Tag: selling a home

Owner Finance

Note: A qualified real estate attorney should be consulted to answer any questions as well as write the sales contract and promissory note.

What is owner finance?

Owner financing is also known as seller financing. This can be an option for people that can not qualify for a conventional bank loan.

In an owner finance agreement, the owner or seller will act like the bank. They will list the finance terms they are willing to offer. Owner financed deals are recorded with the County. The buyer’s interests is protected.  An additional protection is that a trustee has the deed instead of the seller. The Deed of Trust in an owner financed deal will show that the buyer is the rightful owner.

Just like a traditional bank loan, there is usually a down payment, amortization period, a possibly balloon payment and a set or adjustable interest rate. The terms can be customized to fit the needs of the seller and buyer.

Most owner-financing deals are normally short term and a typical arrangement might involve amortizing the loan over 30 years but with a final balloon payment due after five. The idea is that after 5 years the buyer may be in a better financial position and can now get a traditional loan.

How does it work?

A contract is negotiated. The contract should include a Seller Finance Addendum that will disclose the terms of the agreement. It should cover the balance to be financed, the down payment, interest rate, balloon payments, pre-payment penalty, etc.

Part of the closing documents will include a promissory note. This is a very important document; it will include all the loan terms, the loan amount, the amount of your monthly installments, interest rate, payment schedule, late fee terms, balloon payment (if applicable) and when and how you need to pay.

Most promissory notes will have a due-on-sale clause that will make the entire balance due if the buyer decides to sell the property before the balance is paid off.

A deed of trust will also be signed and it’s usually recorded at the county’s clerks office. This legal document protects the seller in case the buyer defaults on the loan. It will allow the seller to foreclosure of the property if payments are not made.

Like any option, there are pros and cons. Let’s explore these below.

PROS

  • Buyers that can not traditionally qualify through a bank might qualify through a seller directly. Banks sometimes have a very black and white way of looking at things. A seller might evaluate the buyer’s entire potential and make a decision based many other factors.
  • The loan terms can be customized to fix the parties needs.
  • Flexible down payments.
  • The closing may be faster. With a traditional loan the closing can take 30-45 days.
  • The closing costs could potentially be less. They might not include some of the normal lending fees

CONS

  • The loans terms can be less desirable.
  • The sales price and down payment requested could be higher.
  • Interest rates can also be much higher than market rates.
  • The amortization period might be too short or too long for comfort.
  • The seller might include a balloon payment after 5-10 years.
  • There usually is no appraisal involved so you might pay more that market value (Do your research).
  • There might be pre-payment penalties
  • The interest rates might not be fixed.

Ultimately owner financing can be a good option for both buyers and sellers but there are risks.

Buyers be warned

As a buyer thinking about owner financing, do your due diligence. Research the property, the community, the seller, etc.

  • Beware of homes that are exclusively being offered as owner finance. Why? Are they selling the home for much more that market value? Is the home in poor condition? Are they trying to avoid home inspections or appraisals? Ask the questions.
  • Did the seller ask your for a credit report, financial statements, proof of income, etc? If the seller is not looking into your finances, walk away. They should care if you can afford the home. Ideally you want your monthly payment to be less than 30% of your monthly income.
  • Is the home paid off? If the seller owes a balance on the home, there is a higher risk for the buyer. You may be punctual in your payments but what happens if the seller doesn’t apply your payment to his mortgage? His mortgage company can foreclose of the home. You can end up losing all the funds you have paid towards the home plus the home itself!
  • If the seller still owes a balance make sure that their mortgage does not have a due on sale clause. If they do have a due on sale clause, the bank can his bank demand immediate payment of the debt in full if the house is sold to you. If the lender isn’t paid, the bank can foreclose. To avoid this risk, make sure the seller owns the house free and clear or that the seller’s lender agrees to owner financing.
  • Balloon payments – with many owner financing arrangements, a large balloon payment becomes due after a set number of years. If you can’t secure financing by then, you could lose all the money you’ve paid so far, plus the house.
  • Consider having the home inspected. A home inspection is always an option for a buyer. These inspections are typically completed by a third party inspection company and will typically cost $350-550. If the seller does not allow you to have the home inspected, let this be a warning sign. What is he/she hiding?
  • The seller should provide you with seller’s disclosures. All seller should disclosure issues that they know to be wrong with the property.
  • Since a bank is not involved, there might not be an appraiser. In a traditional bank loan process, the bank will send an appraiser to evaluate the property’s worth. The appraiser will issue his opinion on value and condition. An appraiser is not an inspector, but if they see something that might effect the property’s value, they will note it and possibly force the parties to make repairs before the bank approves the loan. You as a buyer can order an appraisal of the property. If you are not sure of the market value of the property, speak to an REALTOR® or hire an appraiser.
  • Research the community and schools. Even if you don’t have school aged kids, schools can make or break a property’s resale worth. Properties zoned to poor preforming schools might not resale as well as those zoned to excellent schools.
  • Traditional owner-financed transactions often close in a lawyer’s office without title insurance, although it might be wise for the buyer in such transactions to at least obtain a title report indicating what liens, lawsuits, and judgments may affect the property. There has been fraud in this area. People that are not the true owners of a property might try to sell or rent a home they know to be vacant.
  • This is one of the largest purchases you will probably make. You might want to consider hiring a real estate attorney to review the terms of the contract prior to signing an agreement.
  • The owner will normally keep title to the house until the buyer pays off the loan. If the buyer defaults, the seller keeps the down payment, any money that was paid, plus the house.

Sellers be warned

As a seller you too run risks when owner financing a home. Do your due diligence before signing a agreement.

  • SAFE Act – Sellers who engage in more than five (5) owner-finance transactions in a 12 month period must now have a Residential Mortgage Loan Originator License according to the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act, also known as the SAFE Act.
  • If you owe a mortgage on the property, speak to your lender to see if you have a due on sale clause. If you do, then owner finance may not be possible. Once you sell the home your mortgage balance will come due entirely. Speak to your lender and see if they will agree to owner financing.
  • Make sure to review the buyer’s income. Their financial strengths, their credit or lack of credit, their available funds, etc. Speak to the buyer’s employer if they are not self employed. If they are self employed, considering looking at a few years of tax returns. You will decide what you find acceptable or not.
  • Think about hiring a servicing company to receive the payments and establish an escrow account. This way the payment can be applied to the balance owed directly.
  • The seller must determine that the buyer has the ability to repay the loan (and this must be supported by verifications and documentation).
  • Although you won’t have to worry about insuring the property or making repairs as needed, you do run the risk of having to foreclose if the buyer stops making payments.
  • Repair cost – if you do take back the property for whatever reason, you might end up having to pay for repairs and maintenance, depending on how well the buyer took care of the property.

Home Staging Tips, plus more! You’re invited

 

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your Message

Click here to RSVP

‘Tis the Season: 5 Reasons Why Winter is a Great Time to Buy or Sell a Home

It’s a common misconception that you shouldn’t try to buy or sell a home during the fall and winter months.

This is generally considered the “offseason” in real estate. Many sellers mistakenly believe that the cold weather will keep buyers away and that no one is looking over the holidays. Unfortunately, many real estate professionals perpetuate this myth by advising their clients to “wait until the spring” to list their home.

The truth is, homes are bought and sold year round. And while the market is typically quieter during the fall and winter, savvy buyers and sellers know how to use this slow down to their advantage. In fact, depending on your circumstances, now may be the ideal time for you to purchase or list a home.

If you’re in the market to buy or sell, there’s no need to wait for the spring. Read on to discover the top five reasons that it can pay to buy or sell a home during the offseason! 

  1. LESS COMPETITION

What’s the number one reason to buy or sell a home during the offseason? Less competition!

This can be particularly beneficial if you’re a seller. Come spring, a huge wave of new listings will hit the market. But if you list now, you will have fewer comparable homes with which to compete.

In the spring and summer months, it can be difficult for your property to stand out in a crowded market. You may end up with a surplus of homes for sale in your neighborhood. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see multiple listings on a single street during the peak selling season.

Inventory in the fall and winter months, however, can be significantly lower. That means your home will not only receive more attention from buyers, but you may also gain the upper hand in your negotiations. In fact, research found that homes listed in the winter are nine percent more likely to sell, and sellers net more above asking price in the winter than any other time of year.1

Buyers also have a lot to love about the real estate offseason. While some buyers need to move during the winter, many bargain hunters search this time of year in hopes of scoring a great deal.

Smart buyers will continue to scan the market during the fall and winter for hidden gems that pop up during the offseason. There are always highly motivated sellers who need to sell quickly. And with less competition to bid against you, you’re in a better position to negotiate a great price. If you’ve been looking for a good deal on a home or investment property, now may be the best time to look!

So while a “slow market” may scare off some buyers and sellers, it can actually be the perfect time of year for you to list or purchase a home. While the rest of the market is hibernating until spring, take advantage of this opportunity to get a jump start on your competition!

  1. EVERYONE’S MORE MOTIVATED

During the spring and summer, you’re likely to encounter “lookie-loo” buyers who are just testing the waters and unrealistic sellers who are holding out for a better offer. But the serious buyers and sellers stay active during the cold weather and holiday season, often because they need to move quickly. In fact, research shows that homes listed in the winter sell faster than any other time of year.1

January and February are peak job hiring months, which brings a surge of buyers who need to relocate quickly to start a new job.2And of course life changes like retirement, marriage, divorce, and new babies come year round. While families often find it more convenient to move during the summer when school is out, the reality is that many don’t have the option to wait. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time,” not because of seasonal factors.3

If you prefer to deal with serious, highly-motivated buyers and sellers who want to act fast and don’t want to waste your time, then the offseason may be the perfect real estate season for you.

  1. GREATER PERSONAL ATTENTION

Another key benefit to buying and selling in the offseason is the increased personal attention you’ll receive.

While we strive to provide unparalleled client service throughout the year, we simply have more time available for each individual client during slower periods. Similarly, we find the other real estate professionals in our network—including title agents, inspectors, appraisers, insurance agents, and loan officers—are able to respond faster and provide more time and attention during the offseason than they are during the busy spring and summer months. The result is a quicker and more streamlined closing process for all involved.

  1. COST SAVINGS

Clients who move during the offseason often report significant cost savings. Moving costs may be discounted by 15 percent or more during the winter months, and moving companies can typically offer more flexibility in their scheduling.4

Home renovations and repairs can also be less expensive in the offseason.5 Whether you’re fixing up your property prior to listing it or remodeling your new home before moving in, contractors and service providers who are hungry for business are often willing to work for a discount this time of year. If you wait until the spring and summer, you may be forced to pay a premium.

Home stagers and decorators are also more likely to negotiate their fees during the winter. And you can often score great deals on new furniture and decor during the holiday sales.

Whether you’re buying or selling, count cost savings as another compelling reason to consider an offseason move.

  1. EASIER TO MAINTAIN CURB APPEAL

Finally, listing your home during the fall and winter offers one key—but often overlooked—advantage: less lawn maintenance!

Good curb appeal is crucial when selling your home. According to a recent report by the National Association of Realtors, 44 percent of home buyers drove by a property after viewing it online but did NOT go inside for a walkthrough.6That means if your curb appeal is lacking, buyers may never make it through the door.

If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, we will generally advise you to implement a frequent schedule of mowing, edging, watering, weeding, and trimming shrubs and hedges. You’ll probably want to plant flowers, as well, to brighten your exterior. After all, a lush landscape is a key element in attracting spring and summer buyers.

If you list in the offseason, however, your lawn maintenance list is significantly reduced. While we do recommend that our sellers keep their exterior clean, tidy, and free of leaves, snow, and ice, you will probably spend much less time on outdoor maintenance during the winter than you would if you listed your home in the summer.

ARE YOU READY TO MAKE YOUR MOVE?

Now that you know all the great reasons to buy or sell a home in the offseason, it’s time to decide whether you’re ready to make your move.

Every client’s circumstances are unique. Whether you needto move quickly or you simply wantto take advantages of all benefits this season has to offer, it’s a great time to enter the market.

Give us a call today to schedule a FREE consultation … and you could be ringing in the New Year in your new home!

 

 

Sources:

  1. Redfin –
    https://www.redfin.com/blog/2013/12/why-winter-is-the-hottest-time-to-sell-your-home.html#.VjKYm2SrTKI
  2. Top Resume –
    https://www.topresume.com/career-advice/the-best-times-of-the-year-to-job-search
  3. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/highlights-from-the-profile-of-home-buyers-and-sellers
  4. Angie’s List –
    https://www.angieslist.com/articles/why-winter-can-be-best-time-move.htm
  5. Build Direct –
    https://www.builddirect.com/blog/the-best-times-of-the-year-to-get-deals-on-home-remodels/
  6. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/reports/2017/2017-home-buyer-and-seller-generational-trends-03-07-2017.pdf

Homeowners Insurance and Home Warranties

Let’s talk Homeowners Insurance

While you never want to leave yourself without a safety net, you also don’t want to overpay for insurance you don’t need (and will hopefully rarely use). Aim to strike a balance that will provide you with adequate protection at an affordable price.

Homeowners Insurance Covers Things Like: 

• Structure
• Roof
• Windows
• Furniture/Personal Belongings
• Liability for Non-Residents Injured on Property
• Liability for Damage or Injury Caused by You or Your Pets

Most Standard Policies DON’T Cover Things Like:

• Malfunctioning Systems and Appliances
• Floods or Earthquakes
• Slow Leaks
• Power Failures
• Neglect or Aging
• Faulty Repairs

Home Warranties

Some homeowners choose to supplement their insurance coverage by purchasing a home warranty, which covers many of the systems and appliances in your home that are NOT covered by homeowners insurance. While policy terms and coverage vary, a home warranty will often cover the cost (after deductible) to repair or replace components of your HVAC, electrical, plumbing and some appliances that fail due to age or typical wear and tear.

Unlike homeowners insurance, home warranties aren’t required by mortgage companies. But many homeowners like the added financial protection and peace of mind that home warranties provide.

A Home Warranty Covers Things Like:

• Plumbing
• HVAC
• Electrical
• Major Appliances
Minimize Risk, Maximize Value

Now that you understand the basics of homeowners insurance, you should be ready to start shopping for a policy that best fits your needs and budget. Your goal should be to minimize your risk while maximizing the value your policy provides.

Once you’ve purchased your policy, avoid setting the annual renewal on autopilot. Instead, take some time to consider factors that have changed over the past year. Home improvements, a shift in market conditions, a new home-based business, or even growth in your overall net worth could mean it’s time to reassess your coverage.

Need Guidance? We Can Help!

If you have questions about purchasing homeowners insurance or a home warranty—or if you would like a referral to a reputable broker—give us a call! We’re here to help.

Don’t Get Burned – Get a Home Inspection to Save Money on Your Next Purchase

 

Okay, you made one of the most important decisions in your life: you’re buying a home! You found your ideal home. It’s in your desired neighborhood, close to everything you love, you dig its design and feel, and you’re ready to finalize the deal.

But, whoa … wait a minute! Buying a home isn’t like buying a toaster. If you discover something’s wrong with your new home, you can’t return it for a refund or an even exchange. You’re stuck with your buying decision. Purchasing a home is an important investment and should be treated as such. Therefore, before finalizing anything, your “ideal” home needs an inspection to protect you from throwing your hard-earned money into a money pit.

A home inspection is a professional visual examination of the home’s roof, plumbing, heating and cooling system, electrical systems, and foundation.

There are really two types of home of inspections. There is a general home inspection and a specialized inspection. Most general inspections cost between $267 and $370. The cost of the specialized inspection varies from type to type. If the inspector recommends a specialized inspection, take that advice because buying a home is the single most important investment you’ll make and you want extra assurance that you’re making a wise investment.

By having your prospective new home inspected, you can:

  • Negotiate with the home seller and get the home sale-ready at no cost to you
  • Prevent your insurance rates from rising
  • Opt-out of the purchase before you make a costly mistake
  • Save money in the short and long run

How Much Money Can a Home Inspection Save You?

A home inspection helps to find potential expenses beyond the sales price, which puts homebuyers in a powerful position for negotiation. If there are any issues discovered during the home inspection, buyers can stipulate that the sellers either repair them before closing or help cover the costs in some other way. If the sellers do not want to front the money to complete the repairs, buyers could negotiate a drop in the overall sales price of the home!

Perhaps even more importantly, a home inspection buys you peace of mind. Your first days and months in a new home will set the tone for your life there, and you don’t want to taint that time with worries about hidden problems and potential money pits.

To help you understand how much money a home inspection can save you, here are some numbers from HomeAdvisor to drive the point home … so to speak.

Roof – Roofing problems are one of the most common issues found by home inspections. Roof repair can range between $316 and $1046, but to replace a roof entirely can cost between $4,660 and $8,950.

Plumbing – Don’t underestimate the plumbing. Small leaks can cause damage that costs between $1,041 and $3,488 to repair. Your home inspector will look for visible problems with the plumbing such as leaky faucets, water stains around sinks and the shower, and noisy pipes. Stains on walls, ceilings, and warped floors show plumbing problems.

Heating and Cooling – Ensuring the home’s heating and cooling system is working properly is very important. Your home inspector will make you aware of any problems with the existing system and let know you whether the system is past its prime and needs replacing. You don’t want to throw down $3,919 to replace an aged furnace. Nor do you want to spend $5,238 replacing an ill-working air conditioner. Replacing and repairing a water heater gets pricey too. Wouldn’t you rather use your savings for a vacation?

Electrical Systems – When thinking of the electrical system, no problem is better than even a small problem. Electrical problems might seem small, but they can blossom into thousand-dollar catastrophes. Make sure your home inspector examines the electric meter, wires, circuit breaker, switches, and the GCFI outlets and electrical outlets.

Foundation – If your home inspector sees that the house is sinking, that means water is seeping into the foundation; cracks in walls, sticking windows, and sagging floor also indicate foundational problems. The foundation is so important that if the general inspection report shows foundation problems, lenders will not lend money on the home until those issues are solved. Foundation repairs can reach as high as $5,880 to repair.

As you can see, a small investment of a few hundred dollars for a general home inspection can save you tons of money and future headaches. To save even more money, you might consider investing in a specialized home inspection as well. A specialized inspection gets down to the nitty-gritty of all the trouble spots the general home inspection might have located.

How Much Money Can a Specialized Inspection Save You?

A general home inspection can trigger a need for a specialized inspection because the general home inspector spotted something off about the roof, sewer system, the heating and cooling system, and the foundation. If humidity is high where you’re buying your home, a pest inspection is recommended. Usually, a pest inspection will check for mold as well as pests. Most homebuyers have a Radon test done to ensure air quality.

Roof – Roof specialists examine the chimney and the flashing surrounding it. They also look at the level of wear and tear of the roof. They can tell you how long the roof will last before a new one is needed. They’ll inspect the downspouts and gutters. The average cost of a roof inspection is about $223. Most roof inspections will cost between $121 and $324.

Sewer System – Making sure your sewer system has no problems should happen before the closing because what might look like a small problem can turn into a large problem in the future. If any issues pop up, you can negotiate with the seller about needed repairs or replacements before closing. Cost of inspection will vary; on the low side, it might cost you around $95, and on the high side, it might cost you $790. Compare these numbers to repairing a septic tank, which can cost, on average, $1,435 (though it could reach as high as $4,459), and you can see that the cost of an inspection is worth it when you catch the problem before you buy.

Heating and Cooling System – A HVAC specialist will check the ducts for blockage and for consistent maintenance of the unit. The repairs needed might be small or they might be big, but this small investment will save you headaches and lots of money down the road.

Foundation – A foundation specialist will pinpoint the exact problem with the foundation. The specialist will look at the grade or slope of the home. The ground should slope away from the home in all directions a half inch per foot. Most homeowners have spent between $1,763 and $5,880 to repair their foundation. And the average cost to re-slope a lawn is at $1,705. Most homeowners paid between $933 and $2,558 to re-slope their lawn.

Pest Inspection – Termites eat a home’s wood structure from inside out and can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home. Other pests can turn your dream home into a nightmare. Depending on the humidity of where you live, you should a pest/termite inspection every two years or so. You can start with your potential new home. Most inspections are extensive and cost between $109 and $281. The good news is that most pest management company will guarantee the past inspection if bugs show up.

Radon Test – Radon is a naturally occurring invisible odorless gas that is the second leading cause of cancer. A radon test is a good test to have done as a good habit. The cost of radon test is low and its cost varies from state to state. Here’smore information about Radon.

Steps You Can Take to Save Money Using a Home Inspection

To help yourself save with a home inspection, you will need to:

Attend the inspection – Attending the inspection is important because it’s an opportunity for you to ask questions.

Check utilities – Checking utilities let’s know the energy efficiency of your potential home.

Hire a Qualified Home Inspector – We can recommend bona-fide home inspectors to you. You can compare our recommendation with all inspectors who belong to the American Society of Home Inspectors. While the decision of who you work with is always yours, we can educate you so that you make a wise homebuying decision.

 

Get Your Credit Score in Shape Before Buying a Home

Get Your Credit Score in Shape Before Buying a Home

How strong is your credit? Cleaning up your credit is essential before you make any major financial moves. Having a bad score can hurt your chances of being able to open a credit card, apply for a loan, purchase a car, or rent an apartment.

It is especially important to have clean credit before you try to buy a home. With a less-than-great score, you may not get preapproved for a mortgage. If you can’t get a mortgage, you may only be able to buy a home if you can make an all-cash offer.

Or if you do get preapproval, you might get a higher mortgage rate, which can be a huge added expense. For example, if you have a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $100,000 and you get a 3.92% interest rate, the total cost of your mortgage will be $170,213. However, if your interest rate is 5.92%, you’ll have to spend $213,990 for the same mortgage  – that’s an extra $43,777 over the life of the loan! If you had secured the lower mortgage rate, you could use that additional money to fund a four-year college degree at a public university.

So now that you know how important it is to maintain a good credit score, how do you start cleaning up your credit? Here, we’ve collected our best tips for improving your score.

Talk to a loan professional

You can protect your score from more damage by getting a loan professional to check your credit score for you. A professional will be able to guide you to whether your score is in the ‘good’ range for home buying. Plus, every time that you request your own credit score, the credit companies record the inquiry, which can lower your score. Having a professional ask instead ensures that you only record one inquiry. Once you know your score, you can start taking action on cleaning up your credit.

Change your financial habits to boost your score

What if your score has been damaged by late payments or delinquent accounts? You can start repairing the damage quickly by taking charge of your debts. For example, your payment history makes up 35% of your score according to myFICO. If you begin to pay your bills in full before they are due, and make regular payments to owed debts, your score can improve within a few months.

Amounts owed are 30% of your FICO score. What matters in this instance is the percentage of credit that you’re currently using. For example, if you have a $5000 limit on one credit card, and you’re carrying a balance of $4500, that means 90% of your available credit is used up by that balance. You can improve your score by reducing that balance to free up some of your available credit.

Length of credit history counts for 15% of your FICO score. If you’re trying to reduce debt by eliminating your credit cards, shred the card but DO NOT close the account. Keep the old accounts open without using them to maintain your credit history and available credit.

Find and correct mistakes on your credit report

How common are credit report mistakes? Inaccuracies are rampant. In a 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission, one in five people identified at least one error on their credit report. In their 2015 follow-up study, almost 70% thought that at least one piece of previously disputed information was still inaccurate.

Go through each section of your report systematically, and take notes about anything that needs to be corrected.

Your personal information

Start with the basics: often overlooked, one small incorrect personal detail like an incorrect address can accidently lower your score. So, before you look at any other part of your report, check all of these personal details:

  • Make sure your name, address, social security number and birthdate are current and correct.
  • Are your prior addresses correct? You’ll need to make sure that they’re right if you haven’t lived at your current address for very long.
  • Is your employment information up to date? Are the details of your past employers also right?
  • Is your marital status correct? Sometimes a former spouse will come up listed as your current spouse.

Your public records

This section will list things like lawsuits, tax liens, judgments, and bankruptcies. If you have any of these in your report, make sure that they are listed correctly and actually belong to you.

A bankruptcy filed by a spouse or ex-spouse should not be on your report if you didn’t file it. There shouldn’t be any lawsuits or judgments older than seven years, or that were entered after the statute of limitations, on your report.  Are there tax liens that you paid off that are still listed as unpaid, or that are more than seven years old? Those all need to go.

Your credit accounts

This section will list any records about your commingled accounts, credit cards, loans, and debts. As you read through this section, make sure that any debts are actually yours.

For example, if you find an outstanding balance for which your spouse is solely responsible, that should be removed from your report. Any debts due to identity theft should also be resolved. If there are accounts that you closed on your report, make sure they’re labeled as ‘closed by consumer’ so that it doesn’t look like the bank closed them.

Your inquiries

Are there any unusual inquiries into your credit listed in this section? An example might be a credit inquiry when you went for a test drive or were comparison shopping at a car dealer. These need to be scrubbed off your report.

Report the dispute to the credit agency

If there are major mistakes, you can take your dispute to the credit agencies. While you could send a letter, it can be much faster to get the ball rolling on resolving a mistake by submitting your report through the credit agency’s website. Experian,Transunionand Equifaxall have step-by-step forms to submit reports online.

If you have old information on your report that should have been purged from your records already, such as a debt that has already been paid off or information that is more than 7 years old, you may need to go directly to the lender to resolve the dispute.

Follow up

You must follow up to make sure that any mistakes are scrubbed from your reports. Keep notes about who you speak to and on which dates you contacted them. Check back with all of the credit reporting companies to make sure that your information has been updated. Since all three companies share data with each other, any mistakes should be corrected on all three reports.

If your disputes are still not corrected, you may have to also follow up with the institution that reported the incident in the first place, or a third-party collections agency that is handling it. Then check again with the credit reporting companies to see if your reports have been updated.

If you can keep on top of your credit reports on a regular basis, you won’t have to deal with the headaches of fixing reporting mistakes. You are entitled to a free annual credit report review to make sure all is well with your score. If you make your annual credit review part of your financial fitness routine, you’ll be able to better protect your buying power and potentially save thousands of dollars each year.

How to clean up your credit now

Does your credit score need a boost so you can buy a home? Get in touch with me. I can connect you with the right lending professionals to help you get the guidance you need.