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Housing Trends

December 2018

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What's in your credit report?

If you were thinking of loaning someone hundreds of thousands of dollars, you probably would want to know how likely it is that the person asking for the loan could pay you back. That’s why lenders look at information like your employment history, salary and bank-account balances, and, yes, your credit history, too.

Get your credit info … free
It’s a good idea to find out what your credit report says before you apply for a loan. If you find errors, you can clear them up before they hamper your ability to get a mortgage. Or, if you find legitimate blemishes, you may be able to take steps to improve your credit picture.

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.

How many? How often?
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. If you know you will be applying for a loan in the near future, you might choose to receive all three at the same time. That way you can spot an error or legitimate problem that only appears on one or two of your reports. You can also directly compare all three reports at the same point in time.

But if you prefer, you can space out the reports. You can get one every month for three months or one every four months. That strategy might help you track how your credit history is changing over time. Getting the reports periodically is also a good way to monitor whether you have fallen victim to identity theft.

What’s in the report?
The information you receive consists of everything that the credit-reporting bureau would provide to someone requesting your credit information—a mortgage lender, for example. It 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.

Don’t confuse this report with a credit score. A credit score, which many lenders use to quickly gauge your creditworthiness, is computed by the credit-reporting bureaus based on many variables plugged into a complex equation. If you want your credit score, you typically have to purchase that information.

How do I get my reports?
You can request the free reports online at www.annualcreditreport.com. You will have to provide personal information like your date of birth, Social Security number, current address and previous address, so the credit agencies can make sure to accurately match you up with your information. After all, it does you no good if you get the report for someone with your same name who isn’t actually you. The site is encrypted to ensure a private and secure connection.

Once the information is verified, your report will appear on-screen. However, you won’t be able to fix any errors through this Web site. Instead, you should work directly with the credit-reporting agencies to correct any mistakes. Their sites are at www.equifax.com, www.experian.com and www.transunion.com. You should provide the information you feel is incorrect in writing.

If you do not want to use the Web 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 e-mail or any ads you see claiming to be from www.annualcreditreport.com. The FTC warns that you should not reply or click those ads, as they most likely are scams.

A legitimate report, though, that you request through the Web site, by phone or by mail can help you make sure your credit is in good shape to pursue your dream of buying a home.

Source: Texas Association of REALTORS®
Reprinted with permission.