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Questions frequently asked by borrowers
Use this section as a handy reference guide to help understand credit reporting processes, effects and how to keep your credit file free from errors.
Advantage Credit receives a credit report request from our customer, usually the mortgage broker. We in turn send the borrower's information (name, address & Social Security number) to the three credit bureaus, and within seconds we receive the borrower's information in the form of a raw data file from each bureau. Advantage Credit's system then compiles all three raw data files into one report and places it onto a credit report form. The report is then made available to the mortgage broker.
Advantage Credit does not change anything on the credit report returned from the initial request. However, upon a customer's request and verification of the information requested, certain cosmetic changes can be made. Mortgage brokers will request these changes so that a lender can approve the mortgage loan. Common requests include verifying if an account has been paid, verifying that an account does not belong to the borrower, or verifying whether an account is current.
Advantage Credit makes no permanent changes to the information maintained by the three credit bureaus. Advantage Credit can expedite the process of the bureaus updating their files with corrections that have certain documentation (see the Accurate Credit service for more details).
2. Where does the credit report information come from?
The information originally comes from credit granters, such as credit card companies, auto and home lenders, banks, and retail stores. Information is also obtained from court records and may include bankruptcy filings, tax liens, or judgments. Your credit report may also contain employment information.
3. What is a credit score?
Your credit score is a numerical representation of your statistical likelihood to repay credit that is extended to you. Scores range from 300 to 850 & above, with average scores occurring in the 500-700 ranges.
The credit score comes from a proprietary model developed by Fair, Isaac & Company® (often referred to as "FICO"). The model takes all the detailed account information from your credit report, and processes it with different weights and scoring factors, resulting in the score.
Originally, Fair Isaac took thousands of anonymous, historical credit files on consumers and compared them with those consumers' eventual default rates on credit accounts. From this perspective, certain factors on credit reports were determined to increase the consumer's likelihood of repayment on a loan.
Each of the three credit bureaus uses a version of the FICO scoring model. There are many variations on the basic FICO model that come from Fair, Isaac itself, as the company releases new versions from time to time.
Today, virtually all loan decisions use a variation of a FICO score model to determine eligibility for credit, accompanying interest rates, down payment requirements and other terms. The rise of automated underwriting has increased the speed of loan decisions for millions of Americans buying cars, homes and those refinancing their mortgages.
In any case, credit scores can have a large financial impact on your life. Advantage Credit highly recommends that all consumers become familiar with credit scores and how they work, as well as how to improve a credit score.
A credit score looks at each account on your credit report and processes it through an algorithm that determines whether the account represents the likelihood for repayment or default. Details that factor into the score include on-time or late payments, how late payments are, how many accounts are open, what the proportion of balances to credit limits are, whether there are collections, bankruptcies, judgments, liens or other derogatory reports.
The score is considered a snapshot at a specific moment in time. Scores change with new actions and with the passage of time. The farther in the past derogatory information occurs, the less impact it has on a credit score.
5. How can I learn to improve my credit score?
Several online sources can provide information on improving and maintaining a high credit score. Start with our detailed overview on Credit Scoring on this website. Also check www.MyFico.com, as well as well as the websites of the three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
Also ask your broker or realtor about CreditXpert®. This is a very low-cost custom report that scans your credit report for opportunities for score improvement, and even estimates the number of points your score could increase based upon recommended actions.
6. After I apply for a loan and get approved, can I make purchases on credit before closing without endangering my home loan?
Many borrowers make the mistake of assuming the loan process is complete from the credit standpoint before the closing, and then make significant purchases on credit, for furniture or a car for example. They are then unpleasantly surprised to find their score dropped and the lender requires different loan terms before closing. Good general advice when shopping for a mortgage or refinance loan is not to open any new credit accounts until after the closing.
I pay my bills on time every month. Why does my credit score seem low?
A lower than expected score can also be related to your creditors reporting information in error, or even someone using one or more of your accounts fraudulently. Often, getting turned down for credit is the first step for some people learning that they have been victims of identity theft. It's a good reason to review your credit report regularly.
8. I have a good job and no debt because I pay outright for my purchases. My credit score is still low. How can I raise it?
When you have no credit activity at all, you can be subject to a low score or sometimes no score. In certain cases, lenders will work with you for loans based on what's known as alternative credit. This is where you gather evidence of paying normal bills on time that don't usually get reported to the credit bureaus—utility payments and rent, for example.
The three credit bureaus will not record this information into your file to generate a credit score, but there are lenders who will work with this type of information to approve a specific mortgage loan. Also, a newer credit-reporting bureau, PayRentBuildCredit (PRBC), has established a system for using rent payments to build an improved credit rating.
Because credit scores affect so many areas of a consumer's life today, it's important to establish a positive credit history if possible. If you have never purchased on credit, you can open a secured credit card account with many financial institutions. You provide a set amount of cash to be held to secure the account against future repayment problems. The money is held until the account is closed or until used to satisfy payments not otherwise made as agreed. After 12-13 months of use and consistent, on-time payment, as well as keeping the account balance under 50%, most consumers will see a reasonable credit score taking shape.
There is an inquiry on my report from Advantage Credit. How did it get
If an inquiry on your credit report from Advantage Credit is not connected with a home purchase or loan that you authorized either online, by phone or in person, you can contact us to verify who ordered the credit report on your behalf.
10. How do I correct errors on my credit report? How long does it take?
You can correct errors on your credit report directly with the credit bureau in question, or you can work with an Advantage Credit mortgage broker to correct errors at the bureau level when applying for a mortgage loan.
Working directly with the three credit bureaus
If you discover incomplete, inaccurate or missing information being reported by a repository, follow the steps below.
First, you must file a dispute with one or more of the credit bureaus listed below, depending on the bureau reporting the incorrect information. Before disputing an item, we advise that you first contact the original creditor reporting the information to the repositories to ensure that your records are being accurately reported.
Note: Advantage Credit can help you obtain a copy of your credit report; click here for details.
Inform the bureau in writing which information you believe is inaccurate. Your document should provide the following information for each disputed item:
All three bureaus now offer methods of disputing credit report items online, as well as through traditional methods.
By law, the bureaus are required to reinvestigate the disputed information and make corrections to the consumer's file, and will provide the consumer with confirmation and a copy of the corrected file within 30-45 days depending on extended circumstances.
If you are in the process of applying for a mortgage loan, you have the option of seeking a "rapid dispute" process through your Advantage Credit mortgage broker, which can correct errors and recalculate the credit score in 3-10 business days. See #11 below for more details on this service.
See also: Accurate Credit, Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act gives borrowers specific rights designed to promote accuracy, fairness and privacy of information. Under the FCRA, borrowers must be told if information in their credit file has been used to deny credit. At the consumer's request, lenders are required to give borrowers a copy of the information in their credit file, including a list of anyone who has requested the information recently. Borrowers also may have additional rights under state law.
For more information call the Advantage Credit Consumer Resources Line at (800) 466-9700.
Equifax Information Service
The Accurate Credit service from Advantage Credit can help consumers and their mortgage brokers process corrections on credit reports in 3-10 business days. This service requires that you provide documentation for the errors to your Advantage Credit mortgage broker, who then works with Advantage's Customer Service experts to process the corrections directly with the three credit bureaus.
After the corrections are processed and the file re-pulled, the credit score is recalculated to reflect the update. Note: Scoring models are dynamic and there is no guarantee that a certain correction will increase a credit score. Scores sometimes decrease with corrections. To find out if an Accurate Credit is right for you, contact your Advantage Credit mortgage broker, or contact us to help you locate an Advantage broker in your area.
See also: Accurate Credit.
12. Why do Experian, TransUnion, & Equifax report slightly different information?
Creditors voluntarily provide information to the credit bureaus and are not required to report their information to all three. The bureaus all report information on a national basis, but some creditors favor reporting to the bureau closest geographically or through some other preference. This is why occasionally information will be shown on one bureau's report and not another's.
13. How long does a bankruptcy, collection account or judgment stay in my credit file?
A bankruptcy stays on the credit report for 10 years. Collection accounts and all other credit report information stay for 7 years.
Recency is a large determinant of credit score results. Having a prior bankruptcy is not always a stumbling block toward getting a home loan, especially if it occurred more than three years in the past. Another tip: If you have a collection account on your credit report older than 3 years, pay it off after you seek a home mortgage, as paying off the collection before seeking a mortgage will bring its date of last activity into the present, which may drop a credit score from its current level. Be responsible in paying off the debt after you have secured your mortgage.
See also: Credit Scoring.
14. I have inquiries on my credit report that I didn't authorize. What should I do?
Some inquiries are made by companies seeking to make offers of credit to you, like credit card companies. These types of inquiries do not affect credit scores. Nor do credit report inquiries made by you.
If there are inquiries that you don't recognize, contact the credit bureaus directly (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).
15. I have activity on my credit report showing debts that are not mine. What should I do?
You may be a subject of fraud, identity theft or a mixed credit file. You should contact the creditor immediately and also contact all three bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) for more information on what actions to take.
See also: Fraud Protection.
16. Can I get a copy of my own credit report from Advantage Credit?
Advantage provides consumer credit reports for all three bureaus through our affiliate relationship with Equifax, but we do not sell credit reports directly to consumers. Click here to obtain your credit report.
You can, however, request to review your credit report with your mortgage broker who obtains it on your behalf. Your Advantage Credit mortgage broker can show you your mortgage credit report for the purpose of asking questions related to the loan process.
Why is my credit being mixed with my relatives or others with similar
name or address?
For those borrowers that share their homes with extended families, it is very possible for the credit to get mixed because the names will match (or be very similar) and the addresses will match. If this is the case, you can contact the credit bureau reporting in error for assistance.
18. I don't have any credit, how can non-traditional credit can help me?
Non-traditional credit helps establish a file for an underwriter to see credit history. It typically consists of showing a regular, on-time payment history for bills like utilities. Although non-traditional credit will not generate a score, there are FHA guidelines that will allow a loan to be underwritten if there are non-traditional accounts added and verified. This works well for people with no established credit.
In some cultures, credit usage is not seen as positive; non-traditional credit is a useful tool to be aware of in these circumstances. In addition, younger people without previous credit history can benefit from non-traditional credit. When your mortgage broker works with Advantage Credit, we can perform the verifications that underwriters would use for this purpose.
Contact us to locate a mortgage broker who works with Advantage Credit.
19. My report is in English, how can I obtain it in Spanish?
Advantage Credit offers free Spanish translations on all credit report orders. Your Advantage Credit mortgage broker can show you your mortgage credit report for the purpose of asking questions related to the loan process, in Spanish if you make the request and your broker purchases credit reports from Advantage credit.
For information on Advantage Credit mortgage brokers in your area, contact us.
20. Download a free Consumer Dispute Packet
Advantage Credit can provide consumers a complete credit verification package, including form letters and credit bureau addresses, at no charge. Consumers have the right to dispute inaccurate information contained in a credit report by contacting the credit source, such as a retail store, an auto finance company or a lending institution. The credit source is then required to verify and correct any inaccuracy in the record with the three national credit repositories.
You can download a Consumer Dispute Packet, or call Advantage Credit's Consumer Resources line at (800) 466-9700 for more information.
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