When it Comes to Credit Scores, Consumers are Confused

Every day consumers across America make important financial decisions, such as buying a first home. They monitor their credit score and, if necessary, take steps to improve it so that when they finally find the perfect place, they can be confident they’ll get approved for a mortgage. But often, in…

Source: When it Comes to Credit Scores, Consumers are Confused

And for additional information, Vantage Scores are no substitute for FICO Scores.



The 4 C’s of Credit


The following is written primarily for those wishing to obtain a mortgage. However the same dynamics apply to credit cards, vehicle loans, insurance, employment opportunities and even dating eligibility.

Character – Reputation is a key factor in obtaining new credit. Bankruptcy, foreclosure, late payments, settlements, collections, judgments, charge-offs and other derogatory events weigh how your credit character is measured. A short-cut for evaluating character is the credit score.

Capacity – Is the ability to repay the obligation provable with third party documentation? This is measured by the stability of the income, and how long the wage-earner or self-employed has generated that income.

Conditions – What is the purpose of the loan? If the purpose is to refinance for a rate or term improvement, a simple letter stating such suffices. If applying for a cash-out refinance, how are the proceeds to be used? Documentation is required to explain the perceived additional risk. In situations where Character is less than stellar, a cash-out refinance for the purpose, for example, reimburse a family member could jeopardize loan approval.

Collateral – How much equity is available to protect the investor? In a purchase or refinance, this is the percentage of Down Payment/Equity vs Appraised Value and the loan amount. The lower the loan amount to the equity, the stronger

For example, when the character and/or the credit are challenged a down payment/equity position of about thirty percent can mitigate two of the “C’s”.   The greater the collateral/equity, a lesser weight may be given to Character, Capacity.

What is your credit score? Use this credit score simulator to find out. It’s free and it will give you a good idea of what your score range is right now.

Caution – Finally, be very wary of credit repair schemes, many are designed to part you from your hard earned money. Most of these “service providers” are scams. It’s easy to see if they are running a scam. The scammers require cash up-front; this is not legal. Pursuant to the Credit Repair Organization Act (CROA), any credit repair work must be completed before a consumer may be charged for the work. For more information, see: Credit Repair Basics.

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Financially Speaking™ James Spray RMLO, CNE, FICO Pro | CO LMO 100008715 | NMLS 257365 |October 19, 2015

Notice: The information on this blog is opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your situation. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only. You may reproduce this information in whole and not in part, providing you give full attribution to James Spray.

Purchase or Refinance During a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 Plan

Chapter 13 Plan

This post is written for folks currently in a Chapter 13 Plan. It is also helpful for those contemplating filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Reorganization Plan. This post is also helpful for those recently Discharged from Chapter 13. A mortgage refinance or a home purchase, while still in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, is possible; it is also a complicated financial and, legal transaction. To do this requires a highly specialized mortgage professional experienced with both FHA lending rules and Chapter 13 bankruptcy as well as local court rules.

The Chapter 13 Payment

One of the most important things to understand is the importance of on-time Chapter 13 Payments to the mortgage underwriting process. I strongly encourage you to read this: The Chapter 13 Payment. Your Chapter 13 Trustee payment is given the exact consideration as your housing (mortgage/rent) payment in underwriting. From the underwriting perspective, one thirty-day late payment of either the mortgage or Chapter 13 Trustee payment will sink your prospects of getting mortgage loan approval for at least a year. Mail your payment early or set your on-line bill pay or direct payment to the Trustee so that you always know your payment has had time to get to the Trustee’s office and be posted by the staff at that office. Too many times, on review of the Chapter 13 Payment history, we find a payment was posted on the 2nd day of the month. One day counts as a late payment. An experienced mortgage lender can help you check your Chapter 13 payment history in real time.

Mortgage Choices for Chapter 13 Debtors (purchase or refinance)

The only mortgages available, either for refinance or purchase, for those in a Chapter 13 Plan are those insured or guaranteed by the Federal government. These mortgages are either: insured by FHAguaranteed by VA or the USDA. Each

Any mortgage so long as it’s FHA, VA or USDA.

of these home loans are underwritten with the same guidelines as set forth in the FHA Handbook. How does a bankruptcy affect a borrower’s eligibility for an FHA mortgage? From the FHA Handbook:  “A Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not disqualify a borrower from obtaining an FHA mortgage provided the lender documents that one year of the payout period under the bankruptcy has elapsed and the borrower’s payment performance has been satisfactory (i.e., all required payments made on time). In addition, the borrower must receive permission from the court to enter into the mortgage transaction.*”  Most underwriters will consider the Chapter 13 Trustee’s approval as permission from the court.

Application to Incur New Debt

To get underwriting approval for a Chapter 13 Debtor to refinance the Chapter 13 Trustee (in Colorado) or the Judge must approve your application to incur new debt. Contact your attorney to determine how and when to best proceed, or not. There are situations when it may not be in your best interest to purchase or refinance while in Chapter 13. This is a process which you can only do with the advise and assistance of your attorney. Your attorney must prepare the financial statements to submit to the Trustee in order for authority to be granted for a lender to offer new credit. Your mortgage loan originator should be able to assist your attorney in completing the Application to Incur New Debt.

Mortgage Refinance After Chapter 13 Discharge?

Yes. One may refinance or purchase within 2 years following the Discharge. BUT, it is easier to get approved for a mortgage while still in Chapter 13. This is because, following Discharge, a manual underwrite is mandated. Few lenders are willing to take the risk of not having the safe harbor provided by Automated Underwriting. Begin reestablishing good credit as soon as your Chapter 13 Plan is confirmed and continue this discipline while your case is still open so by the time your Discharge enters, you have solidly reestablished good credit.

Two years following Discharge, with reestablished credit, one may qualify for a conventional or Qualified Residential Mortgages (QRM) to purchase or refinance a home loan.

Preliminary Requirements for Purchase or Refinance While in Chapter 13

  • Twenty-four months of current housing payments with no 30-day late payments and, the likelihood of the income continuing for at least three years.
  •  Two years IRS Returns showing your income is sufficient to pay the mortgage as well as your Chapter 13 payment and any debt not included in the bankruptcy payment.
  • Minimum middle FICO Score of 620 . Most will need to practice what I’ve previously posted as FICO  101a, 101b and 101c for several months prior to making a successful application for mortgage credit.
  • For anyone with a fear of having credit make time to read both Credit: Use It to Build It (Part 1) and Credit: Use It to Build It (Part 2).
  • Begin rebuilding your credit as soon as your Chapter 13 Plan is Confirmed/Court Approved; this is when your property has been revested to you.
  • The maximum limited-cash out loan to value on an FHA appraisal is presently 95% – Refinance.
  • The minimum down payment is 3.5% of the purchase contract or appraised value whichever is less. – Purchase
  • The maximum Debt to Income Ratio is 45%. This is pushing the envelope. While in Chapter 13, it is mandatory to have Court approval (in Colorado, the Trustee approval suffices) to obtain a mortgage.

There is more detail to this process than can reasonably be discussed herein but this is the essence of purchasing or refinancing while in Chapter 13.

*Reference: FHA Handbook 4000.1 II.A. 5.a.iii (H)(2)(3).

Disclaimer: This article does not represent that any of the information provided is approved by HUD or FHA or any US Government Agency.

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Financially Speaking™ James Spray, RMLO, CNEFICO Pro |  CO LMO 100008715 | NMLS 257365 | November 1, 2010 – Revised May 2, 2018 | Copyright 2010-2018
Notice: The information on this blog is opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only. You may use this information in whole and not in part providing you give full attribution to James Spray.

FICO 9 and Mortgages



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 For this post, we are simply quoting from other media sources to help our readers understand the new FICO 9 credit scoring model. In spite of what you may have read, the FICO 9 credit scoring model will not help significantly, if at all, with home mortgages. At least not anytime soon. FICO 9 will be utilized sooner by vehicle and credit card lenders.

On August 23, 2014, The Motley Fool published Why New FICO Score Rules Could Be a ‘Game-Changer’ In Helping You Obtain a Loan stating, in part, the following: “According to FICO, the median FICO score for consumers whose only major derogatory references are unpaid medical debts is expected to increase by 25 points.

 FICO’s new more lenient model should also benefit collection agencies. Consumers with unpaid medical debts now have an incentive to settle, knowing that FICO will stop including in its calculations any record of a consumer failing to pay a bill, if the bill has been paid or settled with a collection agency.

Auto and Credit Card Lenders Will Be First to use FICO 9

 This is great news for collection agencies,” Rood said. “It provides laggards with an incentive to pay up. Before these changes, you were incentivized not to pay off your debt. The last thing you wanted to do was trigger a new ‘date of last activity’ report for an old debt, say, a debt from 2008. Again, you were just better off not paying it because older debts weighed less heavily against you on your credit report than new debt. The new scoring model will likely be implemented by credit card and auto lenders first. Mortgages typically lag in adopting new scoring models.”

Mortgage Lenders Will Be Last to use FICO 9

The New York Times in their article of August 7, 2014 titled: Credit Scores Could Rise With FICO’s New Model explained it very well. For consumers to see any benefit, however, lenders have to adopt the new scoring techniques. FICO last introduced a new model, called FICO 8, in 2008. Since then, FICO said that about half of its customers had started using that model. 

Mortgage lenders have been slower to adopt new scores, and most are using even older versions, experts said, because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are still using them in their own underwriting software. Fannie and Freddie did not say whether they had plans to switch to the updated FICO score that weighs medical collections less heavily. But they both said they were confident in the tools they use.”

Finally, law professor and author James Kwak, states the facts very simply: “…the financial district of the Western societies, Wall Street, and outdated software may very well be the norm not an exception.”

The Take Away

The take away on all this, according to Ted Rood of the Mortgage News Daily is that “(home and mortgage) buyers should keep paying those medical bills and avoid collections to ensure their loan approvals!” This statement was excerpted from the article titled: New Credit Score Model Would be Great for Housing! Too Bad it Won’t be Used.

Final Word

Our regular readers already know of our thoughts on FAKO credit scores and the release of FICO 9 adds yet a new dimension. Consumers purchasing their scores from the myFICO site will get real FICO scores but they are likely not going to be the scores which mortgage lenders use. So what can you do? You can write or call elected officials and ask that they help Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac catch up with the times.

More on FICO 9 from the FICO Blog.

UPDATE: 09/22/15 | GSEs Struggle to Update Credit Scoring Models

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Financially Speaking™ James Spray, RMLOCNE, FICO Pro
CO LMO 100008715 | NMLS 257365 |September 23, 2014 | Updated September 22, 2015
Notice: The information on this blog is opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only. You may use this information in whole and not in part providing you give full attribution to James Spray.

Credit: Use It to Build It (Part 2)

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As discussed in Credit: Use It To Build It -Part 1, it is essential to qualify for and properly use credit in order to have credit. A thin credit file does little good to help one build or rebuild credit. Thin credit is described as a file lacking in length and depth of credit history. Thin is not a good thing in the credit sense.

The length of a credit history is a matter of time. A short credit history may have accounts that have been open for a matter of months or one or two years. A long credit history may span decades because open, active accounts remain indefinitely.

The depth of a credit report is an issue of the number and types of accounts you have. A credit history with only one or two accounts will likely be considered thin, even if it spans many years. A “thick” file would have several accounts of different types. For example a credit history could include credit cards, installment loans and a mortgage.

The Basics

Let’s start with the basics, understand the mechanics of the FICO Pie Chart as well as the art and science of Rebuilding Your Scores. Credit scores are not a big mystery; they are simply a measure of the information reported to the credit reporting agencies by your creditors. Learn about your credit reports control that which you can as to what is reported and your credit scores will follow.

Credit Score Facts

On credit scores, how do they work? What you can do to raise your scores is discussed in this blog. It is necessary to understand there is a difference in the credit scores one may obtain for free via the Internet. These are not the scores used by lenders. They may not even be close to those used by lenders. In this blog we discuss the difference between what we call FICO or FAKO Scores?

Join a Credit Union

Not just any credit union will do. Some credit unions are so large they act more like a bank than a credit union. To learn a little more about credit unions and to find one you can join, read our blog titled: Credit Union Power. This is a key step to reestablishing your credit. Once you’ve become a member, ask for help to set up a $500 secured installment loan. Next, utilizing some of your savings, as much as possible, set up a secured credit card account and use it properly.

Beginning Anew or New?

Whether beginning from scratch as a young person with no credit or whether starting again, the tasks are quite similar. Read through both Part 1 and Part 2 of these blogs to learn more of what to do and not do as you begin this new journey. If you have a family member with excellent credit, read and share this blog on this which we call inherited credit. You have the opportunity to learn about how it works and how it doesn’t work.

Credit Utilization

Anyone who uses credit cards could have high utilization, particularly those which pay off their balances in full each month. This is because balances are often reported to the credit bureaus mid-billing cycle. So if you have a $5,000 limit and you charge $4,000 in a month, you could be reportedly utilizing 80% of your available credit. The result is most often dramatically reduced FICO™ Scores.

We wish you success!

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Financially Speaking  James Spray, MLO, CNE, FICO Pro
CO LMO 100008715 | NMLS 257365 | September 21, 2014
Notice: The information on this blog is opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only. You may use this information in whole and not in part providing you give full attribution to James Spray.

Refinance After Chapter 7

US Customs House Denver

US Customs House – Bankruptcy Court Denver, Colorado


You filed a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and all debts were discharged. You selected not to reaffirm mortgage(s). You have continued paying on your mortgage(s) and now you want the payments reported on your credit report. With one exception that is not going to happen. The fact is that there is but one permanent way to get your mortgage payments reported on the credit reports and that is to refinance your mortgage, when possible. When your bankruptcy was discharged, the Promissory Note portion of the mortgage was legally eliminated. As a result, the mortgage payments will no longer be reported to the credit reporting agencies. Consumers, for obvious reasons, cannot self-report their credit history. For further information as to why the bank or mortgage company doesn’t report your payment, refer to an earlier post I wrote on this subject.

How To Get “Credit History” For Your Mortgage Payments In Order To Refinance

How can you refinance when your present mortgage servicer does not credit report your mortgage payment? There are a couple of ways to do this. The least expensive is for you to obtain proof of your mortgage payments for the past twelve (12) month and provide this to your mortgage broker.  A temporary way to pull the mortgage payments onto the credit reports is via a proprietary system such as Rapid Rescore which is available only to mortgage brokers. Your mortgage payment history can be pulled onto the credit reports for the purpose of mortgage refinance by a mortgage originator in cooperation with a credit reporting service through a credit rescoring system. This is a temporary fix only; a bridge to refinancing once all other factors are in place. The only permanent way to get your credit report to reflect your mortgage payments is to refinance if and when you are eligible.

How To Qualify For Refinance After Chapter 7

  • You have been paying your housing expenses [rent or mortgage(s)] on time every month for at least the last 24 months – in rare circumstances, 12 months.
  • There have been no 30 day late payments on your mortgage(s) since filing bankruptcy.
  • The CAIVRS Authorization system  provides a clean report regarding default on an applicant’s past Federal government loans or guarantees.
  • Your current taxable income as well as that of the past two years proves you can pay your mortgage and your debt ratio is acceptable to the lender.
  • The taxable income used to qualify for the home loan will continue for a minimum of three years.
  • You did not have a junior mortgage prior to filing or it is also current with no late payments or see (*) below.
  • No other real estate was included in your bankruptcy or was foreclosed, short sold or surrendered such as investment property or second home within 4 years.
  • You have no new bad credit whatsoever and no open credit disputes.
  • Your present property value is 10% greater than what you owe on your mortgage(s), i.e., the house can be sold to payoff the mortgage(s), in full, including the cost of sale.
  • You have minimum 700 middle FICO® Score (not FAKO scores). To get an idea of your score range use the FICO® Score Simulator (garbage in = garbage out).
  • All borrowers must have established new good credit and exhibit that they are managing it very well.
  • If the property is a Condominium, it must be FHA approved for FHA home loans or VA approved for VA home loans.

FICO Score % by population

Investor Overlays

Investor overlays are measures lenders take to manage risks. You may need to shop around as, some lenders require 36 months from the Chapter 7 Discharge. Most lenders require higher credit scores, say in the plus 700 range before considering a new loans. The higher the FICO® Score, the better the rate and the lower the cost of the rate will be offered. There is much more to be discussed on the subject of lender overlays

Reaffirmation Is Not Necessary To Refinance

If your mortgage lender/servicer/bank insists that the mortgage must be reaffirmed, you simply need to call on a more seasoned mortgage banker or broker. There are those who will tell you that you must reaffirm the debt. Neither your attorney or I would recommend doing this; nor should you, in any case, do so without seeking the advice of your bankruptcy attorney. Keep in mind that the reaffirmation must be done prior to the Discharge and that is only your bankruptcy judge that can approve a mortgage reaffirmation – my understanding is that many will not.

Readers of this blog most often read Credit Union Power and New Credit During And After Bankruptcy too.

(*) The junior or second mortgage lien was legally stripped from the property in the bankruptcy. Note: this is a very, very rare circumstance. Another option is: the mortgage has been settled, such as via a short payoff in which case a further time-out period may be required.

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Financially Speaking™ James Spray, MLO, CNE, FICO Pro
CO LMO 100008715 | NMLS 257365 | January 12, 2012 | Revised October 5, 2014

Notice: The information on this blog is opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only. You may use this information in whole and not in part providing you give full attribution to James Spray.


Credit Cards – Special Promotion Credit Cards, Credit and Charge Cards, Debit and Prepaid Cards


Recently, I received the following email comment from a potential client. She had, among other things, this to say on the subject of a Special Promotional Charge Card: “Just an FYI. I had my credit pulled by Chase about 6 weeks ago, and got a shock. My scores had dropped anywhere from 75 to 100 points. It turns out that I got dinged by [XYZ] Company earlier this year. I bought a new cell phone from then in January. They said if I opened a charge account with them, I could get a discount on accessories I needed for the phone. [XYZ] opened the account, then failed to send me a statement until the 3rd billing cycle, and when I got the 3rd one, I paid the $30 + $20 in fees immediately and asked them to send me the first two statements. I thought that was the end of it, but apparently they then reported me to the Credit [Reporting] Agencies.

She protested the lack of statements and was able to get her credit reports corrected but it caused her great inconvenience as well as lost time and may have cost her the opportunity to obtain an improved mortgage credit rating and a lower housing payment. In retrospect, it appears those were pretty expensive cell phone accessories. The problem with this situation was not the promotional credit card, it was the 30 day late payment.

Should one take advantage of promotional charge or credit card offers?

As with nearly all business decisions, there is a risk -v- reward evaluation needed.  Keep in mind that opening new accounts can indicate increased risk to lenders and can hurt your credit score. Everyone’s situation is unique, but as a general rule, you should only apply for credit when you need it. Should you go on a shopping spree, and take advantage of all special credit card offers during that spree, one should expect to get reduced credit scores. This is part of the risk. So the question is: was the special  promotional reward worth it?

What’s the difference between charge and credit cards?

It is important to know the difference between a charge card and a credit card.  The Federal Reserve offers this brochure explaining the difference. In short, a charge card is payable in full on receipt of the monthly bill and most charge cards have no limit. A credit card  may have a high balance limit and can carry a balance at interest with certain minimal payments. On this, it will be helpful to review the ‘new’ rules governing how a balance on a credit card must be treated by the creditor.

What is a private label (store) credit card? 

The largest provider of store credit cards is General Electric Consumer Finance. A historic example of a GE store credit card is J.C. Penny. This particular private label credit card will display on a credit report as GE/JCP or GEMB/JCP. There are similar cards offered by many retailers from a variety of banks.

What is a pre-paid credit card?

First one needs understand that a pre-paid credit card is not a credit card; it’s actually a stored value card. In 2012, nearly 12 million consumers loaded more than $64 billion onto pre-paid cards. The main reason some consumers to this is they want to avoid going into debt. Pre-paid cards help folks with this goal because when the money stored on the card is gone, it gone. To be clear, the pre-paid issuer of the card does not report the  payment history to the credit reporting agencies.

What is an affinity credit card?

An affinity credit card is offered by an organization that the user recognizes and supports such as a travel club, alumni, university, social club, airline or other entity.

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Financially Speaking™ James Spray, CCMB, CNE, FICO Pro
CO LMO 100008715 | NMLS 257365 | November 3, 2011 | Updated April 3, 2014

Notice: The information on this blog is opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only. You may use this information in whole and not in part providing you give full attribution to James Spray.