If you’re planning to buy a home in the near future, you should know your FICO credit score. In fact, your credit score is one of the three most important factors considered by mortgage lenders (along with your debt and income levels). If your score is high, you’ll have a much better chance of getting approved for a loan. You’ll also qualify for a better interest rate, which could save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

It’s important to check your FICO score early on in the home-buying process, because it takes time to improve a low score. While you’re entitled to a free credit report per year, you’ll have to pay a small fee for the credit score. They are two different things. You can purchase your score from MyFICO.com — this is the company that actually designed the FICO scoring model.

But what if you check your score and find out that it’s low? You could qualify for certain types of loans with a score in 600 range, but you’ll be much better off in the mid- to upper-700 range. The question now becomes: How do I Improve my score? And that brings us to the purpose of this article.

5 Good Sources of Credit Information

Here are five websites worth visiting, if you want to learn more about your credit reports and scores:

www.myfico.com — We touched on this website earlier. This site is owned by the Fair Isaac Corporation, the company that created the credit-scoring model used by most lenders. They have plenty of educational articles, as well as a forum where you can post questions. It’s well worth a visit.

www.homebuyinginstitute.com/credit.php — On this page, you’ll find a collection of more than 100 articles relating to consumer credit. This collection was compiled over a two-year period, as readers sent in their questions. If you have a question about credit reports and scores, you’ll find the answer on this site.

www.annualcreditreport.com — This website is jointly owned by the three credit-reporting companies (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian). This is where you should go to request your free reports. This is the only site that is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.

www.ftc.gov/freereports — Why do so many people offer “free” credit reports, and then try to charge you for stuff? It’s a marketing strategy referred to as bundling, and you can learn the truth about it on this website.

www.bankrate.com — This site is a treasure trove of helpful advice. In addition to credit tips, it explains the mortgage process in great detail. Start with a keyword search, or click on the “news and advice” link.
Research is the first step to home-buying success. The five resources listed above will help you get started on the right foot.

Citation Note: The original version of this article was written by Brandon Cornett. Brandon is the publisher of the Home Buying Institute, which includes one of the largest libraries of mortgage advice for home buyers.

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