Published by Kartik Subramaniam
So you’ve finished up at our real estate school and passed the real estate exam. You're stoked because you have your first buyer client but their credit is less than perfect. The buyer badly wants a home and you’re asking yourself: What advice can I give them to improve their credit score?
The reality is that credit scores today have a profound impact on quality of life. It determines the rates you pay on all sorts of things from mortgage interest rates to whether or not you can rent a car. The difference between good credit and bad credit can also determine where and how you live.
Make sure that only accurate information appears on the credit report
It makes sense that a borrower would want to be sure that their credit report contains accurate information. Any inaccurate data can be disputed with the credit bureaus. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are the three bureaus and can be contacted to dispute erroneous information.
If your borrower isn’t sure how to start the dispute process there are third party providers that can help quarterback this with the credit agencies. I would recommend checking online or with other folks in the business that can give you a good referral to a vendor that can help.
Pay down revolving debt
Assuming that all the data on the credit report is accurate, the next question is “What else can we do to bump up the score?” One thing that can quickly impact the FICO is to advise the borrower to pay down as much revolving debt as possible. This is known as the “credit utilization” ratio. This ratio is a big deal as it accounts for about a third of the FICO algorithm. The less credit you have available the worse your score will generally be.
In other words if all your credit cards are maxed out, your score is probably going to be low. Do your best to get credit card debt paid down quickly to improve the credit utilization ratio and get that score up.
Try to get added as an authorized user
Another thing that can help bump the credit score is if the borrower can convince a family member or a loved one to add them to one of their credit cards. If mom or dad has a credit card that has a solid payment history and they are willing to add the borrower as an authorized user, this can help piggyback their on-time payments to boost the score.
Make sure bills are paid on-time
A central aspect of good credit is ensuring that the borrower pay their bills on-time. An easy way to do this is to calendar all required payments on a cell phone or Google calendar. Better yet - back up the calendaring with autopay. Autopay eliminates the aspect of human error and also eliminates wasted money spent on a bunch of late fees. Better still - auto pay eliminates the worst case scenario of an altogether missed payment. One missed payment means a catch-up scenario for the borrower and forces them to make two or more payments at once. Letting bills pile up can make it really hard to dig out of a deep hole.
Think long-term with your buyers
Remember that selling real estate inherently involves a very long sales cycle. Even if your prospect can’t buy a property immediately, they may be able to with some future planning. A year is going to go by quicker than you might think. Do you plan on being in the business in 12 months? I would think so. Sticking with a prospect even when it looks like they might not be able to buy immediately will create loyalty and your deal will eventually come to fruition.
As a real estate professional, it’s important to be a valued resource for your clients. Giving great advice can help foster loyalty among your customer base. This can be priceless and irreplaceable.