Halloween is just around the corner and things are beginning to look frightening. Graveyards are popping up all over Piedmont and the ghosts are flying on Dracena Avenue once again. My younger son, Tristan, loves this time of year (What kid doesn't? Costumes and candy corn? Seriously, it's a winning combination - even for me).
Unlike my sister's darling daughters who tend to dress as flappers or Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, no saccharin cartoon character costumes will do for Tristan. If it doesn't involve a medieval weapon, a black-hooded cape and a scary mask, he's just not interested.
Recently, I had quite a scare when I called my local mortgage broker, Melissa Milton of LaSalle Financial, and asked her to do a credit check on me! Like many of you, I am keeping my options open and wanted to know: "Would I qualify for a loan in this "more conservative lending climate" - OR did I have some heavy housework ahead with respect to my "credit worthiness?"
While I never miss a mortgage payment, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I am occasionally tardy on the PG&E bill and there was that one accidental overdraft last year . . . so I was legitimately worried. In the absence of any real knowledge, I had forecast all kinds of spooky scenarios!
This is where fear and denial walk hand-in-hand.
For the last few years, I had been putting off obtaining a credit review even though I believe it's the smarter choice - especially now. Still, I imagined the Grim Reaper delivering the bad news (not that Melissa's the Grim Reaper. She's more like Glenda, the good witch).
Would I be heavily penalized for my few brief lapses in time? Would my husband? Truth be told, I really had no clue. Invoices come in and payments go out (typically in a timely fashion) but how do I stack up where it really counts?
No, not St. Peter (I'm hoping Heaven's gates are more forgiving). I'm talking about the big three credit bureaus; I'm talkin' FICO SCORES!
So with courage in hand, I gave Melissa a call and guess what? After all that senseless worrying, I qualify as "good to excellent" and so does my husband (no sense in obtaining only half the equation). While neither of us is perfect (who is?) we are both in the UPPER range. Yoo hoo! (Credit scores, like SATs, range from a low of 300 to a high of 850.) Now that's just good to know. Turns out, knowledge is a powerful sleeping aid.
While a move isn't in my imminent future (college tuition is) perhaps, it is in yours. My advice is that you follow my lead, pick up the phone, obtain a credit history and line up your lending options BEFORE identifying the home of your dreams. Put your bank representative or your favorite mortgage broker to work for you. That's part of the service they provide.
IF there is a problem, any experienced mortgage broker worth her salt (or sugar) will help you navigate the hurdles and rectify any outstanding concerns. (This can involve a few letters or it can be more complicated, but the sooner you have the information, the better off you'll be.) Whatever the outcome, it can't possibly be as scary as your imagination might lead you to believe!
Now break out the candy corn and let's bob for apples. Boo!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.