How to manage your credit score and buy property

Weak economic conditions, higher interest rates and the global credit crisis have forced banks to be far more picky about who they will lend money and less generous with their lending rates.

But Mary Jane Lefevre, Regional Sales Manager of ooba, said that before you apply for a home loan, there are steps you can take to improve your credit status and encourage lenders to look more favourably on your application.

"Even those who know that they have a good credit history should request a copy of their credit record from ITC and Experian (contact details for these can be found on the web) to ensure that all information held on you is both accurate and up to date," says Lefevre. "You can also approach an origination company such as ooba who will, with your written consent, provide you with your credit records."

Be aware that each time your credit record is accessed; it affects your overall credit score at the bank. Therefore don't allow everyone and anyone to access your credit record.

1. Sever old relationships

When you apply for credit, it isn't just your details the potential lender will scour. They will also check the credit history of your spouse (if you are married in Community of Property) or any co applicant or surety you may apply with. Joint bank accounts, if not conducted correctly could have an adverse affect on your application and if you are divorced or separated, make sure you are not linked to any debt or open credit facility with your ex.

2. Cancel out of date credit cards

Many people switch credit cards frequently but fail to cancel old agreements even if they no longer use the credit or retail card. But ooba warns that these lines of credit will still appear on your file, which can make lenders wary about the potential size of your total debt - some may fear that you will "max out" these cards and then struggle to meet repayments.

If you don't need the full credit limit given on a card, ask your lender to reduce it. The same applies to retail credit.

3. Build a track record

Banks want to see that you have a record of managing credit sensibly. So if you are a first-time buyer consider taking out a credit card six months before making your bond application. Of course, you'll need to make sure that you pay off the balance in full each month, and on time, to avoid interest payments and to show that you are diligent with managing your debt. Also, make sure your income is deposited monthly into a bank account as the banks will ask for proof of income via your bank statements.

4. Ensure details are the truth

Make sure that information you provide on applications is accurate and truthful. Inconsistencies can have a negative effect on your credit score and you must be able to prove any income that you have declared.

5. Include additional information

Where necessary, add further information about previous credit problems. If such problems were after redundancy or divorce, for example, and your financial situation has since improved, you can add a note explaining this. Likewise, if you have been a victim of identity fraud in the past, make sure that any credit problems caused by this are removed from your file. Always keep proof of paying up any arrear debt and rescind judgments. Companies such as ooba can help through services such as oobaassist, which will assist you through the process of clearing any negative credit records.

6. Before you put in an offer, get pre-qualified

Even if you only plan to buy a property in six months time, start talking to a reputable bond originator who is able to help you with any potential problem as well as prequalifying you on income less expenses and deductions. A reputable bond originator will also have solutions to any potential problems facing you in a tougher credit environment.

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Weak economic conditions, higher interest rates and the global credit crisis have forced banks to be far more picky about who they will lend money and less generous with their lending rates. But Mary Jane Lefevre, Regional Sales Manager of ooba, said that before you apply for a home loan, there are steps you can take to improve your credit status and encourage lenders to look more favourably on your application.