No, you won’t get the lowest interest rate with a low credit score, but you can qualify for a mortgage loan. It’ll take more work and probably cost more, but it’s possible. Here’s how you should prepare for the process.
Know your credit situation
You know you missed payments, declared bankruptcy or have other blemishes on your credit record, but have you ever looked at your report in detail? Get a free copy at annualcreditreport.com, and look for any mistakes. You can contact the credit-reporting agencies if you find anything that needs correction.
Next, look at your credit score. Lenders base many of their decisions on how high or low scores are. Some financial institutions provide their customers with a version of their FICO score, the most widely used credit score. Or you can pay a small fee to obtain yours.
Is your score very low? If you’ve corrected the behavior or situations that damaged your credit, consider waiting a few months. As the blemishes to your credit record age, they’ll affect your score less.
Don’t make it worse
Disputing possible problems on your credit report, being current on all your bills and other common sense practices can improve your credit score over time. At the very least, don’t do anything to make your loan application look worse.
Obviously, don’t open any new credit accounts, but don’t close any accounts either. It won’t hide anything, and you’ll only reduce your available credit. And if you’re shopping around for a lender, make sure you pick one within 30 days of your first application. The credit agency will ignore multiple credit checks within that amount of time, but after that, each hit will damage your already delicate credit.
Talk to your lender
Find a mortgage lender who handles mortgage products that may work for your situation. In addition to mortgage products, he or she likely knows of buyer-assistance programs that could help you.
And don’t be afraid to discuss what happened with your credit. Missing a car payment because your wife needed an expensive medical procedure is different than missing a car payment because you bought a boat. If extenuating circumstances contributed to your credit problems — and you can show evidence that supports your story — you may get the benefit of the doubt if the lender has any flexibility.