When you're applying for a mortgage refinance, there are many things that you can't control, like the underwriters' decision, the length of time your application will be stuck in a mortgage lender's pipeline, and the amount of money the appraisal says that your home is worth. But one thing you can control is the accuracy of your credit report. This is essential, because errors could be detrimental to your profile as a good borrower, and possibly derail your ability to get the lowest available mortgage rate.

Credit report analysis


Your credit profile reflects a lifetime of your spending and bill-paying habits. If you've been responsible, it's especially painful if an error makes it appear otherwise. Your first step in putting your best credit foot forward for mortgage lenders is to review your report for inaccuracies. Each of the three credit bureaus - TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian - are required to give you free access to your credit report once a year.

Your second step is to compare the three, as they may differ. Make sure that each of your accounts is accurately listed on all the reports. Look carefully for any account that may be listed on only one report. Is it really yours? Are there any late payments recorded? If you genuinely missed the payment, there's not much you can do about it. Late payments are a red flag that can stand in the way of you and a low mortgage rate.

The correction process


Once you've located any problem, it's time to take action. Contact both the credit agency that showed the inaccuracy, and the company that reported it. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, these businesses have an obligation to correct any errors as soon as possible.

Your next step is to write a letter to the credit agency, and keep copies of all communications. Clearly articulate the item that you're disputing, and send copies of any evidence that supports your claim. The agency will have 30 days to respond to your request. Send the letter via certified mail, so you'll have proof that it actually gets there.

Once that's done, write to the creditor that reported the error in the first place. Let them know that you're disputing this information with the credit bureau, and include the same proof that you sent to the credit agency. You should receive a response from them within 30 to 90 days.

If you find it difficult to compose the letter yourself, you can find a sample to work with at myFICO.com. If you use the form letter, don't forget to change all the information to personalize it to your situation.

Much of the mortgage loan process can leave you feeling powerless. That's why it's important to control the things that you can do something about. If your credit history is accurately represented to a mortgage lender, you can sit back with confidence and wait for the best news of all - your approval.

Published on November 1, 2010