“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”
That bit of wisdom is usually offered to the bad guys on television cop shows. But it also applies to rookie home buyers as well. If you don’t want to wait months or even years to get into your first house, then don’t just keep your nose clean, keep your credit clean, too.
While bogus credit score improvement offers and credit repair firms would like you to believe that fixing up a history full of late and missed payments is a slam-dunk cinch, they are just that, bogus.
“Truth is, rebuilding a credit rating and improving credit scores requires both time and patience,” says Paul Richard, the executive director of the Institute of Consumer Financial Education, a San Diego nonprofit.
The ICFE helps consumers improve spending habits, increase savings accumulation and use credit more wisely, in addition to advocating the do-it-yourself approach to fixing credit file mistakes and increasing credit scores.
More people than ever have accumulated high interest debt, according to recent studies, and some have done significant damage to their creditworthiness and credit scores. Without decent credit, it is difficult, if not impossible, to qualify for financing to buy a house, or even a car.
In an effort to turn things around quickly, unscrupulous firms using questionable advertising are preying on people’s false hopes, that, for a fee, they can purchase a good credit rating and an improved score. Don’t believe them, says Richard.
“A bad credit rating cannot be quickly fixed and anyone who promises they can, is trying to scam your money,” the certified credit counselor says.
Four things primarily adversely affect your credit rating and all-important score:
First and foremost, defaulted debts — either debts unpaid or sent to a collection agency, including credit cards, auto loans, student loans, mortgages and medical bills.
Second is a history of slow pay.
Third, lenders want to know is if all your indebtedness is on credit cards.
The fourth sign that there is a problem is being maxed out or almost maxed out on the credit lines that are available.
A good way to correct a bad credit rating is to reverse the behavior that caused it and then be patient, Richard advises. By paying all your bills on time and keeping debt levels low, your credit record and score will gradually improve.
“It’s unlikely all your debt came about overnight, so do not expect a credit rating or score will be improved overnight,” the credit advisor says.
Begin the change by sending in your the monthly payments so that they reach the creditor a few days ahead of the due date. Every late payment, even one that is tardy just a day or two late, could be reported to the credit bureaus and become a part of your credit record.
And of course, while you’re working to clean up your record, don’t take on any new debt. If you become overextended or put yourself deeper into debt, it will be another strike on the credit report and lower your score.
While millions of folks have been watching real estate maven Donald Trump search for a new apprentice in this season’s hot new reality series, a more realistic search took place in Los Angeles recently when a train conductor, waiter and teacher came together to learn what it would take to change the face on depressed inner-city neighborhoods in Southern California.
The unlikely mix, which also included an attorney and civil engineer, attended the highly regarded University of Southern California’s Ross Minority Program in Real Estate. Since the program started in 1993, some 300 students have graduated from the intense two-week program that has helped bring millions of dollars in real estate projects to struggling communities in Southern California.
Many members of the current 26-person class, mostly Hispanics and African Americans, will become apprentices, working with mentors they meet during their weekend classes.
The group was part of the first winter class for the Ross program, which is funded by a $1 million grant from real estate finance expert Stan Ross and his wife Marilyn. Ross, who was vice chairman of Ernst & Young before being named chairman of USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate, has advised the biggest names in the business, including The Donald himself when his real estate empire needed restructuring in the early ’90s.
There is no other program like this one in the country, but the Lusk Center hopes to take the concept nationwide to teach business professionals the fundamental skills needed to develop affordable housing, retail, mixed-use, offices, and community facilities in underserved communities.