If you're planning on buying a house this year, and a lot of people still are, you want to have the highest credit score and report possible. If your credit history has been less than perfect, there are some ways that you can rapidly increase your credit score. Anything over about a 680 is considered good to lenders but if you can get that up to 800, you'll get the best terms and rates possible. Anything under 500 is a little bit trickier and you may be spending more on interest rates, fees, and points then you'll need to. Here are four ways to raise your credit score in less than six months.
#1. Get a copy of your credit history and go over it with a fine-tooth comb.
Now is the time to know everything you possibly can about your own finances. If you've been in the dark, just bite the bullet and do it. It can be scary, almost like stepping on the scales after months of not working out, but you need to know. You have to know where you're starting from and you also need to know if there are any mistakes. The last thing you want is to sit in front of a lender and have them find the mistakes before you have. If there are any errors or things that look out of place, try to correct those as quickly as possible. Perhaps it's an old account that you thought you closed or a bill you thought you had paid off. Do what you can to clean up the credit history report is much as possible and then you'll have a base from which to start.
#2. Pay down credit cards and debt but don't cancel completely.
Lenders want to see that you have a good amount of available credit. If you have a $10,000 credit card and a $1000 credit card and then you pay off the $10,000 credit card and cancel it, lenders will only see that you have $1000 in available credit rather than the 10,000, which looks better. Even if you don't trust yourself completely with that much credit availability, hang onto it and simply destroy the card so that you can no longer use it but you still have a good amount of available credit. Once you purchase a house or have raised your credit score enough, you can cancel that account.
Consider keeping balances around one third of credit lines. Carrying a balance may not be the best option for increasing credit scores rapidly. Scores can increase with the balance along with making timely payments, but if there's no balance, there are no payments being made. You have to continually make those timely payments and yet continue to pay down the debt for everything to look great to lenders.
#3. Limit the number of accounts you have.
If you have 10 credit cards out there but you haven't used five of them in over five years, those are the ones to toss. Having no more than about three credit cards, student loan, and a car payment is about average for borrowers. If everything looks decent and you can prove that you can be responsible with credit, your credit score will naturally increase.
#4. Seek out a secured card that works in your favor.
If you have damaged credit, consider getting a secured credit card. These are credit card companies that can cater to those with bad or poor credit. This allows you to start rebuilding credit by paying on time and keeping balances in check. Talk about balance transfers where you can combine several credit cards into one secured card it's easier to pay off. Timely payments make all the difference in the world so keep paying on time, over the minimum balance, and keep your accounts in check.
Within about six months you definitely should see an increase in your credit score and you look much more favorable to lenders. If you're planning on buying or you need to speak with the lender in the Portland or Vancouver area give us a call at any time.
More: How to get your credit back on track in 2020
5 Tips if you're buying a home this year
How to buy a house in your 20s