesn’t show up on all three reports. 

Another way things could be confusing is when you apply for a retail credit card. The inquiry comes up as the bank issuing the card, not the retailer (i.e., Synchrony Bank for Amazon) so don’t be alarmed when this happens. However, if you noticed any errors in one of your credit reports, it’s important to address them right away.

How Do I Dispute Incorrect Information on My Credit Reports?

You may be wondering where to start when it comes to disputing any mistakes on your credit report. First and foremost, you should immediately contact the credit bureau(s) about your concerns through a traditional letter or email. Without proper notice, credit bureaus won’t know to correct any errors on your credit report. 

“It’s not illegal for the credit bureaus to report inaccurate information, but it’s illegal for them not to correct it when given proper notice,” says Rob Harrer, an attorney for the Chicago Consumer Law Center.

It’s important to tell your credit bureau in writing what information you believe is inaccurate. The Federal Trade Commission provides a comprehensive example of what to include in a dispute letter to a credit bureau.

When making a dispute, you’ll also want to include any documentation supporting your claim. For example, if a creditor reports you didn’t make a payment but you did, then you can show proof by furnishing a bank statement.

“At the end of the dispute letter, state exactly what you want done in a concise sentence,” Harrer says. “For example, ‘Please perform a reasonable investigation and delete the account from my report.’ I like putting in the “reasonable investigation” because that’s the language in the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) so if it ever goes to court there’s less room to monkey around.”

If you’re stuck on what to say in a dispute letter to a credit bureau, this email template will help you spot and fix mistakes in your credit report.

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[Your City, State, Zip Code]

[Date]

Complaint Department
[Company Name]
[Street Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]

To Whom It May Concern:

I hope this [email or letter] finds you well. I am reaching out to dispute the following information on my credit report from [give the name of the credit reporting company whose report has incorrect information]. Given that, the items I am disputing are circled on an attached copy of my credit report.

[Numerically list the items you intend to dispute]
Item 1: This item [identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.] is [inaccurate or incomplete] because [describe why]. I am requesting that the item be removed [or request specific change] to correct the inaccurate information.

[Repeat the paragraph above if they are more items to dispute]

I have enclosed copies of [any enclosed documentation, such as financial records or court documents] supporting my claim. Please perform a reasonable investigation and [delete or correct] the disputed item(s) from my report as soon as possible.

Sincerely, 
[Your Name]

Enclosures: [List what you are enclosing]

Zahaby recommends confirming everything in writing, including phone conversations with a lender and to jot down names of any representatives you speak to about the dispute. With these things in mind, here’s a closer look at how each bureau handles disputes:

Experian

Experian allows you to file a dispute online or via mail. When filing a dispute, you’ll want to provide the following information:

  • Personal information such as name, address, and Social Security number
  • A copy of a government-issued ID
  • A copy of a utility bill (to verify current address)
  • The lender, account number, and reason for dispute

Equifax

Equifax also allows you to file disputes online or through the mail. Similar to Experian, you’ll want to provide your personal information, a copy of a government-issued I.D., and the lender, account number, and reason for the dispute in writing. 

TransUnion

TransUnion also allows you to file a dispute online or through the mail. Similar to the other two, you’ll want to present your case in writing with all the supporting documents, as well as a copy of your government I.D. to expedite processing. 

Pro Tip

Take 15 minutes to run your credit report (for free!) at the three major credit bureaus, and use the template above to report any mistakes.

What Happens After I File a Dispute?

Once you file all the paperwork, the credit bureau(s) reach out to the lender with the dispute to have them verify the information they reported. If they find they made a mistake in reporting, they usually have to correct it within 30 days. However, the CFPB says the usual waiting period may be extended to 45 days as a result of the pandemic, as long as “the consumer provides additional information that is relevant to the investigation during the 30-day period.” Once they do, the credit bureau sends you a corrected report. 

Why Is It Important to Check My Credit Reports?

Your credit report is an important measure of your financial health — the main thing standing between you and getting approved for a credit card or loan. That’s why it’s important to be proactive and check up on your credit reports often. The pandemic has led credit bureaus to temporarily loosen their normal standards and make credit reports more accessible, with the option to access it as often as once a week for the next year.

By doing this, you can stay on top of important financial information that affects many parts of your life. And if you’re worried you’ll impact your credit by checking it often, don’t be. Checking your own credit score is considered a soft inquiry, which means it won’t raise any red flags on your credit history. 

Catching errors early on your credit report will save you a lot of headaches when it comes time to make large purchases, such as buying a home or a car. 

“It’s always better to come at anything in your financial life from a proactive position rather than a reactive position,” Boneparth says. 

By following best practices when filing disputes, you’ll significantly better your chances of having incorrect information removed from your credit report. You may not need credit today, but making sure your credit report is accurate will make your life easier down the line — and as long as you’re checking your report through the three credit bureaus, doing so won’t hurt your credit. In fact, it can only help. 

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Bad Credit

Can You Return a Financed Car Back to the Dealer?

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Returning a vehicle to a dealership isn’t as simple as returning a shirt that didn’t fit right. If you’re in a position where you need to return a car, you may have a few options, but your loan balance plays a key role in what you can do.

Returning a Car to a Dealer

Can You Return a Financed Car Back to the Dealer?The hard truth is that most auto dealers aren’t going to let you return a vehicle that you’re financing. Some dealerships have a return policy – sometimes around a seven-day guarantee when you’re financing a car sight-unseen without a test drive – but most don’t offer one. It won’t hurt to give your dealer a call and ask, but most franchised dealerships don’t have return policies.

When you finance a vehicle with an auto lender, the car’s title has a lien on it, which names the lender as the lienholder. This gives them ownership rights, and prevents you from transferring ownership of the vehicle until the loan is paid off.

Once the loan is complete, the lien is removed and the car is yours. If you need to get out of the auto loan before your loan term is over, you can sell the vehicle privately and pay off the car loan. Selling the vehicle to a private party may get you enough money to remove the lien and relinquish yourself from the auto loan pretty easily. You wouldn’t be returning the car to the dealer, but you can get out of the auto loan this way.

If you try to sell it back to the dealership, they may not offer you enough money to cover your loan balance. Trade-in values are typically less than the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle.

If you find yourself in a negative equity position where you owe more on the car loan than the vehicle is worth, you may have a more difficult time selling the car early to repay your loan. However, if you’re in this position, you still may have a way to get out of the loan and get into another vehicle.

Rolling Over Your Auto Loan

Some auto lenders offer loan rollovers. Put simply, you add the remaining balance of your current car loan onto your next one.

It works like this:

You have an auto loan with a balance of $15,000, and you want another vehicle that’s selling for $16,000. You sell your car back to the dealer because it’s not the right fit for you, but the dealership only offers you $10,000 for it. That $5,000 still needs to be paid, so it’s added to your next auto loan balance of $16,000, turning the balance into a grand total of $21,000.

While you got to sell your vehicle and get into something else, you’re starting out a loan with a lot of negative equity. If you need to sell this next car for something else, it means you may have to roll over negative equity again … and maybe again. This is called the trade-in treadmill, and once you get running on it, it’s hard to get off.

Rolling over negative equity onto your next auto loan should be considered one of the last resorts if you really need to sell your vehicle. However, there is one actual last resort if you want out of your car loan.

The Actual Last Resort: Giving the Vehicle Back

If you can’t sell the vehicle to a private party, a dealer won’t buy it, and you don’t have the option to roll over your auto loan, then you may have to consider voluntarily surrendering the car to the dealership.

This is commonly called a voluntary repossession. Voluntary or not, it’s classified as a repossession on your credit reports. Once you return the vehicle, it’s considered a default because you’re no longer making payments. The car is then prepped to be sold at auction, and the proceeds from that are applied to your remaining loan balance. If the loan isn’t completely paid off, called the deficiency balance, you still owe that to the lender.

Having a repossession listed on your credit reports, and the possibility of still owing your lender money after the auction sale, is why a voluntary repo should be considered a last resort. You may be better off to continue making the payments on the vehicle, since a repo can make it difficult to get into another auto loan with most lenders for at least one year.

Refinancing Your Car Loan

If you’re thinking about returning your car to the dealer because you can’t afford the payments, but still want to keep the vehicle, then consider refinancing the auto loan after one year. Most refinancing lenders consider a car loan for refinancing after hitting that one-year mark.

Refinancing is replacing your current auto loan with another one, hopefully with better terms. Nearly everyone that refinances is looking for a more affordable monthly payment. Refinancing can give you the chance to qualify for a lower interest rate than what you initially got, and it could give you the opportunity to extend your car loan, which lowers the monthly payment as well.

To refinance, you must have had your auto loan for at least one year, and lenders typically require that you haven’t had any missed or late payments on the loan. Generally, your vehicle should have less than 100,000 miles and be less than 10 years old to qualify, too.

If you think refinancing is the right path for you, click here for more information.

Need Another Auto Loan?

It can be stressful if you want out of your current car loan, or if you simply don’t want the vehicle anymore. This circumstance can be even more frustrating if you have poor credit. It can be tough to find auto financing with a lower credit score, but we’ve made it easier here at Auto Credit Express.

We’ve cultivated a network of dealerships that spans the whole country, and we want to look for a dealer that’s signed up with bad credit lenders just for you. Get started with zero-obligation and no cost whatsoever by filling out our free car loan request form. We’ll get right to work finding a local dealership that can assist people in unique credit situations.

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Bill prohibiting Virginia landlords from denying tenants with bad credit sent back to lawmakers | Virginia

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(The Center Square) – Legislation prohibiting Virginia landlords from denying tenant applicants because they accrued bad credit or were evicted for the inability to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic has been sent back to the General Assembly with a technical amendment from Gov. Ralph Northam. 

The amendment does not change the substance of the bill, but it provides clarification. Lawmakers are expected to approve the amendment.

House Bill 5106 would apply to tenants who received bad credit or were evicted between March 12 and 30 days after the governor’s state of emergency ends. It would apply only to landlords who own more than four dwelling units or who have at least a 10% interest in more than four dwelling units.

The bill was sponsored by Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg.

Northam also proposed an amendment to a bill last month that would require landlords to provide a payment plan before they can evict tenants. This bill has the same exemption for smaller landlords.

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Bad Credit Mortgage Lenders | The 6 Best Lenders Of 2020

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Bad credit? These lenders might be able to help

Just because your FICO score isn’t as good as you’d like, doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a bottom-tier mortgage lender.

In fact, some of the very best lenders out there are willing to help borrowers with credit scores near or below 600.

Of course, not everyone will qualify. And your rate will be higher than a “prime” mortgage borrower.

But you can still shop around for the best interest rate, fees, and customer service, just like any other home buyer.

Here’s where we recommend starting your search.

Get matched with a mortgage lender (Nov 27th, 2020)

Company Minimum Credit Score Stands Out For 
New American Funding 580 Low credit minimum, top-rated service
Guaranteed Rate 580 Lowest rates on average
Freedom Mortgage 540 Low credit minimum
loanDepot 580 Fully-online lending
Caliber 580 Highly rated customer service
Navy Federal Credit Union* 580 but exceptions possible Flexible credit requirements for veterans

Get matched with a mortgage lender (Nov 27th, 2020)

*Navy Federal Credit Union only serves veterans, active-duty service members, and select military-affiliated personnel 

Editor’s note: The Mortgage Reports may be compensated by some of these lenders if you choose to work with them. However, that does not affect our reviews. See our full editorial disclosures here.


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The 6 best bad credit mortgage lenders

1. New American Funding 

We liked New American funding when we wrote its full lender review. And we still do. But what gave it our #1 slot?

To start with, New American Funding (NAF) examines each mortgage application on its own merits rather than taking a tick-box approach.

That means it can sometimes be more sympathetic to those who’ve had financial problems in the past, including credit issues.

Additionally, NAF offers:

  • Competitive mortgage rates, on average
  • Strong customer reviews and very few complaints
  • A wide range of types of mortgages, including FHA loans with a minimum credit score requirement of 580.
  • Flexible customer service: in-branch, online, by phone, or any combination
  • Fast turnaround. NAF says, “We guarantee that your loan will close in 14 business days. Period,” according to its website (this includes purchase mortgages only; not refinances)
  • A constructive approach to down payment assistance programs
  • An A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • A bilingual call center with English and Spanish

The only big drawback to New American Funding is that it’s not licensed to lend in New York state or Hawaii.

But if you live in any of the other 48 states, this lender is likely worth a look for a bad credit home loan.

2. Guaranteed Rate

Guaranteed Rate may not be quite as skewed toward borrowers with bad credit as New American Funding. But it still approves applications from people with scores as low as 580.

And it’s strong in other respects:

  • Highly competitive mortgage rates and origination costs
  • Excellent reputation for customer service and few complaints
  • A comprehensive range of mortgage products
  • Licensed to lend in all 50 states
  • A+ BBB rating
  • 300-strong branch network if you prefer to work face to face
  • Highly praised technologies deliver a good online experience

Guaranteed Rate had the second-lowest average mortgage rate among our top lenders in 2019. (The lowest of all was Navy Federal Credit Union, but it’s only available to veteran and military borrowers.)

Of course, if your credit is on the low end, your rates will likely be above average.

But when you start with a lender that’s known to offer low rates, you may have a better chance at getting a good deal.

Verify your new rate (Nov 27th, 2020)

3. Freedom Mortgage

Although Freedom Mortgage is an expert at VA loans (those for veterans and service members), it offers a good range of other mortgage products.

Freedom Mortgage may even approve FHA loans for some borrowers with scores as low as 540. Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Rates are generally competitive, though average loan fees are a bit higher than some other lenders on this list
  • Takes into account “non-traditional credit histories.” So if you have a sparse credit history, it may look at on-time payments for things like rent, utilities and so on, which don’t typically appear on credit reports
  • Praised for customer service on many online forums
  • Traditional, personalized approach, meaning you can expect more face-to-face or phone encounters. There’s not much of an online experience
  • Licensed in all states and has branches in 26

It’s definitely worth getting a personal quote from Freedom, especially if you’re a veteran or service member in the market for a VA loan.

4. loanDepot

Like many on this list, loanDepot is a fairly recent, tech-first mortgage lender.

loanDepot has only been around since 2010, but during that time it’s grown to the fourth biggest mortgage originator in the US, largely on the back of its innovative lending technologies.

Here’s the lowdown:

  • Minimum credit score of 580
  • The 5th highest score in J.D. Power’s 2020 mortgage origination satisfaction study and an A+ BBB rating
  • Typically has very fast loan processing with many parts of the lending process automated
  • Not the lowest rates or fees on our list, but generally competitive
  • Higher rate of CFPB complaints than most on our list
  • Licensed in all states with branches in 43 states
  • A wide portfolio of loan types

If you’re a big fan of technology and prefer an online application process, loanDepot may be a good option for you.

5. Caliber Home Loans

Caliber delivers a much more personalized and engaging sort of customer service than those who encourage more online interactions.

It has some slick technologies in its back office and may offer faster-than-average closing times. But you’ll be dealing with a person rather than a screen.

Here’s what to expect from Caliber Home Loans:

  • Competitive rates and costs
  • Minimum credit score of 580
  • Few customer complaints to the CFPB
  • Good customer reviews online
  • An A rating from the BBB
  • Licensed in all 50 states
  • Happy to work with down payment assistance programs
  • Great range of types of mortgages

If you prefer to work with humans rather than computers, Caliber is a shoo-in for your shortlist.

6. Navy Federal Credit Union 

Navy Federal Credit Union is a special case. To start with, it’s a credit union, and only members can get loans from it.

Navy Federal membership is restricted to veterans, service members, and others with close affiliations with the military. For that reason, it’s a specialist in VA loans.

For those who are eligible for membership, Navy Federal Credit Union offers:

  • The lowest average mortgage rates and fees on our list (though part of that can be chalked up to its focus on VA loans, which have lower interest rates)
  • No minimum credit score. Navy Federal says, “A member’s approval isn’t determined by just one number — but by several factors,” meaning it will likely consider lower scores with compensating factors and non-traditional credit histories
  • Highest J.D. Power customer satisfaction score on our list
  • But also the highest proportion of CFPB complaints
  • A+ BBB rating
  • No FHA or USDA loans. If you’re not eligible for a VA loan, you may need to look elsewhere
  • Good online services, including an app that lets you track your loan application’s status

If you’re eligible for membership and a VA loan, you’ll want Navy Federal on your shortlist.

Get matched with a lender (Nov 27th, 2020)

What’s considered ‘bad credit’ for a mortgage? 

We’re talking about bad credit mortgage lenders here. But what exactly is “bad credit”?

Many lenders follow the scoring model from FICO, the company that created the most widely used scoring technologies. It reckons that anything below 580 counts as “poor.”

If your score is in the 580-669 range, it’s actually considered “fair.” If it’s between 670 and 739, it’s “good” — and anything above that is “exceptional.”

  • Below 580 — Bad credit
  • 580-669 — Fair credit
  • 670-739 — Good credit
  • Above 740 — Excellent credit

However, it’s important to understand that the definition of “bad credit” can vary, because lenders are free to define their own score ranges how they like.

That means what one lender considers a bad credit score could be perfectly acceptable to another lender.

Just because your score is in the poor range, that doesn’t mean you can’t get approved for a mortgage. But you’ll likely need a sizable down payment and a good story that explains your low score and shows that its cause is in your past.

You’re also likely to have to seek out a sympathetic lender. And that’s where our list of the best bad credit mortgage lenders can come in handy.

Verify your mortgage eligibility (Nov 27th, 2020)

How a low credit score affects your mortgage 

Even if you’re approved for a loan, a low score means you’re going to pay a higher mortgage rate than someone with a better score. That part is unavoidable.

How much higher? FICO has a calculator that could give you an idea. It actually doesn’t go below 620, but it can give you a feel for the difference a credit score makes.

Here’s how the numbers looked for a $250,000 mortgage (though keep in mind that these will vary as mortgage rates change daily):

Credit score range Estimated APR* Monthly payment Total interest paid over 30 years
680-699 2.757% $1,020 $118,000
660-679 2.971% $1,050 $128,000
640-659 3.401% $1,100 $149,000
620-639 3.947% $1,200 $177,000

*Interest rates and payments were sampled in November 2020 and may not reflect current market rates

The monthly differences may look small. But you can see that even paying just $30 more per month, your total interest costs go up by $10,000.

As credit scores go lower, the difference in interest rates and payments grows.

Verify your new rate (Nov 27th, 2020)

Bad credit mortgage loan options 

Of course, you’re not just seeking out the best lenders for people with bad credit. You need a type of mortgage that can accommodate your needs. Here are the main ones:

  1. FHA loans — FHA loans, backed by the Federal Housing Administration, are the most popular option for borrowers with bad credit. Most borrowers need a minimum credit score of 580 and a 3.5% down payment to qualify. But if you can make a 10% down payment, you may be approved for an FHA mortgage with a credit score of 500-579
  2. VA loans — VA loans have no formal minimum credit score. But most lenders want at least 620. Some go as low as 580. And a few, such as Navy Federal Credit Union, don’t specify a score and may be sympathetic if yours is low for a good reason. We excluded Veterans United from our list because it wants a 660 credit score or better
  3. USDA loans — USDA loans typically require a credit score of at least 640 — so they may not be the best for low-credit borrowers. But if your score is high enough, you can use a USDA loan to purchase a home with no down payment
  4. Non-conforming loans — These loan programs, for which banks and lenders set their own rules, may allow credit scores below 600

Conventional mortgages — loans that conform to standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — require a minimum score of 620 and a 3% down payment. That’s why FHA loans are more popular among those with lower credit scores.

Non-conforming loans do not meet the standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, meaning they’re not eligible for backing from those agencies.

As a result, non-conforming loans typically have higher interest rates — but they may be available to borrowers with low credit scores.

Pick the type of loan that suits you best. If you’re eligible for a VA loan, it’s likely to be one of those.

Find the right home loan for you (Nov 27th, 2020)

Credit score vs. credit report

It’s easy to fixate on your credit score — the single number that represents your reliability as a borrower.

But mortgage lenders don’t just look at this number. They also do a thorough review of your credit report.

Your credit report shows your full history as a borrower.

If you have a low score because of a past event — like a foreclosure — but you’ve been a reliable borrower since then, lenders might be more forgiving.

On your credit report, lenders want to see:

  • A history of on-time payments
  • Reasonable credit usage (below 30% of your full credit limit is best)
  • No new credit lines opened near the time you’re applying for a mortgage

Refinancing with a low credit score 

How easy it is to refinance with bad credit will depend on your current loan type, and what you want your refinance to achieve.

Streamline refinancing

If you currently have a government-backed loan, you may be in luck.

FHA, VA, and USDA all offer Streamline Refinance programs that do not require credit score approval. However some lenders check credit anyway, so you’ll have to search for one that doesn’t.

To use a Streamline Refinance, your new loan must be the same type as your current one — for instance, refinancing a VA loan to a VA loan, or FHA to FHA.

Conventional loan refinance

Conventional refinances, like conventional home purchase loans, require a credit score of at least 620.

If your current mortgage is a conventional loan and your credit score has fallen, you may be eligible for an FHA refinance. However, FHA loans require expensive mortgage insurance. This could eat up enough of your savings that refinancing isn’t worth it.

Cash-out refinancing

If you want a cash-out refinance, you’re likely to need a higher credit score.

FHA cash-out refinancing typically requires a credit score of 600 or higher. And a VA cash-out refinance will often require at least 620.

If you currently have a conventional loan but your credit score isn’t high enough for a conventional cash-out refinance, an FHA cash-out refinance might help you access your home equity.

Verify your cash-out refi eligibility (Nov 27th, 2020)

What to do if your credit score is too low for a home loan

The obvious way to get a mortgage with bad credit is to improve your score. You may be surprised how quickly you can make a material difference.

For tips on how to raise your credit score fast, read our Guide to improving your credit score.

There are other ways to qualify for a mortgage with bad credit, too.

  1. Pay down as much existing debt as you can — If you’re a more attractive borrower in other respects, lenders may be more forgiving about your score. Paying down existing debts, like credit cards and auto loans, improves your debt-to-income ratio. This has a big impact on your home loan eligibility
  2. Build up your savings — Making a bigger down payment can also help your case, as it reduces your risk to the mortgage lender. Borrowers with a cushion against financial problems are less likely to default. If you’re able to make a 20% down payment, a low credit score might not matter as much
  3. Qualify on a friend’s or relative’s good credit — If you can get someone with good or great credit to co-sign your mortgage application, your problems may be over. But it’s a huge ask because your loved one could lose a lot of money and creditworthiness if your loan goes bad

We wouldn’t recommend asking for a co-signer in any but the most exceptional circumstances, because this can be a huge risk to the person helping you out. If your loan defaults, they’re on the line for the money.

Instead, we recommend steadily building up your credit score.

Even if you can’t pay off big debts in full, making on-time payments and keeping your credit usage under 30% can go a long way toward improving your score and boosting your mortgage eligibility.

How to find the best mortgage rate with bad credit 

Some lenders specialize in “top-tier” borrowers, who have excellent credit scores, bulletproof finances, and large down payments.

But other lenders, including the six on our list, are perfectly comfortable helping those with damaged credit.

So shop around to see who can offer you the best deal. And if one lender turns you down, don’t assume they all will — because that’s not how mortgage lending works.

Each lender’s business priorities can change from day to day. And different lenders offer different deals.

So putting some effort into comparison shopping could find you the loan you want at the best rate you can get.

Verify your new rate (Nov 27th, 2020)

Review methodology

To find the best bad credit mortgage lenders of 2020, we started by looking the 25 top lenders on a 2019 market share report from federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). We also looked at a few major online lenders, as these companies are growing in popularity.

We whittled that down to our six best by filtering out lenders that required credit scores over 580; charged higher mortgage rates than the average among all top lenders; or didn’t offer FHA loans, because many home buyers with poor credit rely on those.

And we took other factors into consideration. Did a lender have a disproportionate number of customer complaints filed with the CFPB? Did it get too many negative customer reviews on online forums? Did it receive a bad rating from the Better Business Bureau? Did it do well in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study?

We didn’t automatically exclude lenders based on those last four. But you’ll find the details as you read the following reviews of each of our finalists.

Verify your new rate (Nov 27th, 2020)

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