So you want a house, and you’re worried about your credit.

Occasionally I get calls from well-meaning people who want “credit repair” services. Usually it is someone who has bad credit of their own doing, who has decided to finally get their act together so they can buy a house.

Maybe the family is growing (adding more humans — or more animals!). Maybe the landlord has raised the rent, and buying suddenly looks like a better deal. Maybe there’s a new job, and a little more cash flow, and the American Dream finally looks within reach.

People start looking for houses, and just set themselves up for disappointment when they learn that there’s no magic wand to make bad but accurate credit come off the credit report.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news — even though as a lawyer since 2005, I’ve had a fair amount of practice at it 🙁

Beware of credit repair — DIY is better and cheaper!

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of shysters out there with slick, aggressive ads everywhere online that sell false hope. Don’t waste your money. If you want to dispute something, my website has instructions, and so does the Federal Trade Commission.

If an item on your credit report is yours, and it is reported accurately, I can’t file a lawsuit for you to make your credit score higher.

Even if it is inaccurate, your legit dispute — even if that actually fixes it — can take 30 days, which can feel like geological time when you’re shopping in a hot and competitive housing market.

A Fair Credit Reporting Act lawsuit might be necessary to get it right.

And if your legit dispute doesn’t fix it and we do have to file a lawsuit, the gears of justice grind slowly. (With some frequency, however, I’ve seen false reporting get corrected once the lawsuit is in the works, which allows people go to house shopping before the lawsuit is resolved. But I never know whether someone will be so lucky.)

Ok, enough bad news! Here’s some good news. 🙂

Time is on your side!

If the bad stuff on your credit report is yours, it is supposed to come off in 7 years for most accounts and 10 years for bankruptcies and judgments.

Credit reporting agencies are stopping the reporting of many new judgments and tax liens (link to New York Times article).

One of the biggest killers of your credit score, late payments, is totally within your control. If things are looking up for you, you can focus on keeping current with all your accounts TODAY and the stuff from your past will gradually have less impact.

And, if stuff on your credit report is objectively false or not yours, you have rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and there are lawyers who can and will litigate these cases and work hard to solve these problems for you.

Get your credit report and talk to me.

It’s always good to look at your credit reports before you start house shopping. Know the good, the bad, and the ugly, and what you qualify for. Then you won’t have that “drooling at the window of the locked candy shop” experience — at least not quite so bad.

Are you thinking about house hunting next Spring? Now is the time to look at your credit report and make sure it’s accurate. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and get your credit reports. If there is something there that doesn’t look accurate, please contact me and we can discuss!