Category: credit report tips (3)

Don’t wait until you’re ready to move to start preparing financially to buy a home.

If you’re like the vast majority of home buyers, you will choose to finance your purchase with a mortgage loan. By preparing in advance, you can avoid the common delays and roadblocks many buyers face when applying for a mortgage.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) issued new mortgage guidelines, which went into effect at the beginning of the year and raised the standards for mortgage applicants. The requirements may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. But we’ve outlined three simple steps to get you started on your path to approval.

It’s never too early to start preparing to buy a home. Follow these three steps to begin laying the foundation for your future home purchase today!

 

STEP 1: CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE

Your credit score is one of the first things a lender will check to see if you qualify for a loan. It’s a good idea to review your credit report and score yourself before you’re ready to apply for a mortgage. If you have a low score, you will need time to raise it. And sometimes fraudulent activity or erroneous information will appear on your report, which can take months to correct.

There are five factors that impact your credit score: history of payments (35%), debts (30%), credit length (15%), new inquiries (10%), and diversity (10%).1

Credit scores range from 300 to 900. A higher credit score will help you qualify for a lower mortgage interest rate, which will save you money.2

The two major credit bureaus in Canada are Equifax Canada and Transunion Canada. For information on how you can request a free copy of your credit report from each bureau, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/credit-reports-score/order-credit-report.html. The bureaus may charge you a fee to access your actual credit score.

 

Minimum Score Requirements

The new OSFI rules require a minimum credit score of 600 for a mortgage under $1,000,000. However, many lenders prefer to see a score of at least 650.

Generally speaking, banks and other traditional financial institutions have the strictest requirements. If you have a credit score below 600, you may still be able to secure a loan through a credit union or private lender, however you should expect to pay a higher interest rate and additional fees.3

 

Increase Your Credit Score

There’s no quick fix for a low credit score, but the following steps will help you increase it over time.4

  1. Make Payments on Time

At 35 percent, your payment history accounts for the largest portion of your credit score. Therefore, it’s crucial to get caught up on any late payments and make all of your future payments on time.

If you have trouble remembering to pay your bills on time, set up payment reminders through your online banking platform, a free money management tool like Mint, or an app like BillMinder.

 

  1. Avoid Applying for New Credit You Don’t Need

New accounts will lower your average account age, which could negatively impact your length of credit history. Also, each time you apply for credit, it can result in a small decrease in your credit score.

The exception to this rule? If you don’t have any credit cards—or any credit accounts at all—you should open an account to establish a credit history. Just be sure to use it responsibly and pay it off in full each month.

If you need to shop for a new credit account, for example, a car loan, be sure to complete your loan applications within a short period of time. The credit bureaus attempt to distinguish between a search for a single loan and applications to open several new lines of credit by the window of time during which inquiries occur.

 

  1. Pay Down Credit Cards

When you pay off your credit cards and other revolving credit, you lower your amounts owed, or credit utilization ratio (ratio of account balances to credit limits). Some experts recommend starting with your highest-interest debt and paying it off first. Others suggest paying off your lowest balance first and then rolling that payment into your next-lowest balance to create momentum.

Whichever method you choose, the first step is to make a list of all of your credit card balances and then start tackling them one by one. Make the minimum payments on all of your cards except one. Pay as much as possible on that card until it’s paid in full, then cross it off your list and move on to the next card.

 

Debt Interest Rate Total Payoff Minimum Payment
Credit Card 1 12.5% $460 $18.40
Credit Card 2 18.9% $1,012 $40.48
Credit Card 3 3.11% $6,300 $252

 

 

  1. Avoid Closing Old Accounts

Closing an old account will not remove it from your credit report. In fact, it can hurt your score, as it can raise your credit utilization ratio—since you’ll have less available credit—and decrease your average length of credit history.

Similarly, paying off a collection account will not remove it from your report. It remains on your credit report for seven years, however, the negative impact on your score will decrease over time.

 

  1. Correct Errors on Your Report

Mistakes or fraudulent activity can negatively impact your credit score. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your credit report at least once per year. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada posts instructions for disputing errors on your report.

While it may seem like a lot of effort to raise your credit score, your hard work will pay off in the long run. Not only will it help you qualify for a mortgage, a high credit score can help you secure a lower interest rate on car loans and credit cards, as well. You may even qualify for lower rates on insurance premiums.

 

 

STEP 2: SAVE UP FOR A DOWN PAYMENT AND CLOSING COSTS

 The next step in preparing for your home purchase is to save up for a down payment and closing costs.

 

Down Payment

When you purchase a home, you typically pay for a portion of it in cash (down payment) and take out a loan to cover the remaining balance (mortgage).

The minimum amount you’ll need for your down payment depends on the purchase price of the home.

 

PURCHASE PRICE MINIMUM DOWN
$500,000 or less ●     5% of the purchase price
$500,000 to $999,999 ●     5% of the first $500,000 of the purchase price

AND

●     10% for the portion of the purchase price above $500,000

$1 million or more ●     20% of the purchase price

Source: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

 

It’s important to note that these are the minimum requirements for securing a mortgage. If you’re self-employed or have a low credit score, your down payment requirements may be higher.

Generally speaking, the higher your down payment, the more money you will save on interest and fees. For example, if your down payment falls below 20 percent, you will be required to purchase mortgage loan insurance, which will cost you between 0.6 to 4.5 percent of the overall mortgage amount.5

If you don’t have the minimum requirements for a down payment, the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) might be an option for you. It enables you to withdraw up to $25,000 (or $50,000 if you are buying as a couple) from your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to buy or build a qualifying home. You have up to 15 years to repay the amount you withdrew. Click here for more information and to find out if you are eligible to participate.6

 

Current Homeowners

If you’re a current homeowner, you may have equity in your home that you can use toward your down payment on a new home. We can help you estimate your expected return after you sell your current home and pay back your existing mortgage. Contact us for a free evaluation!

 

Closing Costs

Closing costs should also be factored into your savings plan. These typically include legal fees and other administrative fees associated with the purchase of your home. Closing costs typically range between 1.5 to four percent of the purchase price.7

If you don’t have the funds to pay these outright at closing, you can often add a portion to your mortgage balance and pay it over time. However, you’ll have a higher monthly payment and pay more over the long term because you’ll pay interest on the fees.

 

STEP 3: ESTIMATE YOUR HOME PURCHASING POWER

Once you have the required credit score, savings for a down payment and a list of all your outstanding debt obligations via your credit report, you can assess whether you are ready and able to purchase a home.

It’s important to have a sense of how much you can reasonably afford—and how much you’ll be able to borrow—to see if homeownership is within reach.

Your gross debt service ratio (GDS) and total debt service ratio (TDS) are the two primary measurements mortgage companies use to determine how much they are willing to lend you.

 

Gross Debt Service Ratio

Your GDS ratio is the percentage of your income that would go toward housing each month, including principal, interest, taxes, heat and 50 percent of condo fees (if applicable).

To calculate your GDS ratio, a lender will add up your expected housing expenses and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum GDS ratio most conventional lenders will accept is 32 percent.8

 

Total Debt Service Ratio

The TDS ratio takes into account all of your monthly debt obligations: your expected housing expenses PLUS credit card bills, car payments, child and spousal support, and any other debt that shows up on your credit report.

To calculate your TDS ratio, a lender will tabulate your expected housing expenses and other monthly debt payments and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum TDS ratio most conventional lenders will accept is 44 percent.8

 

New “Stress Test” Requirements

Under OSFI’s new rules, all mortgages issued by federally-regulated lenders are required to undergo a “stress test.” Under this test, applicants must fall below the GDS and TDS ratio maximums at either the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark interest rate, or at their qualified contract interest rate plus two percent, whichever is higher.8

The purpose of the stress test is to ensure that home buyers will still be able to afford their mortgages if interests rates rise.

 

Home Affordability Calculator

To get a sense of how much home you can afford, visit the Canadian Real Estate Association’s Affordability Calculator at https://www.realtor.ca/Residential/calculator.aspx?tab=3.

 

This handy tool will help you determine how much you can afford to borrow depending on your income, debt, property taxes, condo fees, heating costs and interest rate. It also offers a projection of your monthly mortgage payment. Add the “maximum mortgage” estimate to your down payment amount to find out your total home purchasing power.

When you enter the interest rate, be sure to use either the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate or two percentage points above your estimated rate (whichever is higher) to ensure you can meet the “stress test” requirements.

If the monthly cost estimate is significantly higher than what you’re currently paying for housing, you need to consider whether or not you can make up the difference each month in your budget.

If not, you may want to lower your target purchase price to reflect a more conservative TDS ratio.

(Note: This tool only provides an estimate of your purchasing power. You will need to secure pre-approval from a mortgage lender to know your true mortgage approval amount and monthly payment projections.)

 

Can I Afford to Buy My Dream Home?

Once you have a sense of your purchasing power, it’s time to find out which neighbourhoods and types of homes you can afford. The best way to determine this is to contact a licensed real estate agent. We help homeowners like you every day and can send you a comprehensive list of homes within your budget that meet your specific needs.

If there are homes within your price range and target neighbourhoods that meet your criteria—congratulations! It’s time to begin your home search.

If not, you may need to continue saving up for a larger down payment … or adjust your search parameters to find homes that do fit within your budget. We can help you determine the right course for you.

 

START LAYING YOUR FOUNDATION TODAY

 It’s never too early to start preparing financially for a home purchase. These three steps will set you on the path toward homeownership … and a secure financial future!

And if you are ready to buy now but still aren’t sure if you meet the minimum requirements, don’t get discouraged. You may be able to secure a loan through a credit union or a private lender. We can connect you with one of our trusted mortgage providers.

 

Want to find out if you’re ready to buy a house? Give us a call! We’ll help you review your options and determine the ideal time to begin your new home search.

 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

 

Sources:

  1. Loans Canada –
    https://loanscanada.ca/credit/what-your-credit-score-range-really-means/
  2. Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) –
    https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca02179.html
  3. Loans Canada –
    https://loanscanada.ca/mortgage/minimum-credit-score-required-mortgage-approval-2018/
  4. Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) –
    https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca02178.html
  5. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada –
    https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/mortgages/down-payment.html
  6. Government of Canada –
    https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/rrsps-related-plans/what-home-buyers-plan.html
  7. Which Mortgage –
    https://www.whichmortgage.ca/article/the-truth-about-closing-costs-118698.aspx
  8. Deposit Financing –
    http://depositfinancing.ca/mortgage-stress-test-calculator-canada-2018/

The holidays are a happy time for celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers. Unfortunately, this time of year can also be turned sour by a wide variety of clever frauds, unauthorized debit and credit card transactions, and bogus person-to-person scams. By the end of 2015, individuals, retailers, charitable donors, and companies were victimized to the tune of $1.5 billion… and that number is expected to have gone up in 2016.

Just as you protect your home with an alarm system, you should set up defenses for your credit and identity. During the holiday season, fraudulent activity spikes, but here’s how to protect yourself from the eight most common scams.

 

Big Data Breeds Data Breaches

Big data during the holidays is great for marketers; it’s a bonanza of consumer information to use to lure shoppers to Black Friday deals and the like. However, while companies wrangle in the chaos of holiday orders, scammers search for weaknesses in a company’s cyber-security. According to a top executive at one of the leading credit bureaus, “Data breaches are inevitable and most consumers are vulnerable to identity theft… especially during the holidays.” In fact, 25% more consumers were affected by identity theft during the holidays in 2015 than in 2014!

The best way to reduce your risk of data breaches is use cash for all your purchases. According to a survey by TransUnion, however, only 20 percent of shoppers plan to pay with cash. If you’re part of the 80 percent using plastic, use a credit card instead of a debit card. You have more purchase protection using a credit card than a debit card if a data breach occurs or fraud happens.

Other protections from data breaches include:

  • Using a low-limit credit card for online purchases so you can detect fraudulent activity.
  • Utilizing services like PayPal to lower the risk of your card information being lost at the retailer.

 

Package Theft

E-commerce is great for holiday shoppers… but it’s also great for thieves. Last year, Insurance quotes reported that 23 million people had packages stolen at their front door!

To prevent this from happening to you, have your packages delivered to your office or delivered to a pick-up area such as a UPS store or Amazon Locker.  You can also set up tracking notifications so that you know when to expect delivery.

And while you’re waiting for your packages, be on the lookout for this scam: a note on the front door saying you have a package waiting for pickup. The note asks for a call, often to a pricey number that leaves you on hold for a long period while they collect premium phone rates, or it leads to a person asking for details on your personal information to “verify your identity.” If the note isn’t from a shipper you recognize, or if the Googled number isn’t found, don’t get involved.

 

Online Shopping Scams

The big brother of package thievery is the online shopping scam. Phony online stores lure shoppers in through searches and online ads, enticing you with low-priced, high-quality items. These “bargains” cost you not only money, but also hours of time trying to fight the fraudulent transaction. To put salt in the wound, once these websites nab your personal information, they often also infect your computer with malware that compromises your login to your online bank.

To avoid the pitfalls of the fake online merchant, only purchase from retail names you know and trust. You could also Google the site and look for reviews. Yelp is a legitimate site for reviews as is the Better Business Bureau. Before you make a purchase online, double-check that “https” appears in the URL, which signifies that the site has passed stringent security compliance standards.

 

Poisonous Holiday E-Cards

E-cards are popular during the holidays because they’re a free, fun, and easy way to catch up with friends and family members. But beware because it’s just as easy for scammers to use fake e-cards to steal your personal information. A lot of fake e-cards you may get are from your hacked address book or the hacked address book of someone you know. At first glance, the card may look legitimate, but once you open it, you’ve been phished.

The only way to avoid this from happening is paying attention to detail. The number one tell of a fake E-card is any kind of misspelling. The URL will have a subtle misspelled word or your friend’s name is misspelled. Usually the misspelled word will contain a number: [email protected] for instance.

 

Fake Apps

ConsumerAffairs is reporting a huge spike in fake apps. Scammers are using fake retail and product apps found in Apple’s App Store to steal unsuspecting consumers’ financial information. Many of these thieves rip off company or brand logos to make the fake app look real. So before you get that convenient retail or product app, make sure it’s legit.

Just as with fake e-cards, fake apps will seem normal until you start looking at the details. Before you download that convenient retail or product app, make sure you check for the following:

  • A nonsensical description
  • No reviews
  • No history of previous versions

 

Gift Card Scammers

Scam artists skim or copy the codes on the back of gift cards before they’re bought. After the card has been activated, the scammers drain the card’s funds.

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of compromised gift cards, buy gift cards displayed behind store counters, make sure preloaded cards are still loaded, and make sure the protective scratch-off strip is flawless.

 

Malicious Charities

During the holiday season we all feel an extra sense of giving. Grifters and thieves play on this sensibility by creating false charities and hitting you up on Twitter, Instagram, and in your e-mail inbox.

There are online resources to help you verify the legitimacy of charities. The website Charity Navigator is a non-profit organization that rates over 8,000 U.S-based charities operating throughout the world. Another way to get free reviews and evaluations on national charities is through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

 

Corrupted Wi-Fi

You’ll probably hit the mall this holiday for some in-person price checking, and you’ll probably have your smartphone, laptop, and/or your iPad with you. Please be careful because skimmers and scammers love to manipulate Wi-Fi signals in places like malls and coffee shops to gather your financial information. These people create Wi-Fi signals that mimic the signal you use, then hack your info when you connect to it.

To protect yourself from Wi-Fi manipulators, just don’t make online purchases with your credit or debit card when you’re in a public space.

 

Who Should You Turn To?

If you catch the trouble soon enough, credit or identity fraud can be an inconvenience. If you don’t, however, one instance can have long-term impacts. If, for example, someone bought an appliance using your name while you were trying to refinance your mortgage, then you might not get approved for the loan!

If you’re curious to know if you’ve been affected, or if you know your credit is in disrepair and need help fixing it, please let us know so we can refer you to our recommended professionals.

How strong is your credit? Cleaning up your credit is essential before you make any major financial moves. Having a bad score can hurt your chances of being able to open a credit card, apply for a loan, purchase a car, or rent an apartment.

It is especially important to have clean credit before you try to buy a home. With a less-than-great score, you may not get preapproved for a mortgage. If you can’t get a mortgage, you may only be able to buy a home if you can make an all-cash offer.

Or if you do get preapproval, you might get a higher mortgage rate, which can be a huge added expense. For example, if you have a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $100,000 and you get a 3.70% interest rate, the total cost of your mortgage will be $52,946. However, if your interest rate is 5.92%, you’ll have to spend $90,110 for the same mortgage – that’s an extra $37,164 over the life of the mortgage! If you had secured the lower mortgage rate, you could use that additional money to fund a four-year college degree at a public university.

So now that you know how important it is to maintain a good credit score, how do you start cleaning up your credit? Here, we’ve collected our best tips for improving your score.

 

Talk to a mortgage professional

You can protect your score from more damage by getting a mortgage professional to check your credit score for you. A professional will be able to guide you to whether your score is in the ‘good’ range for home buying. You can also purchase a copy of your credit report with your credit score from a credit reporting agency, like Equifax or TransUnion – but the advice a professional can provide you is invaluable! Once you know your score, you can start taking action on cleaning up your credit.

 

Change your financial habits to boost your score

What if your score has been damaged by late payments or delinquent accounts? You can start repairing the damage quickly by taking charge of your debts. For example, your payment history makes up 35% of your score according to mymoneycoach.ca. If you begin to pay your bills in full before they are due, and make regular payments to owed debts, your score can improve within a few months.

Amounts owed are about 30% of your credit score. What matters in this instance is the percentage of credit that you’re currently using. For example, if you have a $5000 limit on one credit card, and you’re carrying a balance of $4500, that means 90% of your available credit is used up by that balance. You can improve your score by reducing that balance to less than 75% of your available credit.

Length of credit history counts for 15% of your score. If you’re trying to reduce debt by eliminating your credit cards, shred the card but DO NOT close the account. Keep the old accounts open without using them to maintain your credit history and available credit.

Find and correct mistakes on your credit report

How common are credit report mistakes? Inaccuracies are rampant. In a 2005 study by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, 18% (almost one in five) of people identified at least one error on their credit report.

Go through each section of your report systematically, and take notes about anything that needs to be corrected. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has some great resources for understanding your credit report, reading a report, and contacting the primary credit reporting agencies in Canada.

 

Your personal information

Start with the basics: often overlooked, one small incorrect personal detail like an incorrect address can accidently lower your score. So, before you look at any other part of your report, check all of these personal details:

● Make sure your name, address, social security number and birthdate are current and correct.
● Are your prior addresses correct? You’ll need to make sure that they’re right if you haven’t lived at your current address for very long.
● Is your employment information up to date? Are the details of your past employers also right?
● Is your marital status correct? Sometimes a former spouse will come up listed as your current spouse.

 

Your public records

This section will list things like lawsuits, tax liens, judgments, and bankruptcies. If you have any of these in your report, make sure that they are listed correctly and actually belong to you.

A bankruptcy filed by a spouse or ex-spouse should not be on your report if you didn’t file it. There shouldn’t be any lawsuits or judgments older than seven years, or that were entered after the statute of limitations, on your report. Are there tax liens that you paid off that are still listed as unpaid, or that are more than seven years old? Those all need to go.

 

Your credit accounts

This section will list any records about your commingled accounts, credit cards, loans, and debts. As you read through this section, make sure that any debts are actually yours.

For example, if you find an outstanding balance for which your spouse is solely responsible, that should be removed from your report. Any debts due to identity theft should also be resolved. If there are accounts that you closed on your report, make sure they’re labeled as ‘closed by consumer’ so that it doesn’t look like the bank closed them.

 

Your inquiries

Are there any unusual inquiries into your credit listed in this section? An example might be a credit inquiry when you went for a test drive or were comparison shopping at a car dealer. These need to be scrubbed off your report.

 

Report the dispute to the credit agency

If there are major mistakes, you can take your dispute to the credit agencies. While you could send a letter, it can be much faster to get the ball rolling on resolving a mistake by submitting your report through the credit agency’s website. TransUnion and Equifax both have step-by-step forms to submit reports online.

If you have old information on your report that should have been purged from your records already, such as a debt that has already been paid off or information that is more than 7 years old, you may need to go directly to the lender to resolve the dispute.

 

Follow up

You must follow up to make sure that any mistakes are scrubbed from your reports. Keep notes about who you speak to and on which dates you contacted them. Check back with all of the credit reporting companies to make sure that your information has been updated. Since all three companies share data with each other, any mistakes should be corrected on all three reports.

If your disputes are still not corrected, you may have to also follow up with the institution that reported the incident in the first place, or a third-party collections agency that is handling it. Then check again with the credit reporting companies to see if your reports have been updated.

If you can keep on top of your credit reports on a regular basis, you won’t have to deal with the headaches of fixing reporting mistakes. You are entitled to a free annual credit report review to make sure all is well with your score. If you make your annual credit review part of your financial fitness routine, you’ll be able to better protect your buying power and potentially save thousands of dollars each year.

 

How to clean up your credit now

Does your credit score need a boost so you can buy a home? Get in touch with us. We can connect you with the right lending professionals to help you get the guidance you need.