The path to homeownership can be stressful and often difficult. If you have less than perfect credit history, the obstacles might be even greater. Even if your credit is good, there are a few red flags that might prevent you from getting a mortgage (or the mortgage rate/type) that you are hoping for. Below is a list of items that can hinder the process of obtaining a mortgage:

Don't leave your credit score up to chance.

Don’t leave your credit score up to chance.

  • Bankruptcy– Some mortgages will work with a past bankruptcy. But you usually need to be several years past the discharge date and have rebuilt your credit. A bankruptcy, even when discharged, can stay on your credit report for up to ten years.
  • Foreclosure short sale – Some mortgages will work with a past foreclosure short sale. But you usually need to be several years past the sale date and have rebuilt your credit. Even when finalized, a foreclosure short sale can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.
  • Unpaid judgments– No mortgage lender wants to take the risk that an earlier debt could take precedence over their loan. All judgments must be satisfied, removed or vacated from your credit report. And, if paid, your judgment will stay on your report for seven years. Solve open judgments. Try to vacate them first or pay them and get proof that they’re paid. Yes, I know it hurts to take money out of your hard-earned down payment savings account. But that down payment won’t do you a bit of good if you can’t get a mortgage because of an old judgment from the cable company you fought with in your first apartment.
  • Open collections– If you don’t pay a bill, the company you owe may sell your debt to a collection agency who will try to get you to pay. ONLY PAY THEM OFF IF YOU ARE TOLD TO DO SO. Keep in mind that paying a collection will not raise your credit score, but LOWER YOUR SCORE. Once a debt has gone to collections, your credit is hit and can only recover over time.
  • Too much monthly debt– A good rule of thumb is that if you’re paying more than 5 percent of your gross monthly income for debt payments (credit cards, student loans, car payments, personal loans), you’re decreasing the amount of mortgage you’ll be approved for. If your income is high and housing prices are reasonable, high debt might not hurt you much. But if you have a modest income, debt can price you right out of a mortgage.
  • Pay your current bills on time, religiously – You’ll need the boost to your credit score if you’ve had problems in the past. And you’ll want to prove to a lender you’ve gotten past old issues and made a fresh start in rebuilding your credit.
  • Make sure the problems are right – If not, you must dispute them off. Experts disagree about how many people have serious errors on their credit reports, but I have witnessed a client who discovered that someone had posed as his spouse after finding lots of strange information on his credit report. Don’t pay the price for someone else’s mistake.

This piece is guest written by our partner, Credit Law Center (CLC). CLC helps clients achieve financial success by cleaning up their credit history and putting them on track for financial freedom. Contact them today at (800) 994-3070 or by visiting creditlawcenter.com.