Before first-time homebuyers pull the trigger on buying a new home, they should understand some common misconceptions in the credit reporting industry as they go through the prequalification and preapproval process. Here’s how agents can help.

As interest rates continue to drop to historic lows — fueled by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — an uptick in mortgage applications has flooded the financial community. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported an 8 percent increase in mortgage loan application volume for the week ending June 12, 2020.

Before first-time homebuyers pull the trigger on buying a new home, they should understand some common myths in the credit reporting industry. As an agent, you should be ready to clear up those myths and explain how they might affect clients during the prequalification and preapproval process. Here are a few of them.

1. ‘Closing an old account will help my credit’

This might be one of the most common misconceptions around how unused accounts, like credit cards, can impact creditworthiness. One of the main factors that lenders look at when reviewing your clients’ credit history is how long accounts have been open.

They typically average all current and past accounts to get an average length of time. The longer your credit history, the better. By closing an old account, you are effectively reducing the impact that individual account may have on your overall credit history. Instead of closing the account, keep it open.

2. All debt is treated equally

Since all debt carries a monetary value, it might make sense that all debt is the same. However, this is not the case.

Lenders look at the specific type of debt to better understand the risk associated with it. Short-term accounts, like credit or charge cards, are considered more risky if the account has a high amount of revolving debt. This is due, in part, to the requirement that credit cards be paid off monthly.

In contrast, a 30-year mortgage is understood to be a long-term debt and is treated as such. Therefore, just because your clients have a car loan with a high balance remaining, does not mean that it will hurt their credit as much as a credit card that is maxed out.

3. ‘Credit repair companies can help improve my credit’

The old adage of “if something is too good to be true, it probably is” couldn’t be more accurate in this example. Younger generations have become increasingly interested in getting help establishing or repairing their credit.

Companies such as Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and even the major three credit reporting companies such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion offer ways to improve or “boost” credit. However, buyer beware.

These companies can only assist you with creating a plan to pay down or consolidate debt. They cannot magically make or reduce the amount of debt a person has — this can only be done by paying off an account.

Instead of paying a company to put this plan together, homebuyers can create a spreadsheet with their recurring expenses along with their monthly income to visualize what debts can be paid down over a period of time.

4. ‘Paying off a collection or debt removes it from my credit report’

Undeniably false. In fact, a derogatory mark like a collection or missed payment can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. While paying this off will stop future attempts by the collection agency or banking institution to collect on the debt, there is no way to remove a derogatory mark from your credit report unless it was reported incorrectly due to fraud or identity theft.

5. ‘My relationship status or divorce is reflected on my credit report’

Information like income, employment and relationship status are not reported to credit bureaus. Questions regarding this information will likely be asked during the credit application process in conjunction with your credit score.

However, they will not show up on a credit report. This is important for those going through a separation. If one partner does not pay a debt and the other partner is on the account, it will negatively impact both parties.

Now that some of these misconceptions have been put to rest, your clients should be ready to speak to their lenders about getting preapproved for a home loan. In today’s market, lenders can even help formulate a plan to help homebuyers pay down debt to be approved for a better interest rate.

As a real estate agent, you can be a great resource homebuyers can turn to while going through the initial stages of the homebuying process. Your vast knowledge and years of experience are unparalleled in the industry.

Vance Kellogg is the director of marketing and communications with Red Door Agency in Kingsport, Tennessee. Connect with him on Facebook or Instagram

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