Junk Fees for Renters (Boo!)

Homebuyers aren’t the only ones who need to lookout for garbage fees nowadays.

I’ve written a lot about nonsense fees charged by some mortgage lenders and escrow closing companies. Now it’s time to speak out for renters, because what’s happening isn’t right.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s legitimate and what’s bogus.

APPLICATION FEE goes to pay for the credit report and criminal background check. That’s fair. But you should receive a copy of those reports if you aren’t approved to rent the home. The National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit, moves this fee from “fair” to “junk” when the tenant can’t use them to apply elsewhere.

When a renter has to pay the application fee over and over again, it adds up to a significant sum. What if your credit and background is good, but there was too much competition for the unit for your application to be accepted? You should receive either a refund or a copy of your reports to use elsewhere.


Extra charges that pad the landlord’s pockets, as identified by the National Consumer Law Center, and objected to by Marcia Fudge, secretary of the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development are these:

  • Move-in charge
  • High-risk fee
  • Security bond
  • Convenience fees for paying rent online

If you’re charged for something that doesn’t make sense, you might want to quote Ms. Fudge of HUD: “Many renters today face fees that are hidden, duplication, or unnecessary.”

I personally know a renter who objected to the $35 credit report fee. She said she could get her credit report for a lot less than that, and she would provide it to the landlord. The landlord agreed. She brought in her own credit report and subsequently, leased the home. So I know it can be done.

For me, I would only object to costs that don’t make sense or for duplicate fees or for a report I could provide myself. And there is no way on earth I would pay a so-called convenience fee for paying rent online. It’s actually more convenient for the landlord, so if anything, they should be paying ME. Ha! If I had to pay by check to avoid that unfair cost, I would. Look at how much it adds up to over a year, and then decide for yourself.

Greed fees have long been a pet peeve for me. So I object and I fight them.

IF YOU ARE DENIED due to a rent-screen report, credit report, or any other report, you must get a copy so you can read it to see if it contains false information or information that belongs to someone who is not you. It’s your right to have an accurate report. Ms. Fudge also mentioned that many of these reports often “have inaccurate information and questionable validity in predicting renter behavior.”

If you see erroneous posts on your report, use the same strategies you read in Repair Your Credit Like the Pros to write a dispute and get it corrected.

I would like to thank the people who took the time recently to thank me for writing about finances and credit. Your encouragement means everything to me!

Mortgage Credit Score vs. Consumer Credit Score

Have you ever checked your credit score?

You may have received a credit score from one of these sources:

  1. Your credit card company.
  2. A free site, such as Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
  3. One of the credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion
  4. Your mortgage lender.

Don’t be surprised if the score you got from your mortgage lender was different from your score you obtained elsewhere. Why the difference? And, which score is correct and true?

To answer these questions, let’s look at some quick facts.


  • FICO stands for Fair Isaac Credit Corporation, the creator of credit scores used by mortgage companies and other lenders. Mortgage pros say “credit score” rather than the full “FICO credit score.” It’s the same thing, whether you say “credit score” or “FICO score.”
  • Your mortgage credit score is the one used to qualify you for a mortgage loan. It is a stricter grading curve than the scoring system used by credit cards. This makes sense, because it’s less risky to lend someone a few thousand on a credit card versus $250K or $500K on a mortgage. Thus, your mortgage score is likely to be lower than other types of credit scores.
  • The consumer credit score, the ones used by credit card companies, is more lenient and typically higher than the mortgage score.
  • When you use Boost to boost up your credit, it can help your Experian credit card score, but it does nothing for your mortgage score. Nor does it help your scores with Equifax and TransUnion.
  • Vantage Score is a completely different scoring system than any other. The big three credit bureaus collaborated to create a more accurate and inclusive credit score algorithm. Currently, the mortgage industry does not use Vantage scores, but that will be changing in 2024-2025.
  • CreditKarma and other independently-owned sites have their own guess at how scores are calculated. They do not have the “secret recipe” used by the credit bureaus. Thus, any score you get from them could be wildly OFF. They are only useful for seeing if your score is trending upward or downward.
  • Insurance companies have a different credit scoring system designed for themselves. It can be impossible to learn what your insurance score is, other than a general “excellent,” “good,” “fair,” or “poor” rating.
  • Currently, mortgage scores are based on FICO version 2, 4, and 5. They plan to update in the next year or two.
  • Credit card companies most often use FICO version 8, 9, 10, or Vantage score.
  • FICO 10T is FICO 10 with Trended Data added in. Trended date is credit score AI that looks at your behavior and activity, not only your payments and balances. Mortgage lenders will use FICO 10T in the next year or two.

    This is all interesting, but you don’t need to memorize the FICO versions. You only need to know how to manage your finances and credit so that you earn a top tier credit score.

    Having a credit score over 740 gets you the best mortgage interest rate on a conventional (best) home loan. Having a 800 score is the icing on top that gets you the highest respect. Some lenders, such as Provident Wholesale, reward people with a 780 – 800+ score with an even lower interest rate. (You get a wholesale loan through a mortgage broker, not a bank or credit union.)

    I hope this info is helpful. There’s a lot more to credit scoring. If you’d like to become an expert on how credit scoring works and how to earn a top tier credit score in the shortest time possible, then I can recommend these two publications:

    1) Build and Protect Your Credit Like the Pros here
    2) Credit Repair Mindset here

    If you have any questions on credit scoring, please feel free to add a comment. I see each and every comment, usually within an hour or two. If it’s the middle of the night on the Pacific Coast, then please give me longer.

First Time Homebuyer Loans

You don’t have to be a first-time homebuyer to qualify for a loan that’s tagged as “first-time buyer” most of the time.

Most loans advertised as “first-time homebuyer” are loans that are popular because they require minimal to no down payment. Let’s look closer at these loans.

But first, let’s be clear about one thing: being a first-time homebuyer does not mean you get a free house. The only person giving away free houses is Santa Clause, and I haven’t seen a real Santa for a very long time. Ha!

3% Down payment Conventional Loan

For this loan, you cannot have owned a home in the past three years, but you don’t have to be a first-timer.

Fannie Mae’s program is called HomeReady, and Freddie Mac’s program is called HomePossible. With these programs, you get the same low interest rate that buyers putting 20% down get, so that’s what makes them so special. In addition, the monthly mortgage insurance (MI) fee is lower.

This generous loan is designed to help more people become homeowners. I love these loan programs! I prefer HomePossible, because it requires slightly less documentation from the borrower.

The debt-to-income ratio is lower and stricter than for other conventional or for the FHA loan, so you can’t push your buying power.

If you qualify, there is no downside.

(If you aren’t familiar, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are nicknames for government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that provide money to banks and mortgage lenders for home loans. You don’t go to them directly, but to a mortgage lender or mortgage broker.)

3.5% Down payment FHA Loan

For this loan, you do not have to be a first-time buyer, and it’s okay if you own other property–recently or currently. There’s nothing “first-time” about it except that it’s easy to qualify for and makes for good advertising.

FHA is only for a primary residence where you will live in the home for at least the first 12 months. You cannot use it for a second home or an investment property.

Generous credit score and debt ratio guidelines make it popular.

The downside is the Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium of 1.75%; but it’s not a stopper, because it is rolled into the loan itself and not a closing cost requiring cash. Also, the monthly MI fee does not get waived on the 3.5% down 30-year fixed rate loan, so you have to refinance to get the MI eliminated.

Down Payment Assistance (DPA) Loans, Truly for First-time Buyers

Getting help with the down payment is a concept that all 50 states have embraced for first-time buyers. These are the true first-timer programs. Each state has its own unique programs, which I’ve spent a good deal of time researching recently. In my upcoming book, Get the Mortgage You Want, Like the Pros, I included links for all 50 states and Guam. I will post when it’s available with more information about what’s included in the pages.

In the meantime, if you have at least 3% saved for a down payment and your credit has been on track for the past 12 months, reach out to a local mortgage broker to see if you qualify to become a homeowner. The down payment may be gift from family or you might qualify for a DPA. There are closing costs in addition to the down payment, which can be paid by you, the seller, or a combination. Or, your lender might give you a credit for part of the closing costs, in exchange for a higher interest rate. (There is no free money from the lender.)

Be prepared with your W2, current paystubs, and two months of recent bank statements for the preapproval.

Do You Have a Bankruptcy on Your Credit Report?

I wanted to share with you a message I received from a book reader. (This is shared with his permission.)


Just wanted say thank you so much for this!  I am half through it and I just got it yesterday!  

You approach this topic with such compassion and hope…you sincerely bring tears of joy and hope to my heart because your way of approaching the topic shows me that I made mistakes that I should forgive myself for and learn from them.

 Makes me feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel I dug for myself but I must do the work.

Keep doing and living your purpose!  May the creator continue to bless you in all areas of your life that you may be a good witness for him!
God bless!!!

This message made my day. It is why I reach out to executives at the credit reporting agencies for information, why I make phone calls to successful, experienced, and ethical credit repair business owners, and why I read Acts of law. I spend many hours doing field research (not cruising the Internet to read what other people, many of them copying wrong information from others who are also copying) to gather information.

If you or someone you know has a bankruptcy on their credit report, you can read more about this publication here.

What is Easter About?

Pontius Pilot condemned Jesus to death for crimes He did not commit.

Jesus accepted His fate, trusting in God’s bigger plan.

Christ bore the weight of the world’s sins as He drew His last breaths on the cross. His body was removed from the wooden cross and mourned by His mother Mary and many of His followers.

His body was embalmed and placed in a tomb that was donated by a wealthy Jewish man named Joseph of Arimathea. The tomb was sealed by a large boulder and guards were placed at the door to prevent possible theft of Jesus’ body.

On the third day of His death (as the ancients counted the calendar), Mary Magdalene and the other women found the boulder of the tomb rolled away and Jesus was not there! What could this mean?

She ran to Simon Peter and brought him back to the tomb. There, they met an angel who told them not to worry. Jesus had risen from the dead at the will of His Father. Peter remembered the words Christ spoke in Galilee, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and on the third day He will be raised to life.” The disciples departed from the tomb knowing Jesus had risen at the will of God.

More than 500 people saw Jesus after He had been resurrected, including Jesus’ brother James and the Apostle Peter.

Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday is the conquering of evil, sin and death. It is the promise of eternal life with God in Heaven.

For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday! Your comments are welcome.

Who Owns the Appraisal Report?

The answer may surprise you, and it has far-reaching implications.

You, the borrower, pay for the appraisal report at the time your lender orders it — with the exception of the VA loan.

(With VA, it is paid at closing.)

You pay by credit or debit card after making full application and after you have received the initial disclosures, which is a packet of information about the loan that includes a form for permission and payment of the appraisal report.

It’s wise to get your home inspection done before ordering the appraisal, just in case there is a fatal flaw with the property that makes you rescind your offer.

Even though you pay for the appraisal report, the lender owns it. By law, you receive a copy of the report. But you do not own it.

On the appraisal report is the lender’s name.. You cannot take that report and switch off to another lender with it. No other lender will be able to use that appraisal report, with the first lender’s name on it, for approval of your loan.

You can certainly show your copy of the appraisal report to anyone you choose, including your real estate broker, your mother, or even another lender. But you don’t own the rights to it, and you cannot request the appraiser to change anything on it. Only the lender has that right.

If there is an error on the report, such as an address typo or the valuation is wrong, then the lender is the one who communicates that to the appraiser and asks for the correction.

It’s good to know upfront how these things work. If you have a general question about the appraisal process, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer it.

This weekend, I will be posting an Easter message here, just so you know.

Why You Can’t Trust Online Mortgage Comparisons

Yesterday, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau revealed the results of their investigation on those online mortgage shopping platforms. Here’s what the CFPB found about many of them:



This reinforces what I’ve been saying since 2007: Stop clicking on those mortgage ads you see online!

Federal law states that it is illegal to coerce anyone to use a particular lender. Federal law also states that receiving “anything of value” (even one penny) in exchange for recommending a particular lender is illegal. (Real Estate Settlement Procedures ACT, known as RESPA)

So how are the online shopping platforms violating the law, according to the CFPB?

When they present to you the list of so-called best priced lenders, they are not actually giving you best priced lenders nor are they giving you highest quality lenders for service. They are giving you the lenders who pay them KICKBACKS.

It’s all quite deceptive and maddening!

Did you know that I pay a fee to WordPress every year to keep ads off my blog? I do. I pay so that you don’t have to see ads from deceptive companies that look like your friend but actually charge more.

Plus, don’t you hate it when you’re trying to read an article online and there are ads interrupting and popping up all over the place? I find that really annoying. So I pay in order to maintain a clean space for you to read.

Here’s some good news:

I am almost finished with the book so many of you have been asking for. It’s back from the editor and proofreader, and the title was approved yesterday. As soon as the formatting and cover design are done, it will be released for purchase.

Let me know if you like the title:
Get a Mortgage Loan Like the Pros
Subtitle: A Guide for Homebuyers and Realtors

There is not another book quite like this one on the market. The way it’s laid out makes it a great, easy-to-use resource. But it also contains insider information, because my experience of 23 years in the business includes working for a broker, a direct lender, a national bank — and on both the retail and wholesale side. It is highly unusual for one person to have the diversity of experience, to have seen what goes on in the field and what goes on behind closed doors in the underwriting offices where the secrets are told and the magic happens.

I will announce when the book is available for purchase. Meanwhile, stop clicking those ads on the Internet!!! They are not your friend.

The “21-Day” Falsehood Exposed

A so-called statistic that people like to quote is, “It takes 21 days to build a habit.” But that’s NOT TRUE, and here’s why.

I know it sounds encouraging. Fast and easy. Quick and done. A new habit in place in less than a month–wow! We read that and we think, I can do it.

Then after 21 days pass, and the behavior we were working toward is still not a habit, we feel disillusioned with ourselves–when we should be disillusioned with the falsehood.

There is nothing wrong with you if a new habit doesn’t take hold in three short weeks.

The misunderstanding occurred because of confusing the time it takes to build a long-term memory with the time it takes to create a habit. Dr. Caroline Leaf, author of Who Switched Off My Brain tells us the real timeline:

  • It takes 21 days to build long-term memory if you deliberately work on it daily.
  • It takes an additional 42 days to turn that memory into a new habit.
  • Thus, it takes at least 63 days of work to form a new habit.

If you want to create new financial habits, realize that it takes 63 days, at least. Don’t quit after 21 days because it is still difficult. Of course it is! That is normal.

Three Tips to Help You Create a New Habit

  1. Check your triggers
    We all have things that trigger certain behaviors. Some people call it “pushing my buttons.” If a particular person in your life speaks disparaging remarks toward you, that could be a trigger to go spend money in order to treat yourself well and compensate for the unfair accusations.
    Instead of spending money, what could you do?
    Go for a walk or engage in another form of exercise? Play music that lifts your spirits? Work on your fun hobby?
    Give some serious thought to your triggers, because you don’t need to be a victim of negative outside influences.
  2. Create mini milestones with rewards.
    This is the fun part, both to plan and to do. Decide at what intervals of your journey you deserve to celebrate, and then schedule a reward for yourself. A reward could be something as simple as a walk along the lake or a movie you’ve wanted to see. If you work a lot, it could be a lazy day off. Or maybe an at-home spa experience, a new book, a new recipe, a game day with friends. Anything that is motivating, fun, but without sabotaging your goal will work.
  3. Journal your journey.
    Scientists who study the brain tell us the benefits of keeping a journal. “When you write your thoughts down, you are analyzing the pattern of your behavior, which activates the basal ganglia in your brain, along with a rush of dopamine and serotonin, which promotes cognitive fluency and flexibility in your thinking and helps you problem-solve!” (Dr. Caroline Leaf)
    The point is that doing a journal helps you analyze your thoughts and change your behavior to get to your goal. If you don’t already have a journal, may I suggest Credit Repair Mindset JOURNAL? It is a place to organize your thoughts, and it includes snippets from my own life’s journey from being a mom on food stamps to starting a new career and then becoming an author. It’s pack with encouragement. You can take a closer look here.

* The above is taken from Credit Repair Mindset, Chapter 14.

Income You Can’t Use on a Mortgage Application

If you plan to buy a home in the near future, it’s best to know ahead of time what type of income is not allowed to be used on a loan application.


  1. Any temporary income that will not continue for at least 3 more years. This would be things like spousal maintenance, child support, L & I, temporary disability income, etc. However, if you will receive any of this type of income for 3+ years more, then it DOES count. (If it ends in four years, it counts.)
  2. Any part-time job or income that is less than 24 months. (Must work part-time for at least 2 years to count.)
  3. Income tax refund. That is one-time income, so it doesn’t count. (Even if you get a refund every year, it doesn’t count.) However, you CAN count it for a down payment.
  4. Inheritance. It’s not income, but you can use it for your down payment.
  5. Any “under the table” money that cannot be verified either by a W2, a 1099, or on your tax returns. If you don’t tell the IRS about the income, then you can’t tell your mortgage lender either.


There is a loan designed for people who work at cash-paying jobs, and for self-employed people who have too many tax deductions to show a sufficient Adjusted Gross Income on their tax returns.

You can get a loan through a mortgage broker (not a bank) that allows bank statements to serve as your income verification. It’s called a “Bank Statement Loan.” You show 12 – 24 months’ bank statements and the deposits are counted as income.

Expect to take a higher interest rate for this type of loan, because it is riskier for the lender.

You will need a down payment of at least 10%.

If you have a question about income qualification, I am happy to answer.

Credit Repair: It’s More Than Fixing the Past

An important part of repairing your credit is how you manage your credit and finances today.

It’s not enough to clean up mistakes of the past. What you do now and going forward is of top importance.

I was speaking with a credit repair business owner recently, and he told me that about half of their clients accrue a new late payment — while they are in the credit repair program! That makes no sense!

If you are paying someone to clean your house, would you bring new mud into the house at the same time?! That’s what it’s like when you fail to make a payment on time while you’re trying to work a credit repair program.

Here are 5 things you must do AT THE SAME TIME you are working on repairing your credit profile:

  1. Pay your bill the same day you receive it. That way, you don’t risk going late. But also, it helps to keep your balance lower on an ongoing basis, which can improve your score. (Based on your balance-to-limit ratio, credit points will vary.)
  2. If you aren’t good at bill paying or dislike the task, set up automatic payment. That way, you will never be late.
  3. Monitor your auto-pay account so that a so-called late payment doesn’t pop up due to something like an annual membership fee or the payment date falling on a Sunday when your bank is closed.
  4. Don’t purchase more than what you can afford to pay in full when the bill comes in. This applies to all your “wants.” Don’t use credit to buy fun tech toys and pretty things you cannot honestly afford. This does not apply to an emergency, such as your water heater going out or your car breaking down.
  5. Prioritize your loans and credit cards OVER medical bills. Medical bills don’t go on your credit report until they are six months past due, giving you a lot of time to work out a payment plan if needed. Never let your loans or credit cards slide because of a medical bill.

    Building good financial habits is worth the effort. Educating yourself about how credit works is worth the time.

    Part of self-respect is having respectable credit.

    Thank you for reading. Your comments and questions are always welcome.