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  • Writer's pictureNeil Sullivan

How Do I Clean Up My Credit For A Mortgage?

By Neil Sullivan, Winnipeg Real Estate Lawyer


Fix your Credit

Securing a mortgage in Manitoba—particularly at a good interest rate—requires a good credit score, which lenders use to assess your financial reliability. If your credit score needs improvement, taking steps to clean it up is crucial. Here’s a guide to help you enhance your creditworthiness and secure that mortgage:

1. Understand Your Credit Report


Credit Score

The first step in cleaning up your credit is understanding your current credit report. In Manitoba, you can obtain a free credit report from Canada’s two major credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, once a year. Review your report for any inaccuracies or outdated information that could be negatively affecting your score.

Manitoba’s Credit Reporting Law

Under Manitoba’s Personal Investigations Act, credit reporting agencies must ensure that the information they hold is accurate and up-to-date. If you find errors, you have the right to dispute them and request corrections.

2. Dispute Inaccuracies

If you identify any incorrect information, such as incorrect account balances or wrongly reported late payments, file a dispute with the credit bureau. Provide documentation to support your claim. The bureau is required to investigate and correct any verified inaccuracies.

3. Pay Down Debt

High levels of debt can significantly impact your credit score. Create a plan to pay down existing debts, focusing on high-interest accounts first. Consider consolidating debts to manage payments more effectively. Reducing your debt-to-income ratio will improve your credit score over time.

4. Establish a Positive Payment History

Lenders look for a history of on-time payments. Ensure all your bills, including utilities, credit cards, and loans, are paid on time. Setting up automatic payments or reminders can help you avoid late payments, which can negatively affect your credit score.

5. Limit New Credit Applications

Each application for new credit can result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can temporarily lower your score. Avoid applying for new credit cards or loans while you’re trying to improve your credit score. Focus on managing existing accounts responsibly. Car loans are a notorious barrier to mortgage qualification, as they are offered with less stringent credit requirements but can greatly harm your debt-service ratio. Apply for a car loan AFTER you have your mortgage.

6. Increase Your Credit Limits

If possible, request a credit limit increase on your existing credit cards. This can help improve your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of credit you’re using compared to your total available credit. However, avoid increasing your spending after receiving a higher limit.

7. Use Credit Responsibly

If you have credit cards, use them responsibly. Make small purchases and pay off the balance in full each month. This shows lenders that you can manage credit effectively without accruing debt.

8. Seek Professional Advice

As Manitoba’s only law firm practicing real estate law exclusively, at Sullivan McMullan, we offer credit remediation assistance. If a credit bureau wrongly reports your credit information and does not promptly remedy the matter, you may be entitled to damages.  While we do not litigate such matters ourselves, we have a unique understanding of these laws and highly effective means for addressing such issues.  

If you’re struggling with valid debt and credit issues, consider seeking advice from a credit counsellor. Non-profit organizations in Manitoba, such as Credit Counselling Canada, offer free or low-cost services to help you manage debt and improve your credit score.

9. Monitor Your Progress

Regularly check your credit report to monitor your progress. Keeping an eye on your credit score helps you stay informed about your financial health and allows you to spot any issues early.

10. Understand the Impact of Settlements

Be aware that settling reported debts for less than the full amount owed will negatively impact your credit score, even though it may seem like a quick fix. It’s better to negotiate a payment plan or seek professional advice to find the best approach for your situation.

Conclusion

Cleaning up your credit in preparation for a mortgage in Manitoba involves understanding your credit report, addressing inaccuracies, and adopting responsible financial habits. By taking these steps, you can improve your credit score and enhance your chances of securing a mortgage with favourable terms. Remember, improving your credit is a gradual process, but with persistence and discipline, it’s achievable.


 

Neil Sullivan is an experienced real estate lawyer based in Winnipeg. He provides expert legal advice to clients navigating the real estate market in Manitoba.


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