Mr. Busch said VA loans require rent verification, while loans guaranteed by the FHA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac do not.
“Lenders are allowed to use nontraditional sources of credit for FHA loans if the borrowers don’t have enough of a credit history,” Mr. Busch said. “We use car-insurance payments, utility bills and rent payments, so if you lack credit history, you should keep a good collection of all your bills and canceled checks to prove that you are a good credit risk. We can call your landlord or even use a copy of your lease and 12 months of returned rent checks.”
Borrowers cannot use nontraditional sources of credit for conventional financing, Mr. Busch said.
For borrowers with a limited credit history, Mr. Busch recommended concentrating on building a history with traditional methods.
“First, you should get a credit card, even if you have to get a secured credit card,” he said. “If you need a secured card, you just deposit money in an escrow account with the bank and then charge things on the credit card. Always pay the balance in full each month, and the payments will start to show up within six months.
“It usually takes about a year, but eventually the bank will usually approve an unsecured credit card and you can get your deposit back.”
Mr. Busch suggested getting a maximum of two credit cards, making sure to use them and to pay the balance in full and on time every month.
“If you don’t have a credit score, you should carefully build a credit history with a credit card,” Mr. Mendelson said. “But it’s never one thing that sinks a loan. If you want to buy a house, you also need to make sure that you have a debt-to-income ratio below 45 percent, that you have cash reserves and money for a down payment and that you can afford what you are buying.”
Mr. Mendelson recommended that anyone interested in buying a home, even if intending to wait a year or more, should consult with a mortgage professional.
“If you pull your own credit report, you may have a false sense of security because mortgage lenders have different standards,” Mr. Mendelson said. “A mortgage professional can prequalify you based on your income and credit and give you advice about what you can afford and what you need to do to improve your credit.”