If you’re buying a home, it’s likely that you’ll be applying for a mortgage. Before lenders decide what they’re willing to offer you, they will want information about your employment history, salary, bank-account balances and your credit history. Are you aware of what they will find? You can’t afford not to get your credit report
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act of 2003 made it possible for consumers to access free copies of credit reports (also called credit-file disclosures). The free reports list key aspects of your financial history.
Before you apply for a loan, you should request a free credit report to get an idea of what a lender would see. If the report has errors, you can correct them before they affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage loan. And if you find legitimate flaws, you might be able to take steps to improve your credit standing before purchasing a property.
How many credit reports can you request?
You can request one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major consumer credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. But you don’t have to get all three reports at once. How many you request and when is up to you.
What’s in the report?
A credit report lists how much you borrow, whether you pay on time, if you’ve been sued or have declared bankruptcy. The disclosure includes some information that a third party would not receive, such as medical-account info. It’s important to note that a credit report is not the same as a credit score. If you want your credit score, you typically have to purchase that information.
How do I get my reports?
You can request free credit reports online at www.annualcreditreport.com. You’ll be required to provide your date of birth, Social Security number and current and previous addresses so the credit agencies can obtain your information. The site is encrypted to ensure a private and secure connection. Once your information is verified, your report will appear on the screen and is usually available to download onto your computer. If you find errors, you should work directly with the credit-reporting agencies by submitting written documentation of the mistakes. Their sites are www.equifax.com, www.experian.com and www.transunion.com.
If you do not want to use the Internet to access your reports, you can request them by phone at (877) 322-8228. You can also mail a request to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Ga., 30348-5281. Beware of any person or organization that sends you an email offering you a free credit report or ads you on other websites. The FTC warns that you should not reply or click those ads, as they most likely are scams. Find more advice on buying real estate at TexasRealEstate.com.