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Finding a Place to Live with Poor Credit

Finding a Place to Live with Poor Credit

Even if you have poor or no credit, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck living in your parent’s basement forever. Here are some strategies for finding housing  when you have poor credit, and also some strategies for repairing your credit after missed payments. Listener Blair asks what to do after she missed some payments when underemployed, now ready to get out of her parent’s house and into a place of her own.

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Blair in Denver asks: 

I am a long time lurking listener, first time emailer! I discovered your podcast after many personal finance resources made me feel anxious and afraid. Your advice made me feel like I wasn’t a failure, and like I could sort my priorities out enough to manage my financial goals.

After graduating with a master’s degree in a large city in 2017, I hit an extreme period of underemployment. Despite applying for over 200 jobs in 3 months and a few promising interviews, I could not find full time work, and was trying to cobble together multiple part time jobs. With student loan repayments looming and less than $1,000 per month in income, I had to make the choice to move 1800 miles back home in order to save on rent.

Though I am still underemployed, i am making about $10k per year more and have managed to make most of my accounts current, have paid off smaller bills, and even have enough discretionary funds to cover emergencies. After a year of aggressive networking and research, I finally have leads on a few jobs that would up my income significantly enough that I could afford to finally move out.  

The problem is now my credit rating. My personal debt is very low and my student loans are current, but I had an account go into collections (which I am currently paying off via a payment plan) and have about 7 missed payments from when I was so underemployed I ate popcorn for dinner most nights (which dropped me from 100% payment history to 98%). Due to these factors, my score is under 550, and even if I pay off my credit cards and personal loan, my score will only rise an estimated 1-2 points. Because my market is so competitive, most companies and landlords require a score of at least 600. All of these changes are recently acquired, and I cannot live at home another 7 years while I wait for them to fall off my report. How should I go about trying to prove my creditworthiness to a landlord?

Some strategies for finding housing with bad credit in a competitive market

  • Be up front with any potential landlords about the bad credit before you start renting
  • Save up a large deposit – cash talks when credit scores can’t
  • Look for private landlord, who can usually be more flexible
  • Ask for a co-signer, such as a family member
  • Find a roommate with better credit and be a secondary leasee
  • Look for apartments specifically advertised as “no credit check” or that say they approve low credit – there are website specifically for preapproved apartments only
  • Find a landlord willing to take character references in leiu of a credit check if you explain the circumstances
  • Put a utility bill in your name and use a website that reports positive credit information for paying bills

How to repair poor credit

  • Put your student loan payments on Income Based Repayment, so that your minimums are low and your payments are on-time, every time
  • Rehabilitate any defaulted student loans (check out the cat-filled explanation in my book Get Your Money Together, or this episode)
  • Get a credit builder loan or secured credit card (meant explicitly to improve credit)
  • Get your rent reported to the credit bureaus using a website like payyourrent.com
  • Become an authorized user on someone with great credit’s credit card (that they pay on time every month)

Websites that do pre-approved or low credit apartment listings
(no explicit endorsement or relationship exists, just references – make sure to search for your town name as well)

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