Mortgage underwriters can be a suspicious bunch. If you have bruised or even bad credit, you have your work cut out for you. Many loan programs have guidelines that set a minimum FICO score of 620. FHA does not allow lenders to reject a loan based solely on FICO scores, but if yours is less than 620, there are probably other reasons the underwriter will find in your file to say no.
How do you prove to the underwriter that you're ready to buy a house?
- Budget your income and start cleaning up the old dings on your credit report.
- Payoff the minor collections, even the medical ones, unless you have a valid dispute.
- Make arrangements to pay any judgement you might have and get 6 months worth of payments under your belt.
- Formalize any credit dispute so your credit report reflects the dispute or you have copies of letters you have sent out.
- Pay your rent on time and be able to prove it. Cancelled checks are the best proof. Letters from family members or sellers saying you're a good guy just aren't going to cut it. If you don't get your cancelled checks, then save the statements with the check numbers and the carbons.
- Be able to explain what happened to your credit. Mortgage underwriters understand all about “life events". They can also do math pretty well. If you make enough money to pay your bills and you don't pay your bills, there better be a very good reason. A sincere explanation that indicates you take credit seriously works wonders.
And now, what's the number one way to prove to an underwriter that you are ready and able to afford your first house? There are four steps:
- Figure out what you can afford in the way of a total Housing Expense payment. Principal, interest, mortgage insurance, property taxes and homeowner's hazard and fire insurance all add up. What's your letter to Santa Claus for a monthly outlay?
- Set up a savings account if you don't already have one.
- Each month, pay your rent on time and subtract the amount of your rent from the figure you came up with for your future house payment. Save the exact amount of the difference or more.
- When it's time to apply for an FHA mortgage or any other type of mortgage, make a point of bringing your savings records to show that you have been “making" the payment already by placing the difference between it and your rent into your savings account each month and still paying your other bills on time.
Judi Moore authors Ask The Underwriter at 2rHouse.org and personally answers questions from readers about FHA mortgages and mortgage advice in general.